QUESTION: I have noticed that the rabbit population on my property is way down. Are there diseases that cause a rise and fall of rabbit density?
ANSWER: Rabbit populations are cyclic. They populate to extremely high numbers, then they crash to significantly low numbers. The cycle seems to run in 10-year intervals.
The population during each year can also be traced to the availability of food.
Finally, predation is a factor. Rabbits are prey for practically all meat-eating birds and mammals. An overabundance of predators can decimate the rabbit population in a short time. Fortunately, their reproduction abilities can restore the population in a short time.
QUESTION: My son is 15 years old, stands at 5-foot-6 and weighs 148 pounds. I plan to secure a deer rifle for him before the next season. Should I get a youth model? What action and caliber? What size telescope sight? How should it be sighted in?
ANSWER: Your son is normal in size and weight, and I would not recommend a youth model firearm. The action type is a personal choice, but it is a fact that a single-shot or a bolt-action rifle is generally more accurate than other types.
Most rifles have studs that accept sling-swivels -- others do not. This is a very important accessory that I would not be without.
While stainless steel is a great metal finish that resists rust, the glare and reflection from stainless steel rifles have spooked many a suspicious deer. I would opt for a blue steel coating, preferably in a non-glare type.
Popular calibers are .30-06, .270 and 7 mm-08. My personal choice is the 7 mm-08, using a bullet somewhere in the 150 grain size.
A deer is a very large target. I have seen deer rifles with huge and expensive telescope sights on which the magnification can be dialed from three power up to 20 power.
These are varmint scopes and totally unnecessary for deer rifles. A variable telescope sight that dials from three power to nine power is more than adequate. Actually, the best telescope sight I ever used on a deer rifle was a simple four power with no other variation. Most scopes have a 40-millimeter objective lens (the large end -- not the end you look into). Since many deer are shot during low light conditions, an objective lens of at least 50 millimeters will add the light-gathering quality and allow one to take dawn and dusk shots.
As for sighting in, I would recommend having your final zero center on a spot that is 1 inch high at 100 yards. For all three calibers mentioned, this setting will give the hunter a sure kill from point-blank out to 200 yards.
These recommendations are not only for a 15-year-old but for any adult-sized person who is getting a deer rifle for the first time.
Emory Josey writes a weekly outdoors column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or email him at email@example.com