When I was much younger, this past week was reserved for one or two rabbit hunts. School was out, and there was snow usually on the ground and lots of cottontails, making for some great hunting.

When I was much younger, this past week was reserved for one or two rabbit hunts. School was out, and there was snow usually on the ground and lots of cottontails, making for some great hunting.

The day after Christmas was a time when I and several of my friends would pick up our .22 rifles and a box of shells and head for the hunting ground. We didn’t have to go very far because back then there was a large supply of rabbits and no limit on the number a hunter could take. Of course, just a few rabbits in your hunting coat can feel like a ton after walking a few hundred yards or so.

Sometimes we would take Robert’s two beagles and that added to the hunt. Just watching those dogs work the fields as they were on the trail of a cottontail made it special.

Back then we wouldn’t think of shooting a rabbit with a shotgun and we certainly didn’t need one when hunting in the snow. We carried single-shot .22s and rarely missed a shot. My dad always said, “Don’t shoot a rabbit with a shotgun because you would be picking out pellets at the dinner table.”

One year stands out, because it hadn’t snowed the entire month of December until two days before Christmas, and it looked we wouldn’t keep the tradition of rabbit hunting in  the snow the day after Christmas. However, when we saw the first snowflake of the winter coming down, there were smiles enough to go around the country.

What made that year even better was that on Christmas morning I found a new Remington single-shot .22-caliber rifle under the tree, and looking outside at the fallen snow made it very special.

Shortly after the sun popped up on the day after Christmas, three rabbit hunters headed out less than a mile from home. We had a special spot where there were always plenty of rabbits available. There were rabbit tracks by the hundreds around an old barn that had been overgrown with weeds, briers and brush. It was prime habitat for rabbits.

In just a few minutes we had kicked up more than a dozen cottontails and watched them disappear into the heavy brush before finally bagging the first one that had doubled back and stopped about 20 yards in front. A shot from my new gun dropped the first bunny of the day.

For the next hour we had some excellent hunting and had all the rabbits we could carry. We saved the next day for a hunt with the beagles.

It was an easy hunt with the dogs. We stationed ourselves atop a small hill near a pond and watched the beagles as they pushed the rabbits toward us.

Beagles and bunnies go together like bread and butter. It didn’t take long before we had all the rabbits we wanted, but the beagles never tired of trailing the rabbits and would have hunted all day.

This annual celebration of hunting rabbits the day after Christmas started back in the early 1940s and in looking at some of the photos we took after each hunt, I noticed we have all changed. Most of the hunters have now either gone bald or at least have gray hair. We kept the ritual going until some of the hunters married or moved away, but for a long time we would get together and do more philosophizing about the past hunts and also add a few more stories.

Rabbit hunting today is just a shadow of the past,  as the number of both hunters and rabbits have declined, but just the other day I talked to a youngster who was waiting for the first snow to go rabbit hunting. His father told him that the best time to go rabbit hunting was after the first snow. It brought back memories of those “ good old days.”