Friday, 08 January 2021 15:55

COLUMN: The ones that got away

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J.A. Bolton's hand-me-down single-barrel 12-guage shotgun. J.A. Bolton's hand-me-down single-barrel 12-guage shotgun. J.A. Bolton


I’ve enjoyed the sport of hunting since I was a kid. During this time, I kept several types of hunting dogs. To me, there is just something missing when you don’t have a good dog along.

As a kid growing up on a farm, I roamed the woods and fields with my trusty Daisy BB gun.

For Christmas, just after my 12th birthday, I got a brand new Remington single-shot .22-caliber rifle. This gun allowed me to step up my ability to harvest more game. Anything that sat still long enough was fair game for my Remington.

By the end of the hunting season that year, I had harvested 10 or more squirrels, one quail, two raccoons, plus a rabbit or two. However, there was one rabbit on the place that never allowed me a still shot. No siree, seems every time I jumped him, he would skedaddle and I would just plain miss him. Why, I bet I shot at that rabbit 10 different times and never did get that ol’ Br’er Rabbit!

Why, it won’t but a year or two that my friend, Roger, and I had us a small pack of rabbit beagles. Won’t all of them full-blooded, but all we cared about was for them to bring the rabbit back after he jumped up. 

By that time, both of us had a shotgun. His granddad had given him a singlebarrel .410, while I used an old hand-me-down 12-gauge single-barrel. Why, I was still using some of the old-type paper smokeless shells that daddy had around the house.

Being a hand-me-down from several generations, my shotgun won’t in the best of shape. Why, when you went to cock it, you had to have your finger behind the trigger because the trigger spring was broke. Before you shot, you had to place your thumb against the barrel release lever to keep the gun from flying open when you pulled the trigger. Other than these minor inconveniences, the old gun shot well.

It so happened, one cold morning, Roger and I were hunting in the woods behind his grandparents’ house. Our dogs were hunting but we just could not seem to jump a rabbit. I came across a hollow log and laid my gun down. I said, ”Roger, I’ll bet there is a rabbit in this log.” 

Well, I reckon he thought I was crazy, but, you know, when I stuck a stick through the log, a big fat rabbit shot out the other end. Being a little surprised myself, I quickly picked up my gun and fired off a shot that missed the rabbit by a country mile. The dogs ran that rabbit out of the country and we never did get the rascal. 

Another day, Roger and I were hunting around the Bolton homeplace and family cemetery above Capel’s Mill. The dogs jumped a rabbit not far from the cemetery, and boy, were they lighting him up! Roger and I took our stands close to the cemetery. As the rabbit made his turn, I just knew one of us was going to get a shot. All of a sudden, a gray blur shot out from behind me, and then through the grave stones the rabbit went. I hollered at Roger to tell him the rabbit was coming through the cemetery, but you know what? That rabbit disappeared in that wide-open cemetery. As the dogs got there, the trail seemed to have vanished, and to this day we don’t have any idea what got that rabbit.

On another hunt, in Anson County, several of our friends were along and just about everyone had managed to bag a rabbit but me. It was getting late in the day and I was itching to get myself a rabbit.

I put the dogs into a small briar patch and vines at the bottom of a big Pee Dee River hill. Out went the rabbit up the hill. Not wanting to shoot the rabbit on the jump, I watched as the rabbit went over the top of the hill with the dogs just about running a sight race.

Knowing if the dogs run it long enough, a rabbit will make a big circle and come back close to where he was jumped, I just waited because I didn’t want to climb the steep hill.

Why, it won’t long before I could hear the dogs coming back and coming down the hill was the rabbit! He was running so fast that he looked like he was two feet long! Being a little too far to shoot, I decided to wait till the rabbit ran past a big oak tree to shoot. I threw up my gun to shoot, but no rabbit. How could that fast rabbit just disappear? Low and behold that rabbit found himself a hole on the other side of that big oak and climbed up inside the tree. It was too late to smoke or twist him out, so we called it a day and caught up the dogs. Man, was I disappointed!

This column hasn’t got room for all my hunting experiences. I’ll tell you more in another story but for now, please keep safe, and when you get a chance, take a kid hunting.

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.