Skip to main content

Bunnies, Bows, and Beagles

Bunnies, Bows, and Beagles

MY BEAGLES, MINNIE and Tiger, had already run this hedgerow twice this season, with exactly the same results. Immediately upon entering the thick tangle of brush, Minnie's high-pitched chop and Tiger's low, mournful bawl let me know they were hot on the trail of a cottontail rabbit. On both occasions the dogs had run the full length of the row before losing the scent under a large deadfall.

Obviously, the rabbit had a hole under there somewhere. When chased by beagles, cottontails usually run in a circle, eventually returning to the general area where they started. Clearly, this bunny had not read the playbook, so if I was to have a snowball's chance of getting a crack at him, I would need to think outside the box.

So, the next time I released the dogs at the hedgerow, I sprinted for a small break in the cover. To avoid alerting my quarry, I took a circuitous route through a field of corn stubble and arrived just in time to see the rabbit emerging from under a nearby solid wall of wild rose bushes. By now he knew the routine, so he was in no hurry. Whatever was chasing him would never catch up, so why waste the energy?

With no cover between us, he caught the movement as I raised my recurve and in a heartbeat went from hopping "hare" to blazing bunny. I swung ahead of the running rabbit and sent my shaft on a path to intercept him. Weeks of practice on moving targets paid off when the arrow passed through both shoulders and bowled that bunny over just inches shy of another clean getaway.


MANY SEASONED BOWHUNTERS consider small game to be small time, strictly incidental animals taken only if the opportunity presents itself during the pursuit of nobler species. As a dedicated bowhunter for 30 years, I once felt that way myself.


All that changed in 2000 when I added a pair of beagles to the mix. Bowhunting rabbits with hounds is not the same as trying to stalk bunnies hiding in impenetrable bushes. Cottontails pursued by hounds are on high alert and will employ a variety of tactics to evade their pursuers. Once they have been shot at and missed (which happens more often than not in bowhunting), they also learn to keep close tabs on their escape routes.

On one hunt, the dogs had been running a particular cottontail for about 20 minutes when the sounds of the chase turned my way. Taking a stand beside the only bush in a field of ankle-high grass, I nocked an arrow and spotted the rabbit as he topped a low rise.

With the dogs still far behind, he had plenty of time to figure out his next move. Some 30 yards from me, he stood on his hind legs and surveyed his surroundings as I did my best to become one with the bush.

Satisfied the coast was clear, he continued down the slope in my direction. At eight yards he stopped for a second look, and this time I drew my bow. Once again, with no cover to conceal my movement, he saw me draw and took off. My lead was perfect, but the arrow missed a good six inches high. To my surprise, that rabbit stopped at the bottom of the slope and looked back. Quickly I reloaded, and this time I connected with a 25-yard shot on the stationary target.




THE MOST INCREDIBLE evasive maneuver I have ever witnessed took place on a hunt with my buddy Matt Traynor. With the dogs in hot pursuit, a rabbit came barreling out of the bushes and crossed about 12 yards in front of us. Matt drew his longbow and sent a tapered cedar shaft on a collision course with the speeding rabbit. The shot looked perfect but ended up passing just over the bunny's back.

To us it appeared Matt had simply shot high. However, I had been videotaping over Matt's shoulder, and upon reviewing the tape in slow motion, we realized what had actually happened. Without missing a step, the rabbit had ducked and slid under the arrow! Later that season Matt scored on a running rabbit, and I caught that on video as well.

I consider my first running rabbit, taken with the aid of my hounds, to be one of my greatest bowhunting achievements. Maybe that trophy doesn't warrant a place of distinction in my den, but it means more to me than the largest animal hanging in my trophy room. Legendary bowhunter Saxton Pope expressed this sentiment more eloquently than I ever will when he wrote, "The true hunter counts his achievements in proportion to the effort involved and the fairness of the sport." With that he pretty well described the rewards of hunting bunnies with bows and beagles.


The author is a hardcore traditionalist from East Brunswick, New Jersey.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek has a chance to fill his buck tag on a mixed bag hunt in Texas.

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 2

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 2

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt in a truly target-rich environment.

Tree Saddle Hunting: Best Platforms & Ring of Steps

Tree Saddle Hunting: Best Platforms & Ring of Steps

We all need a spot to place our feet in life … and even more so when in the saddle. The two options are a platform or ring-of-steps. For longer hunts, platforms are more comfortable and most familiar. Ring-of-steps are lighter and easier to pack for shorter-duration hunts and long hikes.

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021, here's a look at the new Rage Trypan NC, Nockturnal Shift Nock, Carbon Express Maxima RED Contour and D-Stroyer PileDRIVER arrows.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

We all need a spot to place our feet in life … and even more so when in the saddle. The two options are a platform or ring-of-steps.Best New Tree Saddle Hunting Platforms & Ring of Steps Treestands & Blinds

Best New Tree Saddle Hunting Platforms & Ring of Steps

Bowhunter Staff - January 03, 2021

We all need a spot to place our feet in life … and even more so when in the saddle. The two...

Arrow rests are a dime a dozen. Picking the right one is the foundation to consistent 10-ring accuracy.New Arrow Rests for 2021 ATA Show

New Arrow Rests for 2021

Brian K. Strickland - January 11, 2021

Arrow rests are a dime a dozen. Picking the right one is the foundation to consistent 10-ring...

New tree saddles, platforms, sticks and more provide greater efficiency and enjoyment when tree saddle hunting.Tree Saddle Hunting Gear Round-Up - Best of the Best Treestands & Blinds

Tree Saddle Hunting Gear Round-Up - Best of the Best

Mike Carney - November 23, 2020

New tree saddles, platforms, sticks and more provide greater efficiency and enjoyment when...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Emily Schuh Berriochoa details her father's final harvest.The Last Stand: Dwight Schuh's Final Buck Stories

The Last Stand: Dwight Schuh's Final Buck

Emily Schuh Berriochoa

Emily Schuh Berriochoa details her father's final harvest.

Suddenly quiet, the bright-orange, one-time Danish Coast Guard boat drifted with the current, waterA Greenland Hunting Adventure to Remember Stories

A Greenland Hunting Adventure to Remember

Jeff Waring - January 02, 2018

Suddenly quiet, the bright-orange, one-time Danish Coast Guard boat drifted with the current,...

Most of us are aware of the threat from glad-handing politicians who would love to get their greedyWhy Public Hunting Land Is More Valuable Than Many Realize Stories

Why Public Hunting Land Is More Valuable Than Many Realize

Tony J. Peterson - January 30, 2018

Most of us are aware of the threat from glad-handing politicians who would love to get their...

Favorite Hunt? There's Plenty to Choose From. Stories

Favorite Hunt? There's Plenty to Choose From.

Dwight Schuh - January 03, 2017

"You guys are crazy," bush pilot Van Hartley growled as Roger Iveson and I unloaded the last...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now