Older kids enjoy using dogs to hunt for rabbits and squirrels because they don’t have to stay quiet and still. (Front row) Brody DeLee, Sully Hornsby, Rolley Len Kirk (with squirrel), (back) Caleb Laro and Cason Kirk after a recent hunt.
Rabbit and squirrel hunting are probably Rolley Len and Cason’s favorite type of hunting. Whenever they go with their father, my husband Jason, they always come back with plenty of stories about their trip. Their vivid descriptions about tracking rabbits and squirrels with the dogs tell that they were never bored, even if they have been gone for hours. Whether they are talking about walking what seemed like miles to the constant sounds of the dogs barking, their senses have been enveloped by nature.
According to Jason, the sound of the dogs is one of the best things about rabbit hunting. Their consistent barking and wailing once they strike out is music to the ears of hunters. Rolley Len agreed with his assessment of the barking chorus, but had a much different description than her Daddy.
"It sounds like babies crying, but in a good way," explained Rolley Len. "And they keep getting louder and louder. It’s like a bunch of howler monkeys howling their heads off together, but barking."
Once they strike out, the chase is on. After that, the hunters spread out and wait for the rabbit to come back their way. Walking the property through the brush and briars to stir up rabbits is challenging, but necessary. Thick briar pants, jacket and wader boots are essential if you don’t want to get hooked. For smaller children, it can be hard to keep from falling into the briars if they aren’t careful.
On Rolley Len’s last hunt, she was not wearing a vest to put the rabbits in so, instead, she took a rabbit over to the ranger where the cooler was. She discovered quickly that to make this route safely, not only did she have to negotiate the unruly brush but she also had to keep ahead of the dogs once she got it in hand.
"I carried the rabbit that Daddy got, and Little Ringo was on the move. He tried to get it out of my hand, and I just kept holding it higher and higher," she said.
When Jason was growing up, hunting rabbits was a little easier and faster. They would run in smaller circles, which meant a shorter hunting time. With the increased number of coyotes, rabbits have had to get smarter. Rabbits run longer because they have to find more ways to escape the coyotes. Rolley Len and Cason don’t seem to mind that it sometimes it takes a while to catch our next meal.
Cason says hunting for squirrels and rabbits is fun because you can hunt, play and eat at the same trip. After he and Rolley Len went hunting with some friends in February, they brought home three rabbits and a squirrel. Jason put them in a crockpot in the morning and, by the time I got home, it smelled amazing.
If you have rabbit or squirrel in your freezer, try one of these recipes that are sure to awaken your senses of sight, smell and taste for your next meal.
Slow-Cooker Squirrel and Rabbit
SLOW-COOKER SQUIRREL AND RABBIT
2 squirrels, dressed
3 rabbits, dressed
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, to taste
½ cup water
In a large bowl, place squirrel and rabbit meat. Coat with seasonings. Place in the slow-cooker, add water, and cook on low all day, about 10-11 hours.
ROAST RABBIT WITH STUFFING
1 small onion, sliced
3 Tablespoons butter or other fat
3 cups soft breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
In a pan, sauté onion in butter until light brown. Add breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and mix well.
Young rabbits, drawn and cleaned with hearts and livers re- served (¾ pound rabbit = about 1 serving)
Poultry stuffing (recipe above)
Butter, melted, or drippings for basting
Preheat oven to 350°.
In small saucepan, boil hearts and liver until tender. Chop fine and mix with poultry stuffing, adding some giblet water to moisten mixture. Stuff rabbit with mixture. Sew opening and tie or fasten legs close to body with skewers. In a large roasting pan, place on side. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn once and baste frequently with butter or drippings from pan. Reduce heat to 350° and roast for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Baste every 15 minutes.
Make gravy by adding flour mixed with some water to pan drippings, stir well.
Note: Squirrel may also be used, but rub the meat with butter or oil before cooking. One squirrel will provide about two servings.
8 cups water
1 Tablespoon salt
2 grey squirrels, dressed and cleaned
4 potatoes, pared and cubed
1 cup canned corn
2 onions, diced
1 cup lima beans
2 cups canned tomatoes, diced
¼ pound salt pork, diced
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon pepper
In a large pot, put water and salt. Bring to a boil. Add squirrels, potatoes, corn, onion, beans, tomatoes and salt pork. Cover and simmer 2½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix flour and butter to a smooth paste. Add to pot. Mix well. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Season with pepper and stir until slightly thickened.
Note: Rabbit can also be substituted in this recipe for squirrel.