PUXICO, Mo. -- The weekend before Valentine's Day is the perfect time for Southeast Missouri women to relax and have fun hunting rabbits, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). The MDC announces the annual free Women's Rabbit Hunting Clinic is scheduled for Feb. 9, beginning at 8 a.m. at Duck Creek Conservation Area (CA) on Highway 51 north of Puxico.
"This is a very hands-on course and is an environment where anyone can learn, even if they've never fired a gun before," said Conservation Agent Mic Plunkett.
The clinic begins with an introduction to rabbit hunting at the conservation area headquarters, where the women learn rabbit species identification, hunting techniques, safety and regulations. They then learn how beagles assist in hunting rabbits before testing their shooting capabilities with MDC Outdoor Skills Specialist DeeDee Dockins.
"The target shooting and one-on-one instruction are really helpful," said Robyn Martin of Cape Girardeau. Martin is a veteran of the course.
"They walked me through how to safely handle a gun as well as aim and fire it," Martin said. "The first time I shot the clay disc I was so excited. I thought, 'Wow, I can really do this."
After target practice and classroom instruction, the group is taken to the fields with assigned guides to try their hand at hunting rabbits. At the end of the day, there's instruction on cleaning and cooking the harvest, before the new hunters share their stories around a dinner table. Because of the proximity to the Valentine's holiday, there's usually some chocolate involved in the dinner as well, thanks to Dockins.
Plunkett said those who sign up should come prepared for camaraderie, shared adventures and excitement.
"Every part of the clinic from the educational classes and target shooting to the hunting and even learning how to properly clean a rabbit is easy to understand and extremely useful," Martin said. "It helped me to understand why we hunt and how it's helpful to the environment. It helped me have respect for hunters and I learned hunting rabbits isn't as easy as I thought."
The event is free to participants but requires pre-registration and a $25 deposit that will be refunded the day of the event. Applicants must be 16 years of age and purchase the appropriate permit. Participants must also complete the Hunter Education requirements needed to purchase their permit. For more information and to sign up for the 2013 Women's Rabbit Hunting Clinic, call the MDC's Southeast Regional Office at (573) 290-5730. For more information about rabbit hunting in Missouri, go online to mdc.mo.gov.