One man in Michigan claims that rabbit hunting has fallen out of style and makes it his mission to find out why.
Writing in the Lansing State Journal, Bob Gwizdz says that rabbit hunting is a dying pastime in Michigan. According to 2011 small game hunting statistics from the Department of Natural Resources, roughly 56,000 Michigan hunters said they went after rabbits. This number pales next to the same survey from the 1970s – over 400,000 hunters.
Hunting numbers have stagnated or declined in the last 40 years in every state, but Gwizdz says Michigan’s drop in rabbit hunters can be attributed to a handful of changes in lifestyles and hunting habits.
Rabbits are just as prolific today as they were 40 years ago, but deer hunting in Michigan has changed. Deer hunters who use bows or go after a late season antlerless tag find their season extended from the 16 days for rifle hunters to a solid three months. With more time to scratch the hunting itch (and fill the freezer), the pound or two of rabbit meat just isn’t worth the effort for most people.
The decrease in people living outside city limits may also play a role.
In Gwizdz’s words, “Today, there are simply fewer folks who can grab the shotgun, head out the back door and be in business, than there used to be.”
Another sign of the declining popularity of rabbit hunting is the decrease in the number of rabbit hunting dogs. Most of Gwizdz’s examples are anecdotal, and he notes the decline in the number of his friends who bring their guns when they run their beagles. The dogs go after cottontails, but not the humans. He recounts a day spent with his (occasional) rabbit hunting friends:
A good time was had by all this day, especially the beagles. They ran hard the whole time, chasing a half dozen rabbits (or more), often on lengthy races, until the critters found refuge in a hole and the dogs started over on another cottontail. They didn’t want to quit.
In the end, Gwizdz concludes that bird hunting and rabbit hunting are great opportunities to train and bond with your dogs, even when you come home with an empty game bag.