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After the quiet days of deer season have passed, many hunters are chomping at the bits to get out rabbit hunting. They are just itching make some noise and toss lead at cottontails. If you have ever wondered why these guys get so excited, just keep reading and you will soon know.
Maybe you are a new hunter looking for a way to get out or someone that wants to get their kids out hunting. I have laid out twelve reasons and tips below that will convince you to start rabbit hunting this year.
Six Reasons You Should Go Rabbit Hunting?
- Many new hunters find it easier to start hunting small game. This is because small game is usually easier to find and in many states the hunting seasons are much longer. Rabbits are no exception to this, and they offer an exciting day of hunting.
- If you are looking at taking you kids hunting, a rabbit hunting trip is probably one of the most natural places to start. Again, you will probably see more game. In addition, the seasons are longer and you kids are able to harvest rabbits with smaller caliber or gauge firearms.
- In most states, rabbit seasons are open for the majority of the winter. Going rabbit hunting can extend your hunting options at a time of the year when most other seasons are closed.
- Many times you will find yourself and your hunting buddies are the only hunters out on those winter mornings. You will find that solitude a pleasant change from the overcrowded deer and elk woods.
- Rabbit hunting is a new and exciting challenge for most hunters. When a rabbit finally busts from the brush, you will find that the adrenaline rush you experience is just as intense as spotting a bruiser elk across the mountain valley.
- Finally, rabbits are usually plentiful, and they have higher bag limits. When you find some rabbits, you will be able to harvest a few and stock up the freezer.
Six Tips For Rabbit Hunting
Make Sure You Have The Right Gear
Of course, it is completely possible to go rabbit hunting in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt while wearing tennis shoes. I am pretty sure I have done it quite a few times myself. However, if you are going to spend a lot of cold winter days chasing rabbits, you’ll want to be comfortable.
As with any type of hunting, cotton is probably a bad choice. Cotton holds moisture and will not dry out quickly. So, whether you get wet from rain, snow, or working up a sweat while hiking, you will not dry out fast. This means you WILL be cold. Try to stick with polyester or wool when you are choosing hunting clothes. These materials wick moisture much better and dry out faster. In addition, it is possible to get these materials on a budget.
Your base layer is the layer closest to your skin. Because of this, it is one of the most important layers when you are choosing polyester or wool clothing. When you are hiking around all day, you are going to work up a sweat no matter how cold it gets. Let your base layer work for you and wick all that moisture away from you body to keep you warm.
Outer Layer (Pants and Shirt)
This layer may not be quite as critical as your base layer for wicking moisture away. However, if you get wet from rain, snow, or excessive sweating while rabbit hunting, you will want clothing that will dry quick. In fact, wool does not lose its insulating qualities, like cotton, when it is wet and will still keep you warm.
Outter Layer (Coat)
There are many options available for outer layers. Your choices should be made depending on what the weather is like when you are hunting. If it is warm, you many find that you do not even need a jacket. On these days, a hoodie may be enough. However, if you are one of those brave souls that wants to try to hunt in sub-zero weather, you may be wearing insulated pants and a parka.
Hats, Gloves, and Vest
Again, there are numerous options here that you can choose from. Also once again, I would recommend staying away from cotton items and sticking with polyester or wool items. In addition, these items are usually the items that most hunters cover the hunter orange requirements with. Get yourself an orange hat and beanie, some orange gloves, and a nice hunter orange vest to wear while rabbit hunting and stay safe out there.
Boots and Socks
- As I said before, you can head out rabbit hunting in your old pair of Air Jordan’s if you want. However, by the end of a show filled day you may be regretting that choice.
- Most likely you will be doing a lot of hiking while rabbit hunting so having insulated boot is not a requirement. In fact, you do not want to overheat your feet or they will just end up getting cold faster.
- Having waterproof or at the very least water-resistant boots is a must. You will likely be trekking through snow or damp grass and you may even have to cross some streams or swampy areas in pursuit rabbits.
- You should find a good pair of wool or synthetic socks. Again, you want to have the wicking abilities of these materials to move the sweat away from your feet. Personally, I like wool incase my boots leak, so my feet still stay warm.
- It is probably not a bad idea to pick up a decent pair of gaiters to keep snow from the tops of your boots and you pants legs on those snowy days.
Anytime a group of hunters get together to discuss which caliber or gauge is best you better buckle up. Everyone has their own opinion and of course everyone else is and idiot. Therefore, I say find a gun that you can shoot comfortably and hit your target. Luckily, while hunting rabbits your choices are a little more limited that for big game.
- The first thing you need to do is check your state or province’s rabbit hunting regulations. The regulations are going to vary from one state or even hunting territory/season to another. However, most allow the use of small to medium gauge shotguns. In addition, some regulations also allow the use of .22 caliber rimfire rifles, as well as muzzleloaders .40 caliber and smaller. In some areas it is even legal to use air guns for rabbit hunting.
- Most rabbit hunters that are relying on dogs flushing rabbits or flushing the rabbits themselves are using shotguns.
- For younger children you may want to look into a .410, 28, or 20 gauge shotgun. If you would like more info on choosing a firearm for your child take a look at our article on that topic.
- New rabbit hunters may want to look into getting a 20 gauge shotgun just to keep from having to deal with the heavier recoil of the 12 gauge. However, if they are comfortable shooting a 12 gauge, then go for it.
- Many if not most experienced rabbit hunters are using either pump or semi-auto 20 and 12 gauge shotguns.
- If you are a traditionalist, you could always get a muzzle loading shotgun to take a shot at the rabbits.
- If you do not have dogs and have a little more patients, you can always creep along trying to spot the rabbits before they flush and try to shoot them with one of the different .22 caliber rifles.
- Finally, if you are really looking for a challenge and a lot of fun, you can always use your bow. First you will need to get some small game point for your arrows and brush up on hitting small targets, but you will have a lot of fun and be a better deer hunter come next fall.
Know Rabbit Behavior and Habits
Before you head out rabbit hunting you should take a few minutes to know rabbit behavior. Rabbits are very nearly the definition of a prey animal and are by their very nature wary and timid as they go about their day. This means they have their own set of tactics to avoid detection and to escape when they are found.
Rabbits Will Hide First
Every rabbit’s first instinct is to hide from you. As soon as a rabbit senses a predator it is going to freeze and try to blend with its environment. If you have a good eye and can spot these rabbits, this behavior is what makes using a .22 or a bow a good option for hunting rabbits.
- Depending on the terrain and cover at this point, you should try to flush the rabbit out if you cannot get a shot.
- If you are hunting with dogs, this part is pretty simple because it is their job to do this for you.
- You can flush them yourself by making noise in one part of the brush to flush the animal out in front of you.
Rabbits Will Hold Up And Let You Walk By
When you are walking through fields you should walk in a zig-zag pattern.
- A lot of rabbits will hold up if they think you do not see them, and you may walk right past them.
- The zig zag pattern allows you to cover a larger area and possibly jump a rabbit that otherwise would have let you walk right past it on the trail.
Trick Rabbits To Think You See Them
As mentioned before, many rabbits will hold up in brush if they think you do not see them.
- When you are walking stop and look around occasionally.
- Many times, this fools the rabbit into thinking you have seen it and it will flush.
Rabbits Do Not Run In A Straight Line
When a rabbit is finally kicked up it normally will not run off in a straight line. Instead it will try to zig zag and will jump a lot in an effort to make you lose it.
Rabbits Are More Active Early And Late
When there were not so many people around rabbits used to be more diurnal, stay out during the day more. However, as we have expanded across the country. They now tend to be more active during the early mornings and evenings to increase their chances of survival.
Find Where The Rabbits Live When You Go Rabbit Hunting
Rabbits love to have cover to escape to when they are threatened if they are not already there. Therefore, you need to focus your time rabbit hunting in areas where the rabbits will be during those times and not necessarily where you saw them while driving your car at night.
- Some of the favorite food sources for rabbits are clover, alfalfa, and blackberry or raspberry bushes. Always check out fence lines in these areas.
- Brushy areas that are close to more luscious feeding areas are great places to start looking.
- A swampy area that borders an overgrown field is another great place to begin.
- Abandoned barns and farm buildings offer a lot of cover for rabbits and should always be checked out.
- As you are walking along never forget to take a look at hollow logs, fence rows, deadfall, or brush piles.
- Since they’re wary and wily, it’s often easier to locate them by finding their favorite foods; clover, alfalfa, and blackberry bushes are just a few cottontail favorites. They love to sit by fences and at the edges of where fields blend into forests.
Pay Attention to What You Are Doing While Rabbit Hunting
A rabbit hunting trip is not just a walk in the park. If you are not paying attention, it is more than likely that you are not going to see any rabbits. Of course, this will lead to a situation where you are not enjoying your outing.
- Always keep an eye open for sign such as rabbit droppings while hunting. If you are in and area with no fresh sign, it likely means you are in an area that does not have any rabbits.
- Whenever it is possible, walk with the wind in your face. This will help to keep you sent and the noise you make away from the rabbits.
- Keep you eyes open and always be on the lookout. As soon as you let your guard down, a rabbit is going to flush, and you will not be able to get a shot off.
Know The Weather Before Going Rabbit Hunting
Just like you and me, a rabbit is going to behave different under different weather conditions.
- On extremely cold days you are going to have to flush rabbit from their hiding places.
- When it is warm and sunny, especially if it has been really cold, you are more likely to find rabbits out sunning during the day.
- You will be able to find rabbits more often during the middle of the day when it is warm if you look on south and southwest facing slopes.
Rabbit Anatomy And Shot Placement When Rabbit Hunting
Rabbits are small animals and before you head out on your rabbit hunt, you should make sure you know where to aim. Unlike with most big game shots, the most ethical shot on a rabbit is a head shot.
- When using a shotgun, you should just point at the head. The shot pattern will spread out and do the job for you. If the rabbit is running, make sure you lead them by pointing the gun slightly ahead of them and keep the gun moving as you pull the trigger.
- If you are using a .22 caliber rifle or high-power pellet gun on motionless rabbits, you should aim right below the ear and behind the eye. This will give you the best chance of hitting the brain which is about the size of a quarter. A brain shot will be sure to put the rabbit down quickly.
If you are looking for some hunting to do between the end of deer season and spring turkey or bear season, then you should take a look at rabbit hunting. With the seasons lasting into late winter and the number of rabbits around, you could be looking at many more days of hunting fun.
In addition, rabbit hunting provides a great opportunity for new hunters and kids. Larger bag limits and the possibility of seeing a lot of animals, make it a great opportunity for both. Not having dogs is not a reason to stop you either. While it may be a little easier with dogs, it is completely possible to get out and hunt rabbits by yourself.
Finally, since rabbit hunting is done at ground level, hunters must be certain that other hunters are not standing in their line of fire. Hunting with buddies can develop a sense of camaraderie, but more hunters mean more chances for accidents. As with any type of hunting, be sure of what or who is beyond your target before firing your gun.
If you need more information on field dressing rabbits click this link.
Featured Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash
CharlesCharles is a man who loves the outdoors. He moved to Wyoming specifically to spend more time in the mountains and wilderness. A hunter and fisherman, Charles knows how to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. He is an outdoorsman through and through, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Charles is the President of Absaroka Enterprises, an company focuse on outdoor entertainment and endeavours. He's also an Editor for Alpha and Omega Outdoors, an online hunting, fishing, camping, trapping, and all around outdoors blog.
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