With March ready to yield to April (thankfully) and a sunny day in the offing, I wondered how to best take advantage.

I knew the season for hunting snowshoe hares was still open, so I headed into the woods to see what I could find.

Hare isn’t the most delicious game meat I have tasted, but I’m not averse to trying my hand at hasenpfeffer — as in the Looney Toons cartoon featuring Yosemite Sam: “where’s my hasenpfeffer?”

It’s a traditional stew made by the Germans and Dutch that features hare or rabbit marinated in wine and vinegar and braised with onions. It sounds really tasty.

With no previous experience stalking hares, I figured I had the bare ground working in my favor. Theoretically, they would still be featuring most of their white fur that serves as camouflage to protect them from predators during the winter.

That would make them easy to see against a background of tan grasses, alders and evergreens. Or so I hoped.

I did have the chance to go hare hunting with friend and former Game Warden Jim Fahey a handful of years ago. It was cool watching and listening to his hound, Chum, work and put a hare right in my path. All I had to do was wait.

This time, I would be both “dog” and hunter.

But let’s back up. The gravel road to the go-to hunting area in Otis was, perhaps not surprisingly, a mess. It was muddy and rutted in several areas and forced me to slow down considerably.

That worked in my favor as I came upon a large group of healthy looking turkeys milling about in the road, basking in the sunshine. They scurried into the woods as I approached.

A minute or two later, a trio of turkey vultures had gathered at the entrance to a tote road. I didn’t see any obvious carrion, but they wouldn’t have been there if there hadn’t been a snack involved.

It was great to see some wildlife, which I took as a positive sign of things to come.

After gearing up and starting along the trail, it quickly became obvious that my theory about the hares’ visibility had been flawed. There was still a fair amount of snow cover in shadowy areas, which would allow them to blend in, and complicate my efforts.

I made my way along skidder paths and trails that skirted green growth and where there was ample cover for hares. I walked slowly, scanning with my eyes and glassing with binoculars, paying particular attention to spots where the sun illuminated the ground.

I had seen hares there in the past, so I knew they were around. The most recent sighting came early during the 2021 deer season, when a healthy specimen sat directly in the path I intended to walk.

And judging from the bunny prints visible crossing the road in the snow later in the season, there are a fair number in the vicinity.

A few other times, I have literally almost tripped over hares, which remained concealed until I was right on top of them. That’ll scare the you-know-what out of you!

That wasn’t a worry this time as there didn’t seem to be any hares around anyplace. A handful of times, I saw some not-so-fresh tracks in the patchy snow near some thickets, but that was it.

The fact the wind was blowing briskly also may have hampered my efforts, but after hours of slow walking and stalking, I stopped and sat on a rock to rest and soak in some sun.

Not unlike a day of hunting when no deer appear, or when a ruffed grouse can’t be coaxed from cover, I chose to relax, relish the moment and count my blessings.

We Mainers are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors. We have millions of acres on which to hunt, fish, hike and operate snowmobiles and ATVs.

Having previously granted permission to hunt deer and turkeys, the generous landowner also agreed to let me hunt hares.

Often it’s those kinds of moments afield — when we take the time to stop, sit, watch and listen — that provide the insight and clarity we need to realize the impact the experience has on our hearts, minds and bodies.

I finally got back on my feet and took a detour down a trail that was significantly grown over. I knew it led in the direction of a stream that is lined by alders, which might be good hare habitat.

The walk along the last few hundred yards of alternately wet, icy and muddy trail provided no hare sightings, but the day left me re-energized, content and eager to embrace the open water fishing and turkey hunting seasons.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...