By Harold A. Scott This article originally appeared in the October 1897 edition of Outing.
“Here’s old Don," said Jake. "Jest you stand here — he'll fetch 'im round all right enough."
From over across the hollow came the deep-toned baying of the hound, rising and falling as the trail led him up over the hill, or into a deep, wooded ravine; now almost dying away, as the quarry doubles and seeks some heavy tangle of sage or hazel; again breaking out into quick, eager yelping, as the dog warms to his work, no longer giving "bunnie" time to steal along through the brush — stopping, now and then, to listen or look back. The race has become a straightaway dash for life, and well does our game show his speed.
Now we hear the chase drawing closer and closer; we hear the brush crack, up on the "side-hill" just across the hollow, and catch the first sound of Master Cottontail's long leaps through the thick brush — for it is early fall, and the leaves are yet clinging to the trees and bushes, in all their effulgent loveliness. As Jake says, "the bresh is too dang thick."
At all events, we have not much time to spare; we must "nail" him as he crosses that little ten-foot opening in the underbrush or he's gone — and well I know he'll never get past Jake. I must not miss; and anyone who has shot the early cottontail, through thick leaves and brush, knows as well as I do that it is no "cinch."
I strain both eyes and ears. But something is wrong. I am too far to the left, and I hear the dog crash past, too far for even a sight of him, and my only consolation is in the fact that Jake does not get a shot either; he is still further to the left, and we are both left to listen to the worried yelps of disappointed Don, as he misses the scent and dashes back and forth in eager search. For a moment or so he pauses, and I hear his loud "nosing" as he circles around the lost trail.
I must not miss; and anyone who has shot the
early cottontail, through thick leaves and brush,
knows as well as I do that it is no "cinch."
Suddenly he bursts out into a frantic " ti-yi" that tells of a hot scent, settling, as he dashes away over the now fully recovered trail, into the clarion notes of the beautiful thoroughbred hound. I stand, eagerly listening, even in disappointment, as the music dies away again over the hill whence it started.
"Did ye see 'im, Doc?" calls out Jake, from his station, and I disgustedly reply that I did not, but that I intend to when he comes back — if he ever does. This proviso Jake seems to take as a reflection on "old Don's" ability, for as I start to plunge through the brush, I catch the words, "best blamed dog" — and well I know it. Don and I are too good friends to misunderstand each other; I'm sure "he'll bring him back."
Mindful of my late mistake, I work along up to the end of the "holler" and take my station at a point overlooking the whole side of the gully where the game had passed. The trees above my head are clothed in their brightest garments — beautiful red and pink maples, accentuated by dark green pines and russet oaks, while the silvery white birch adds its picturesque beauty to the scene.
The merry cry of the chickadee, the sharp rapping of a woodpecker, the busy cawing of a multitude of crows wrangling over a choice bit of carrion off by the lake shore are the only sounds I hear as I stand there enjoying to the full that delicious autumn day.
But now again all nerves are on the alert, as I catch the "swelling music of the hound." It draws closer and closer and I wonder, as my eye covers every spot of open, is Jake going to get the shot, or am I?
Nearer and nearer comes the dog, so close at hand, now, that surely the rabbit must be about to break cover near me — yes!— there to the right of that bunch of brush I caught a glimpse of a dark form and, covering the next "open," I wait. Scarcely am I ready when, over the sight of my gun, I see a bunch of gray fur — I follow it for an instant — hold just ahead of it and pull. As the reverberations die away, I listen for a sound of retreat, but now our faithful ally, Don, is so close that the noise he makes forcing himself through the brush would down any other, so I pick my way across the gully to see for myself, and find the rabbit dead. A feeling of pity rises in my heart, as I stoop to pick him up. Poor bunnie — harming none yet hunted and pursued by all. No means of defense save those long, sinewy legs — long enough and swift enough to carry him safely out of danger, but that he is too ready to lurk and skulk, thus proving easy prey for all.
Don comes dashing up, his duty done, and he pants eagerly as he noses the game for a moment then turns aside looking into my face as though to say "Well, old man, we did it."
I whistle to Jake, and pretty soon I hear his muttered grumbling as he beats his way through the brush, exclaiming, as a limb of scrub-oak catches him in the eye, "Dad rot this bresh; it 'ud make a parson swear!"
If anything was needed to complete and perfect this sportsman's picture of autumn, we found it, as we looked across the brow of the hill where stood old Don — that prince of dogs — his glossy sides flashing in the sun, waiting to see which way we were going.
Notwithstanding these frightful oaths, he is pretty good-natured, and as we start off across the hollow, to Hi. Clinton's woods, he compliments me on my shot — and as that doesn't often happen, I feel correspondingly elated.
In Clinton's woods we find game scarce and hard to get. From certain signs and marks Jake concludes that the wolves and foxes are to blame for this. But by hard work Don brings us a couple of rabbits, which we bag; and then we cross over toward the head of the lake where Jake flushes and bags a "pa'tridge" with a celerity and dispatch no one ever saw surpassed.
So on through the long afternoon we hunted with varied success. I bagged four and missed one, and Jake, who never misses, bagged three. But, as we were after sport, not spoils, we were highly pleased with the day and, considering the cover and extreme scarcity of game, we did well.
As we retraced our steps over "Sunset Hill" toward home, we caught the glint of the setting sun upon the cross above the little church of St. Mary's, far down the valley and faintly upon the evening air the Angelus rang out.
Here the underbrush was spare, and the ground was covered with a soft, rustling carpet of golden leaves, dropping, with a quiet pat, pat, from the poplar branches overhead. If anything was needed to complete and perfect this sportsman's picture of autumn, we found it, as we looked across the brow of the hill where stood old Don — that prince of dogs — his glossy sides flashing in the sun, waiting to see which way we were going.
Here our trails parted; Jake crossed over skirting the meadow and pasture lot to the old farm. For a moment old Don hesitated, looked at Jake, then at me, but obedient to his master's whistle, turned and followed him along the path.
I stood for a time listening to Jake's careless, cheery whistle until it grew faint and died away in the distance, blended with the tinkle of a cowbell and the lowing of the cattle as they followed the old bell-cow back to the pasture bars.
I kept on down the lake shore to "Oak Grove Cottage" where I knew was waiting a hearty camper's supper, presided over by the best camping chum a man ever had, sweet-faced and sympathetic, ready either to take rod or gun, or to stay in camp prepared to greet me upon my return. I see her standing in the open door, waving me a cheery, happy welcome — a fit and pleasant ending to my day with the cottontails.
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.