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Thread: Bunny Nirvana, NOT

  1. #1
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    Default Bunny Nirvana, NOT

    I headed out to a spot I have been to over the years that always seems to yield a hare or two. I got there late afternoon, and headed down my favorites spot. It is an old ditch with mounds on both sides. The cover is a mix of early growth spruce, alder, willow and the occasional birch.
    Roca and I found lots of track, scat, and chews, but no "hair".
    We did our normal loop which carried us away from the ditch and across a mix of blueberry, willow, black spruce, and alder. Still nothing. Ok, wrong time of day?
    We caught the back trail, crossed through more cover, and ended up at the truck with not a bunny in site. Still lots of time before dusk, so we headed out again.
    This time we found the mother lode. Somebody had been cutting birch for firewood, and knocked down the occasional aspen. The rabbit sign was THICK! So thick Roca could walk on their tracks and not sink in. We walked through the knock down trees. Nothing. We walked the edges. Nothing. We did figure 8s, squares, contracting circles, and parallel lines and still could not find a "hair". We went as far away from the cuttings as 300 to 400 yards and then back again. We moved slow, crawled, squatted, listened, and looked and still nothing.
    The amount of wood chewed by the hares, scat left, and snow packed was beyond anything I had ever seen. There was even scat several feet up on logs the bunnies had crawled up. But we saw zilch. We started at about 3:30 and hunted till dusk.
    Any ideas? What did I do wrong? Where the heck can rabbits hide in the winter. There were no other tracks through the area that looked like human or fresh, so don't think they are overhunted. I did find a fox den though, but that was over 500 yards away and the hare tracks were fresh. There were bunny tracks right next to the den too.
    Oh well, gives me a reason to head back out.

  2. #2
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    you didn't have your hat along with you.....


    the chessy got it by the way... you should have hatsies by the next meeting to contend with...
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

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    They may be moving in from a more secure area at night. Did you try locating main trails into or out of the area? In an area with little hunting pressure and low predator impact, a few bunnies can leave enough sign to give the impression of a much larger population.

    Look for a main trail heading away toward an area with better bedding sites and follow that.

  4. #4

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    That's my take on it too, Ralph. They've got day areas and night areas. If conditions are right they'll ROD (Remain Over Day) in the night areas with lots of sign, but especially with wind or pressure, they'll leave the day areas long before daylight and won't return till after dark. Sustained winds or rain will cause them to move out of an area for awhile, too.

    Rule of thumb, if I'm finding sign but no rabbits, I start looking in the surrounding area.

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    Default Did that, just not well enough

    I followed multiple trails out, and back. Then I'd head up a side trail, walk in several hundred yards out, and walk back toward the food make "S" turns as I went. Still nothing. It is possible I did not go far enough. Does anybody know how far a hare that is not disturbed will normally travel? Seems like they live in pretty small areas.
    It has not snowed in a while, at least enough to cover anything up. I would expect to see lots of old hard tracks. This place looked like a bunny parking lot it was so packed. I did not have my camera or I would have taken photos of some of the chew marks on the downed birch and aspen. I did note that the aspen seemed to be chewed on more than surrounding birch.
    That lab pup of mine had a ball though in spite of not seeing anything. It was all great fun to her. She is so fast I've wondered if she could catch a hare across open ground.
    We will keep trying. I can't be stumped by a "hair" or lack of.

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    still sounds like an exciting trip. It will be fun for you to figure that spot out I am sure. About the lab chasing down bunnies, I had a german shepard that did it several times that I saw. Pretty cool but he was not too excited about letting me have the fruits of his labor!

  7. #7

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    They go under the snow for much of the light hours. Hare condos form where snow piles up on bent over willows/alders/spruce or shrubs. When hunting them with dogs and the hawk they will often stay under the snow and let you walk over them or even step on them hoping you pass them by. However, when one of the dogs is on scent and goes down a hole one or more hares may pop out of the back door.

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    Default hidy holes

    Yep, looked there too. We kicked every bent over stick to tree that could hide anything from a mouse up. We'd walk up slow, fast, soft, loud, and nada. I'd set her on one end, I'd walk around easy, and call her to me through the tangles. Nope.
    I stooped every so often to just look under all the branches, even crawled through a few areas slow and easy. Huh uh.
    But, like LuJon said, we had a ball. This little girl has ants in her pants. She can't stand to walk beside me when there are things to chase. So every once in a while she will jump up to lick my nose, or grab my glove just to see if I really intent on making her heel.
    I'll get to laughing and tell her "ok" and off she'll run for about 20 to 30 yards. She bounces and bounds and then she'll stop and look around like she has been crafty, decide nothing is there, then back she comes.
    So even though we did not see anything to bring home we did have fun being together. This area was easy to walk through due to being level and very little snow. Next time my "Mr. Man" 12 year old lab gets to go.

  9. #9

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    What breed of dog are you bringing along? While I don't know what your situation is, plain and simple some dogs don't get it or have been conditioned to stay off of fur in lieu of birds. I'm referring to breeds that are rabbit specialists, i.e., Jack Russels, beagles, etc., that can go down in the hole looking for scent and know what it is or even if it's recent or old. Just look for a heavily used hare runway that actually routes down into a hole (6"-10") in diameter and not just passes by one. Many holes are not used, just look for traffic in and out of it. It's pretty unusual for us to go to a spot with a lot of recent rabbit sign and not get several moving pretty quickly. However, like you said it's pretty nice just to be out. Clear skies and warm temps are pretty special and not often had at the same time in January. Good luck.

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    Default holes or no holes, that is the question

    First off she is a wild and wooly 19 month old lab. We look for birds, hares, anything edible. I figure I shoot it, she grabs it. And she does like bunny! So far she just does not seem to care if an animal has feathers or hair. She likes the chase after the shot.
    I've heard hares go to holes and I've heard they do not. Seems to be 2 trains of thought there. Now I realize that a guy can't find every hole in the woods, but I can't say I saw even one for certain other than a fox den. And like I said, even though the fox had been coming and going, there was still fresh hare sign right by the den.
    It would have been a lot easier if it were back in October w/ white hare on brown ground. Oh baby that would have been great for the pup. But alas, even with 6" of snow on the ground and snow on branches the rascally rabbits get a big advantage.
    OATS, you hunting w/ dogs? That would be cool to listen to a beagle singing.

  11. #11

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    I often hunt with my dogs. It depends on the snow conditions and the temp outside. I have Jack Russel/beagle hybrids designer bred just for rabbits. They are 14-18lbs and can usually dive right down into a hole with the hares. Once we get one moving the dogs will usually stay on it by tracking scent until we get him. During fall and winter I usually hunt hares 3-4 times a week with a hawk and occassionally with a gun. One of the dogs bays like a hound (love the sound) and the other one yips when they are on scent.

    The deal with holes is this; rabbits (cottontails) will dig a network of warrens (holes) in the earth for cover much like gophers. They come out to eat and such but will dash back to their established holes when necessary. They always know where it is and generally stay within a quick sprint back. Hares (snowshoe, arctic, jackrabbits) on the other hand do not dig holes but use pre-existing holes in the ground and in the snow. They all do it for concealment, cover, to stay warm, and for the food beneath the snow.

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    How far ahead are you watching?

    In lightly pressured areas, I've had to literally kick rabbits out of cover.

    In areas with heavier pressure, I have found some moving out way in front of me. In the heavier hit areas, I have seen rabbits moving at the far edge of my visibility in the woods, 40-50 yards out. While I was looking close in, they were moving out.

    This surprised me, since I was expecting them closer in. I think it was due to the amount of hunter/ predator pressure that they started moving ahead as soon as they sense my presence. My slow moving, close in hunting allowed them to slip out in front and to the sides.

    I started paying much more attention to the limits of my visibility while stopped. Look close and far as well.

    The ones I have seen at the outer limits were normally moving slowly, a slight hop, very little movement. When I stopped they stopped. Once I started paying more attention that far out I started spotting more.

    Even moving slow, they know you're there before you see them. Add a dog and you are busted much earlier. Some will hold tight, some will move.

  13. #13

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    Good points and recommendations Ralph. I've had much the same experience, especially if the snow is crunchy or I'm making lots of noise for any other reason. A "sight" hunter like a lab that can't follow a scent trail might simply add to the noise and help push the bunnies out before you ever get to see them.

    I had essentially the same experience last week when I went out into the last remnants of snow that had re-frozen overnight. I crunched every step I took, and never got to see a rabbit in two hours....... In a place where I know they're abundant and have taken them regularly.

    There's a reason for those long bunny ears.

    BTW- The noise thing is a perfect setup for coordinated "drives" that put one hunter well out in front of an area before the second moves through an area. I'm betting the rabbits are going to be 100-200 yards ahead of the moving hunter, so you have to stay alert.

    And one more BTW- That 100-200 yard estimate is based on 20+ years of hunting with hounds. That's how far ahead of the dogs the rabbit stays once the chase is on.

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    Default good thoughts guys

    My guess is that even though there is no hunting pressure the rabbits were moving out further than I could see. I've had them sit almost underneath me in this same exact location, but this time they seemed scarce.
    I might have to steal somebodies beagle and go back. Even a short legged little guy could make it around pretty easy right now as the snow is just not that deep.

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    Ak River Rat - have you been able to get back out there? Any luck? I've been curious to your success and where you find the rabbits in that area. Have you considered going after the fox living in the den you found?

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    Default Not been back

    I got to go up in the mountains to look for ptarmigan, which we found a few of. Something happened to my gun though, cause it is not shooting straight any more. For the life of me I can't figure it out.
    I'll get back out to the bunny hole soon. Wish I could go this week with the fresh skiff of snow we are getting.
    I may go after the fox. The den is one I knew about, but never took the time to try and hunt the occupants. It'd be cool to see them on the den, but the brush is so thick there I'd have to be on top of the hole for that to happen.
    If I were going to hunt that area for fox, I'd wait for a specific wind, set up in the area that the wood cutting took place and all the rabbit sign is at, and call from there. That area, due to the downed and cleared trees is more open, but not so open as to cause a fox to not want to run through it.
    The rest of the area is pretty thick, and you might not see a fox until he stepped on your lap.

  17. #17

    Default Mystery of the missing hare

    My guess is you are hunting in a heavily pressured area, or else you are just making too much noise. Try bringing a friend along. Take turns pushing through the thick stuff with lots of sign. Have one man just sit quietly in an area overlooking the entire area with lots of escape trails and don't move! You'll get em. Beagles work way better than labs for this. My beagle runs up and down the hare trails and pushes them out to me when the snow ain't too deep. The problem is sometimes it is just too deep for a beagle. In my experience labs are not very useful for bunny hunting. Occasionally you might get lucky and a lab might accidently jump one that is sitting tight, but a beagles nose is highly superior to a labs, and not only that but if they have good instincts, they will give out a resounding bark when they are on one for sure. That way you know to get ready for a shot.

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