The weather people, who predicted that we would have an ice storm over the past weekend, were predicting a snow later in the week.

I spent a whole afternoon getting a big stash of firewood up on the back deck, covered and ready, and the weekend is gone, no ice, 50 degrees.

I am confident that if I had left that firewood out in the woods and ignored the weatherman, it would be 15 degrees tonight, and ice all over. So you folks out there owe me quite a lot. I have deterred an ice storm!

If it snows, I am going to go rabbit hunting with my good friend Rich Abdoler, who has a good little beagle. Hunting rabbits with a beagle is a great pastime, something I enjoy immensely. I enjoy hunting with Rich too, but if I had to pick just one of the two to hunt with, I'd pick the beagle.

Lately, Rich has been hunting rabbits with a .22 rifle and he hardly ever gets any rabbits anyway.

We need some rabbits for the wild game dinner in March, and Rich has agreed to come, bringing fried rabbits, hopefully 15 or 20 of them. His wife Debbie will prepare them of course, because Rich can't cook any better than he can hit rabbits with a .22. That's why I need to go with him, because with my little double-barrel 16-gauge Parker, I am a rabbit hunting pro.

Actually as of yet, there are no rabbit hunting pros, but there should be. If we are going to have pro turkey hunters, we might as well have pro rabbit hunters.

The reason pro rabbit hunters wish for snow of course, is because they can see the rabbits so much better when there is a little snow. And when the temperature is within a few degrees of freezing and the snow is a little wet, the beagle can pick up the scent of a cottontail very well.

Cottontails have a tendency to go in a circle, right back to where they came from. Beagles trail them, bawling and yelping and yipping and wailing as they go. People who have never been rabbit hunting with a beagle hear that "music" and would swear the little dog is caught in a fence, or has a thorn in all four feet. But to us "pros," it is a wonderful sound.

I think the rabbit enjoys it too at first. They are seldom running hell-bent-for-leather in front of a beagle, unless it is a very fast beagle, and fast beagles are undesirable. Even amateur rabbit hunters want nothing to do with a fast beagle. The result of a fast chase is a rabbit in a hole or under an old building or someplace where he is completely safe unless you have a ferret.

The result of a slow, methodical beagle is a rabbit running a small circle, and not so much in search of refuge.

The regular hunter is often tempted to follow the beagle, but a professional rabbit hunter knows to find a stump or a high place where he can see well, and be patient. The chase will come back to him in time. He wants to get a 25- or 35-yard shot if possible.

You hunt rabbits with light loads, and number 6 shot, small gauge modified bore shotguns or .22 rifles. If you want to eat them, you need to know how to lead a running rabbit so as to put little shot in the body. A top-flight professional rabbit hunter - and I mean a real living-legend type professional rabbit hunter - would hunt with a 28 gauge or a .410 shotgun, and never clean a rabbit with shot in the body.

Rich Abdoler, hunting with that small bore rifle, would really be something if he could hit one every now and then. He has always had great beagles and I remember when he hunted with a shotgun and ate rabbits all the time, for months after the season closed. Either Rich has gotten tired of rabbits for supper or he is getting a little soft hearted as he gets older. Me, I still like to eat them, fried rabbits are a lot like fried chicken except different.

We are still hoping some of you folks out there have a wild game dish you might prepare and bring to our wild game dinner. I am hoping to hear more from someone who has elk or moose or wild turkey than from someone who has rattlesnake or snapping turtle, but we won't turn down anything which is edible and fully cooked.

Journal

The second Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal, the wild turkey edition, will be out on Tuesday. We had about two dozen readers submit turkey hunting stories, and the first-place winner was Sam Brothers of Fair Play, Mo.

Close behind him were Edmond Lee of Bolivar, Mo., and Bill Greer, from Diamond, Mo., who will also receive cash prizes. All three stories were great. In fact, there were many excellent stories, and we published several, as many as we had room for. I intend to keep some of the others and publish them too, later in the year when we have room.

Thanks to all of you for sending them in. It was such a success, we will do the same thing in a summer issue, this time with fishing stories. Three to 10 typed pages, your best fishing stories, a cash prize of $50 to the winner. You can order the Lightnin' Ridge Journal spring turkey hunting issue, 64 pages of turkey hunting stories with no advertising, by sending a check for $5.95.

The magazine has one of the best, if not THE best, turkey hunting stories I have ever read, entitled "The Story of a Turkey Hunter." I read it again and again, and loved it.

I have rehired the office secretary, Mrs. Wiggins, after we reached an agreement about the seriousness of doing her nails over the computer keyboard, and feeding chicken bones to my Labrador. If you fail to get her on the first try, call back later.

Address correspondence to Larry Dablemont, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo., 65613. Send e-mail to lightninridge@alltel.net, check the Web site www.larrydablemont.com, or call (417) 777-7227.

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