Rabbit hunting is a fantastic sport and a new kind of challenge for novice hunters that offers up an exciting pastime in the winter months. Well, these little critters are usually very plentiful, but they are also swift, clever, and agile.
If you are a beginner heading off for your first rabbit hunting trip, you need to prepare physically and mentally to take up the challenge. Interestingly, you don’t need a pack of dogs to bring home a big haul.
This definitive guide accumulates all the information you need as a novice hunter to go on a solo hunt and bag a few cottontails. Read on:
Why rabbit hunting?
Hunting rabbits is a great way to spend your time outdoors. Of course, if you carefully pick the coverts you visit, you are almost certain to bag a few rabbits, making each day a success. Considering that these petite mammals are abundant in the US, hunting them is a great way to introduce youngsters and novices to hunting.
Another reason why anyone, beginners and pro hunters alike, would go hunting rabbits is that they are one of the few species you can hunt throughout the winter when seasons of other game animals are closed. Well, during the winter, rabbits stand out much better against snow, which increases the chances of gathering enough rabbits for several tasty meals of rummy rabbit stew.
Rabbit hunting is not a complicated sport. Indeed, it has an immeasurable all its own. It can be as simple as a quiet walk with a single shot and a pocketful of shells – you don’t need a pack of dogs or the fanciest, most expensive artillery to make your rabbit hunting a success.
Although shooting your first rabbit might produce some tears for you, it will be easier emotionally when starting your hunting career than shooting deer and other large game animals.
What is the difference between a rabbit and hare?
For most folks, rabbit and hare mean the same. The truth is that these are two different but very alike species.
So, what is the difference?
When it comes to differentiating a rabbit from a hare, the most significant difference is the state in which their kits are born. Rabbit kits are born hairless and blind, while hare babies are born with hair and great vision. Another key difference comes with their habitation, where hares live above the ground nests. Conversely, all rabbits except cottontails live in underground burrows called warrens.
As long as you’re keen, you can easily differentiate these two species based on their physical dissimilarities. Hares are usually larger with longer legs and ears. Their fur has black markings, and, unlike rabbits, they aren’t domesticable.
Even with these striking differences, the approaches for hunting both species are the same.
What are the different types of rabbits that you can hunt?
Different types of rabbits are plentiful in almost all states. Depending on where you live, you could be hunting one of the many species.
Swamp, marsh, brush rabbits are also part of the most popular species among hunters.
Generally, cottontails are the most common, found across the country. They like to stay concealed in brush piles and thick clumps of grass. They easily stand out against the white snow with their dark gray or brown coats, making them very noticeable and a great target for novice hunters.
Here are some of the most sought out rabbits by hunters:
1. Pygmy rabbit
These cute rabbits get the name pygmy because of their small size. On average, they weigh less than 1 pounds, and adults are only 9-11 inches long. Pygmy rabbits have a grayish-brown coat that is soft and fluffy to touch. When hunting, you must be very keen to spot this clever, skittish, and timid breed.
Pygmy rabbits are common in sagebrush-dominated areas. They dig small burrows or burrows through dense vegetation, and, in most cases, they won’t be far from the safety of their burrows.
2. Cottontail rabbit
Cottontail rabbits are a common species that fill our thriving ecosystem. They exist in many subspecies. Cottontail rabbits derive their name from their stubby white tails revealed as they hop away from the hunter. Although you may notice slight differences between species, cottontails usually have a graying-brown coat.
Eastern cottontails are the most common and can be a threat to farmers because of their high reproductive capacity.
3. Black-tailed jackrabbit
The black-tailed jackrabbits are common and large rabbits that can weigh up to six pounds. They prefer living in burrows over shrubs to hide from predators.
4. White-tailed jackrabbit
This species is identifiable with its entirely white tails and like living in grasslands.
5. Snowshoe rabbit
Also known as snowshoe hare, these are rabbits with exciting adaptations that make them hard to prey on. During the winter, the fur of these rabbits turns white, making it hard to spot them because they easily blend in with the snow. When the season changes, the snowshoe rabbit’s fur turns reddish-brown. They are noticeably larger and common in dense woodlands.
Where can you find rabbits?
When it comes to hunting rabbits, some spots are better than others. It is no secret that most rabbit species love to conceal in thick coverts.
That said, it is not hard to locate rabbit hotspots. In most cases, you will find rabbits hiding in small fields with good cover adjacent to their favorite leafy green foods, including clover, grasses, wheat, alfalfa, soybeans, broadleaf weeds, saplings, and garden crops.
You should go hunting around dense fields featuring plenty of brush piles, briars, and woods. Fence rows and drainages where vegetation has overgrown make an excellent home for rabbits. When hunting, focus on walking along habitat edges and pay extra time to investigate all other spots where you think rabbits can hide.
Considering that rabbits and hares live in groups, forming dense colonies, the chances of bagging several are excellent. If you want to hunt on private land, make sure to ask for permission before starting your rabbit hunting trip. Because rabbits tend to destroy crops, many farmers and landowners will most likely grant you access.
What gear and tools do you need for successful rabbit hunting?
To get started with rabbit hunting, you don’t need much equipment. Indeed, if you participate in any winter outdoor activities, you likely have the gear you need.
Because most rabbit hotspots tend to have thick covers, you will need to wear an outfit that makes you visible for other hunters to see you clearly. With that in mind, here are some of the must-haves.
When hunting, it is prudent to wear thick protective clothing. A decent hunting outfit will protect your skin as you wade through the thick bushes. Performance clothing made of wool or polyester protects your skin while keeping you from overheating and sweating. You will also need to abide by your state’s blaze orange laws.
Wearing a blaze-orange vest makes it easy for other hunters to see you.
2. Hunting boots
When going for your rabbit hunting trip, you will also need a pair of quality hunting boots. Considering that you may walk for long to bring home a big haul, you need boots that keep your feet warm without overheating.
3. Hunting binoculars
If you are hunting alone, you will need quality binoculars to help you locate your targets.
4. Hunting weapon
Rabbit is a small game species, meaning you don’t require high-end artillery to hunt them. For novice hunters, a lightweight shotgun with 12- to 20-gauge shotshell will do the job well. Novice hunters can also use a .22 caliber rifle but limit themselves to motionless rabbits. With marksmanship and excellent stalking skills, you can bag plenty of rabbits with a .22 caliber rifle, a bow, or a pistol.
5. A sharp skinning knife for field dressing
This is crucial for preserving any meat.
What methods can you use to hunt rabbits?
Rabbit hunting can be tricky.
Whether you are a novice or a seasoned hunter, there are only two techniques you can use to hunt rabbits: with a dog or without a dog.
Here is what you need to know about the method of rabbit hunting:
1. Rabbit hunting with a dog
This is the most effective rabbit hunting method. Typically, it involves the dog forcing a rabbit out of its hiding place and following it by scent.
Beagles are the most popular rabbit hunting dogs because they are small and can easily get through brush and brambles. The effectiveness of this method is attributed to the rabbit’s instinctive habit of circling, usually counterclockwise. Because they will attempt to return to the same spot where they hoped from, they allow you to position yourself to cut off the circle.
Novices using this rabbit hunting technique need to be very keen not to shoot at the dog.
2. Rabbit hunting without a dog
If you are a novice hunter and can’t afford a pack of beagles, you can bag a few rabbits by simply walking them up. This method works best with camouflage clothing and a hunting buddy.
Basically, you need to get in rabbit feeding areas and look closely for any rabbit’s pellet droppings. Upon finding an ideal covert, you will need to walk very slowly, preferably 10 feet with 30 seconds breaks. Keep on repeating the process. Although the sounds of approach may flush some rabbits, the silent period does the trick. During the silence, a rabbit will think it has been spotted and apparently decide to escape. A rabbit holding up will likely offer an opportunity for a clean shot.
When hunting, remember to occasionally turn around and see where you have just walked. Rabbits that didn’t fall for the trick will likely break the cover immediately after you pass.
What are some of the essential rabbit hunting tips every beginner should know?
Rabbits are social creatures. They enjoy living in large groups called colonies and have no problem populating. Rabbits can reproduce up to five times a year.
There are many variables to consider when hunting rabbits, including the solar lunar calendar, time of the year, time of day, weather, and how to locate them. Here are tips to help you make each rabbit hunting a success:
1. Know rabbit habits
Rabbits are sneaky, timid herbivores, and, like with any prey animal, rabbits have their own set of defensive tactics. Because they are aware you’re hunting them, they try to hide from you. Normally, a rabbit will freeze and try to blend in with the surrounding once it senses a predator.
They also have a random running pattern. With that in mind, you might need to make some noise walk zig-zag to flush them. Keep in mind that rabbits are diurnal and will be more active during the early morning and evening.
2. Know how to locate a rabbit habitat
Rabbits are clever. To easily spot these critters, you need to think like them. If you were a rabbit, where would you hide? Where would you run to? Brambly, brushy areas close to rabbit’s favorite foods are excellent prospective hunting hotspots. Rabbits love to live in fences or at the edges where fields blend into forests.
3. Put on the right gear
When planning your rabbit hunting trip, make sure to prepare your hunting backpack with the right hunting gear. No matter how skilled you are, you need heavy protective clothing and boots to endure the chilly weather. You will also need a blaze-orange safety vest to stay visible.
Considering that rabbit territory often teems thickets, thorny brush, and tangles, make sure to bring heavy-duty gloves.
4. Bring proper weapon
For beginners, one of the best rabbit hunting weapons is the 20-gauge shotgun. It is convenient to carry around, strong to take down a rabbit in one shot, and offers a reasonable degree of accuracy.
5. Take your furry friend with you
Rabbit hunting with dogs is very popular because dogs are energetic, intelligent, and small enough to go through the same trails as rabbits. Even if you can’t afford beagles, there are other dog species that excel in rabbit hunting.
6. Check the weather
The habits and behaviors of rabbits change with the weather. Although they are very active foraging for food in cold weather, they will hop in search of shelter whenever they sense that a storm is coming.
7. Aim at the heart or long when shooting
Once you become a pro hunter, you can aim at a headshot.
Hunting rabbits is one of the oldest ways to sharpen your skills when beginning your hunting career. The greatest mistake you can make as a beginner is underestimating these critters. All in all, the chances of bagging a few rabbits are high because they live in large colonies.