Tracking Rabbits

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The temperature was hovering in the single digits with a breeze that felt like needles poking at my cheeks.  Why in the world would anyone be out hunting in this kind of weather?  I wondered the same thing as I followed fresh rabbit tracks through the brush and snowdrifts.  Clearly there were rabbits here but I had yet to lay eyes on anything.  With a fresh dusting of snow from the night prior I was able to see where my prey had been just minutes before my arrival.  I was getting frustrated.  My efforts to ambush my prey to this point had been fruitless, and my approach had to change.  Finding a fresh set of tracks I began to follow, the hunt was on.  There is something primal about tracking an animal in fresh snow, a feeling that brings up emotions centuries old, a need to have nourished oneself from the land.

As I followed the tracks, it was as if I was reading a story of the events that had just transpired here only minutes before.  The story took me over a hill and around some fallen treetops, ending at little more than a few branches piled next to a tree trunk.  Surely this is no spot for a rabbit to hide  since these two branches and pile of leaves could barely hide a mouse, I thought to myself, as I poked my foot at the small pile of sticks and leaves.  In the moments just prior to the rabbit exploding from under my foot, the thought that this little pile of sticks was hiding my prey had all but left my mind.  Instantly my heart rate skyrocketed as the rabbit bounded away in an effort to escape to his next hiding place.  The next few seconds went in slow motion as I fumbled to bring the shotgun to my shoulder and release the safety.  I was instantly thrust back into the pursuit as I settled the bead of my shotgun on the rabbit’s intended path.  A cloud of white covered my view of the rabbit as my shotgun came to life.  Had I succeeded in my quest?

As I moved toward the area where I had shot, there in the snow lay my prey.  A rush of emotion fell over me with a sense of accomplishment in providing food that would fuel my body and remorse for having taken a life to do so.  This is the circle of life I guess, but now I feel more connected to that circle somehow.

This scene would play itself out one more time that day in an open grassy field.  The rabbit bursting from the grass beneath my feet and ultimately coming to rest in the back of the game bag.  I felt privileged to have had such an adventure on this cold and blustery day.  It had been a fun and adventurous day that I won’t soon forget and hopefully one I can repeat before the winter is over.

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