"Oh the weather outside is frightful. But the fire is so delightful. And since we've no place to go, let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" So says the song that we all hear around Christmas time...along with "Frosty the Snowman." After the holidays, the songs disappear. The irony is that we usually pray for snow for Christmas and get the white stuff dumped on us mostly during January and February. And when there's snow on the ground, contrary to the song, I do have a place to go. I hunt rabbits. I love to hunt rabbits in the snow. Mind you, I also love to hunt bunnies in the autumn leaves, but fall hunts are just pre-season workouts for me and my beagle.
The bunnies present nice dark silhouettes against the white background of snow. From the time I was a kid, I looked forward to hunting rabbits in the snow. Usually I hunted with a group of friends or close relatives. And usually we had baying beagles chasing B’rer Rabbit. There was nothing like it. Dogs make a difference. Snow makes all the difference.
There were a few years when I had the dog that wouldn’t hunt. That forced me to hone my rabbit hunting skills. I quickly learned how to sneak hunt, silently shuffling through the snow, using the white background. I had trained my eye to spy sitting bunnies frozen stock-still in the snow, and I’d stalk them. I used a .22 rifle to dispatch them. That usually meant a clean kill and no meat wasted. That learned skill helped a great deal when I once again hunted with hounds.
I love music. My tastes in tunes run an eclectic gambit. When I enjoy classical works, I close my eyes and relax, content in the beauty of the sound. I love a parade, and I fight the urge to march along with the bands. Country jamborees with the whines and twangs, and yodels, the plunking of banjos, strumming of guitars, and plinking of mandolins take me home. Whenever I hear an old time rock and roll tune, I dance...even in the kitchen. And I can’t hear an accordion play a polka without smiling. I like to sing, and I wish my instrumental ability was better than just tapping a toe. I love music.
But there are other kinds of music that I love...the hoot of a great horned owl, a coyote call dwindling to a mournful cry, ducks at dawn on a hidden pond, the deep gobble of a lovesick tom, drumming grouse. As the sun peeps over the mountain the crows, ravens, and blue jays begin disturbing the forest. Soon songbirds chime in and it’s a symphony.
The sweetest music of all, though, is the bark and bay of a beagle on a bunny track. There’s a certain sense of music when beagles are barking in concert. To a beagle man, there is no sound more beautiful on earth. And I am a beagle man to the core.
When my beagle was a puppy, I had the joy of hunting with her mom and dad and brother. The brother, Bandit by name, was just ten months old, and he is what’s known in the hound world as a “crackerjack” on rabbits. When Sadie, my pup’s mom, bayed in, I was amazed that her much older adult bark was just like the pup’s. I smiled. Our group included Tom, Bandit and Sadie’s owner, and Tom’s brother Mike. We hunted the dogs as a foursome, adding Beagle Annie’s aunt.
We started on a long patch of brush, where I had taken my very first rabbit some fifty-five years ago, kicking up a bunny almost immediately. The dogs were called to trail. In seconds there were excited, yapping hounds on the scent. Beautiful. The rabbit wanted to run, and it took ten minutes of barking before the bunny showed itself. Mike shot and missed, yelling, “He’s coming to you, Don!” The bunny appeared, outlined against the snow. I took aim, shot, and ended the run.
The hunt was hard hunting in deep snow. Spotting a long-eared lapin was easy if the bunny broke from the tall weeds. I harvested the smallest rabbit I’ve ever taken and took a ribbing for it.
But, hard as it was, the dogs barked steadily for five hours without a break. At one time there was a double split. A split is when dogs are running one rabbit and one or two pick up another track. I swear, at one time the beagles were running three different rabbits at the same time. Now that’s music. And, once, the dogs ran an old woods rabbit for more than two hours. The big bunny led the dogs into a small hollow and their barks echoed off the far hillside making it sound like a pack of a hundred hounds. I smiled and savored the moment. What a concert! Now that was some beautiful mountain music.
As the snowbound hounds pushed the rabbit by, I shot and scored one for the pot. I love the snow; love the music.
Eating? I’ve got a great recipe that I use “for company” straight from my German heritage.
- 1 large or 2 small rabbit[s]
- 1⁄2 c. vinegar
- 1 1⁄2 c. water
- 1 c. dry red wine
- 2 c. sliced onion
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp. pickling spice
- 8 cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 c. flour, for dredging
- 1/3 c. butter
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 c. sour cream
Skin, clean and cut the rabbit[s] into pieces. Marinate 1-2 days in the next 10 ingredients. Remove the rabbit, drain, dry, dredge in flour and brown in butter in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Strain the marinade and add to the rabbit, cover and simmer 1 hour. Arrange the rabbit on a warm platter and set aside. Add the sugar to the broth. Blend 3 tablespoons flour with a little water and add to the broth. Just before serving stir in the sour cream. Pour over the rabbit and serve with noodles. Try it; you’ll like it.