- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

WELCOME, Md.

Heah, Shorty, heah, heah; there he goes,” shouted Tommy Nelson while his son-in-law, Bill Ayers, supported him up with loud hand-clapping and more hollering. “Go get him, Amy, heah, heah.”

The shouts were directed at two beagles, Amy and Shorty, who took up the challenge. Noses to the ground, they suddenly picked up the telltale spoor of a cottontail rabbit and like demons from another world cut loose with ear-piercing, drawn-out bellows, tearing through dense brambles and underbrush with the kind of speed that told of a hot scent. Mr. Rabbit very recently had passed through, no doubt about it.

Bob Greer and Ronnie DePalma stood outside the dense bottomland, shotguns cradled in their arms, ever watchful of movement in the brown grass that surrounded them.

“Here he comes,” Nelson sounded off when he saw a grayish-brown flash of fur zipping through the brush, the short-legged hounds still a fair distance away.

The rabbit, of course, made the ultimate mistake by trying to break for open country, which is never a good idea when human hunters are around, because that’s what they hope for.

Boom! The short report of a 20-gauge gun was followed by Greer’s “I got him.”

There would be stewed or fried rabbit on somebody’s dinner table that night.

Ah, rabbit hunting. Although local seasons are now over and the dogs will soon only dream of better days in autumn, I can’t help but think back on our day along the forest and field margins of rural Charles County, where hunting, fishing, crabbing and growing tobacco are viewed as normally as breathing the air.

A number of Greers have lived and farmed portions of southern Maryland between the Port Tobacco River, Route 6, and the Nanjemoy Creek for more decades than Bob Greer can recall. But he is mystified by calls for more gun control and what he is sure are ever-increasing encroachments on the personal liberty of Americans. The normally good-humored Greer gets angry when he hears that some newcomers to his beloved southern Maryland object to what the locals do.

“Our country is on a slippery slope; we’re steadily going downhill,” Greer said with a look of disgust on his face. “We have people moving to this county who think because they’re here now, we ought to stop all our traditional activities such as rabbit, duck or deer hunting.”

His brief anger vented, Greer and DePalma soon heard the dogs and their handlers once again sound off in unison. They quickly moved up and trod through thick patches of weeds and thorny shrubs. For a few more hours, the group enjoyed the fellowship that is viewed with a special fondness by rabbit hunters. They relished the sound of the little hounds and by midday had the knowledge that nine more cottontails would supply them with delicious, tender meat. Every one of the hunters had scored.

Heah, heah, Amy and Shorty, indeed.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com.


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