Jan 25, 2014

Rabbit hunting - Patuxent River State Park

I got out hunting this morning, despite strong winds and temperatures just barely reaching up into the twenties.  I had been meaning to check out some of the swamp lands and field areas in Patuxent River State Park.  Rabbit hunting is something I really miss from my upbringing in upstate New York.  There, cottontail rabbits were abundant.  My buddy, Pat, and I used to hunt them on his father's land with his dog, and it was not uncommon for us to bag seven or eight within a couple of hours (His Beagle slurping up the gut piles as quick as we cleaned them - that always used to gross me out).  Here, in Maryland, its a different story.  We have so many foxes that take care of the rabbits on their own.  They leave very few for the small game hunter.  I usually see a red fox, at least, every other week.   Nevertheless, I did enjoy getting out with my Winchester, Model 12.  It's my favorite pump-action shotgun to carry.  Based on its serial number, mine was made in 1954.  It's a beautiful little 20 gauge; gifted to me from my father many years ago.  Thanks dad!

Although I saw many rabbit tracks, I also saw a whole lot more fox tracks.  Fox tracks are very easy to identify, because their feet fall, very nearly, in a straight line.  This is why they appear to lope along, when you see them crossing fields.  I recall my father explaining this to me as a young boy, as we knelt in the snow, examining tracks, high on a ridge in Deerfield Ravine.  Each hedge row that I poked along, exhibited a set of fox tracks that dipped in and out of the briers. Among the fox tracks were also evidence of the many small birds that I pushed along the hedges.  Their wings made small serrations into the snow where they swooped in and out of their feeding areas to pick at seed pods in the birdox.  Although I couldn't get a photo, I was pretty excited to see my first Oriels.  They're a beautiful bird.

I, of course, stopped to take a few obligatory pictures of my Model 12.  There is something so intrinsically beautiful about the wear of a well used rifle or shotgun; when the blued steel is worn to a silvery grey patina at the areas most find comfortable to hold the gun.  As my father always says:  "If these guns could talk, what a story they could tell."  I bet.  I like to think that some of the stories would be those of my father and I knocking partridge out of the sky when I was much younger.

One of the things I like most about hunting, is finding old/odd things.  Be it, glass bottles, turtle shells, antlers, or the ruins of an old farm house.  Today, I found an old tin shack.  I don't know what this shack was used for, but it did have electricity run to it.  Perhaps it was a hen house.  Maybe a bee house?  Not far from this shack, was an old stone foundation wall, from a barn.  And near to that, the remains an old farm house, with a foundation and tall chimneys as the only evidence of what once was.  

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