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Rabbit Hunting and Quail Hunting Seasons Return

A pack of beagles ready to lead rabbit hunters into the woods.

A large selection of game hunting seasons is set to open around Thanksgiving in time for traditional and annual holiday hunts. Big game hunting for white-tailed deer runs until New Year’s Day, while many small game seasons will continue all winter. An abbreviated dove and duck season will be open for Thanksgiving week before closing again on Saturday, November 30. Quail season kicks off on November 25, and the rabbit season begins on November 28. Open season on common snipe and woodcock round out the small game options for hunters willing to spend time walking in the woods in search of these more elusive game birds.
Thanksgiving is a time to gather friends and family together and give thanks to fellowship. Cooking and eating turkey is likely the number one pastime, followed by watching football and perhaps even doing a little Christmas shopping. So not everyone looks to ‘turkey day’ as a time to get outdoors and hunt, but for a certain segment of Lowcountry folks, it is just another part of the tradition. A hunt can be a solitary affair, perhaps walking down a brushy fire line with a dog in hopes of flushing game, or looking upward in the pines for a squirrel to shoot.
Some Thanksgiving traditions can require a much larger cast of characters, and these hunts include driving for deer with dogs or horses, with a dove hunt being the most popular option. Your humble correspondent is fortunate to have attended many holiday dove hunts and can recall Colleton county cornfields of yesteryear loaded with clouds of doves to hunt. Fast forward to the current era of less abundant doves, and I still plan to be in a similar cornfield with a few fellows to take shots at any doves that might fly by at the appointed time. With plenty of food already on the supper table, the need to harvest a limit of doves is eclipsed by the goal of continuing a time-honored hunt tradition.
Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy watching canines work, but not everyone owns a hunting dog. Thanksgiving is a time to pool resources and join together for specialty hunts such as a rabbit hunt. It takes a cold-nosed tracking beagle to find the scent of cottontail and then to give chase, all the while howling back at the hunters to be ready to shoot. Beagle owners have to run their dogs before the season is in, to train them, and to get them in shape. If you have a friend that is willing to bring some beagles to hunt rabbits, I highly recommend it. A rabbit hunt includes lots of time spent in the woods, and other educational wildlife encounters are almost a certainty.
Quail hunting also requires specialized dog work, usually involving an English Pointer or English Setter. Not everyone owns a bird dog, so it helps to keep a note of any bird dog handlers in your area. Quail are not as common on the landscape as they once were, but pen-raised birds are readily available to hunt. An old quail hunt saying is to get behind a good bird dog and try not to mess it up. Given the right setting, bird dogs pointing bobwhites might be the ultimate southern hunt scenario for Thanksgiving purists.
A wood duck hunt is a good option for early risers that need to hunt and then get back to their Thanksgiving day celebrations well before lunch. The droughty conditions that persisted in late summer and into the fall have begun to abate, but it is still a challenge to find flooded hardwoods in parts of the Lowcountry. Any swamp habitat is a good place to scout for wood ducks, and if you can find water holes in the woods right now, then that is likely a good place to watch out for woodies. Other species of ducks are looking for larger impoundments along the coast, but wood ducks can be found in any rural part of Colleton County and offer a very sporting shooting opportunity.
Given enough years of Thanksgiving hunts, one can yield enough hunt stories to weave a rich tapestry of outdoor memories. If a core group of the same folks was involved during those same hunt activities, then the old stories can be referenced again and again. Climactic conditions, like freezing weather, may play a role in the recounting of those hunts. Some hunts will be successful, and some will not be, but going out to renew the connection to the land is the common denominator. And maybe the best part of all the Thanksgiving day hunting tales is that no one goes home hungry, because a good meal is already part of the equation.
Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis
Jeff Dennis, Contributor (380 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com