While deer hunting season is coming to a close, rabbit hunting is wide open until the end of February. As any avid hunter will tell you, rabbits are lots of fun to hunt and they provide a lean, nutritious, white meat. Following are 7 tips to help make your next rabbit hunt a success.
1. Wear Brush Pants
Because you will likely be walking through lots of briars and brush, make sure you wear clothing that will protect you. Invest in a good pair of brush pants — you’ll be thankful you did.
2. Wear Your Blaze Orange
Be sure to wear an orange vest and hat. You’ll often be hunting in heavy cover which makes it difficult for other hunters to see you. Studies show that 81 percent of victims in vision-related hunting incidents were not wearing hunter orange clothing. Always, ALWAYS wear your orange!
3. Take the Right Gear
Experienced rabbit hunters recommend using a shotgun with an improved cylinder choke and a No. 6 or 7 1/2 shot. This gives you a wide, but sufficient shot pattern to put a rabbit down in heavy cover without extensive damage to the meat.
4. Find the Clover
Cottontails love clover; it’s their first choice for dinner whenever it’s available. Clover can usually be found in loose, sandy or well-drained soils. It grows best in areas with lots of sunshine. Chances are, if you find the clover the rabbits are close by.
5. Know Their Habitat
Look for cottontails around small fields bordered by woods, brush and briars; along drainages and fencerows where vegetation has grown up, in recently cleaned timber clear-cuts, in brush-piles, and other places providing hideouts and nearby forage. Some of their favorite cover includes blackberry patches, briars, brush-piles, honeysuckle, thick grass and weeds.
6. Know When to Hunt
Early morning and late afternoon is considered the prime time for rabbit hunting. Cold, damp days can make for successful hunts, as rabbits generally take shelter somewhere hidden from the cold and the wind. If you run across a heavy thicket or brush-pile on a cold, damp day, you may have stumbled on to a rabbit goldmine! The first warm day after a cold snap can often provide good hunting, as well.
7. Walk Them Out
In the winter, rabbits like to nestle themselves into thick piles of brush or bramble for cover. To get them moving, walk 10 to 12 steps through the cover, pause for 15 to 20 seconds, then alter your direction — sometimes even circling back through the cover. Always keep your eyes ahead and to the side in anticipation of an escaping rabbit.
When hunting with a partner, it’s best to be about 50 feet apart, walking in alignment and in staggered succession. One hunter moves up about 10 feet and waits; the other hunter walks 10 feet, waits, and so on — alternating until the cover is worked. Occasionally, turn around and view the area just walked. Rabbits that don’t fall for the freeze trick will often break cover when passed.
If you’re hunting with a group, you can take a more aggressive approach by putting two or three people in the cover to move rabbits while the other hunters walk the edges. It may even be helpful to post hunters at the end of the cover and drive toward them, like in pheasant hunting. Remember, as rabbits are pressured they often run along the outside edges of cover for short distances, offering an easy shot if you’re prepared.