Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
There are some things in life that I’ve learned not to take for granted. Winter weather is one of those things. Hard to believe that, just one week ago, Northern Iowa was receiving eight inches of beautiful new powder. Stale rural landscapes were once again transformed into spectacular winter wonderlands. Responding to the conditions, late season rabbit hunting kicked into overdrive. Refreshed and rejuvenated, the shift in weather seemed certain to delay the inevitable snow melt by at least a week or two.
But such was not to be. Within 48 hours, the beautiful clean powder was rapidly being reduced to heavy wet snow. By Tuesday afternoon, patches of open ground were dotting area croplands. But there was a happy contrast. Area woodlands, willow thickets, and cattail marshlands – the places where cottontails dwell — remained completely snow covered. But if the predicted warm up stayed on track, the conditions would likely be short lived. Time to make the most of what winter remained.
With clear skies and balmy temperatures dominating February’s final weekend, it was likely that local rabbit populations would be enjoying the sunshine. Arriving at my favorite farmstead rabbitat, I quickly discovered that at least one other hunter had the same idea. That hunter was a big buck mink moving, nose down, along a well-used rabbit trail. Upon spotting me, the mink gave up the hunt and high tailed for thick cover.
When a big cottontail decided it was time to vacate the immediate vicinity, my goshawk made short work of the chase; nabbing the fleeing bunny within a few wing beats. The rabbit turned out to be a nice buck in good condition. The majority of cottontails we’re bagging these days have been roving males, another sign that spring is on the way.
Although I hate to think of another beautiful North Iowa winter coming to a premature conclusion, it has nevertheless been a great season with plenty of rabbits and an extraordinary number of pheasants inhabiting the countryside. For a lot of Iowans, the next events on the outdoor calendar will include spring bird migrations, open water fishing, and the beginning of the turkey seasons. Let’s all be hoping for a warm and productive spring nesting season.
Feb. 28, 2021