Chasing rabbits has all the appeal as hunting other animals. While the tactics are quite different than other game, there are still some great reasons to spend your time learning how to hunt rabbits. Not only do rabbits have great tasting meat, but you could use this opportunity to hunt with your dogs.
Hunting rabbits is not complicated. Rabbit hunting is great even for young hunters to try with a pellet gun. There are many methods to try. Some people just take a quiet walk through the woods. Some set off with their favorite hunting dog. Rabbits live in different habitats, depending on the area in which you live.
What Firearm to Take when Rabbit Hunting
While you can hunt rabbits with nearly any firearm, it is best done with a shotgun. Shotguns come in a wide variety, and they allow you to fire small game shots. One of the most popular options is the .410 bore shotgun. It has a smaller shell and shot than other sizes.
Other people use a 20 gauge or 12 gauge. There is a variety of shots, and you just have to find the one you prefer. Some hunters like the larger shots, such as #4 or #5. You could go smaller, to a size #8, for hunting rabbits.
One of the benefits of using a larger shot is that it will make cleaning the rabbit easier. You are going to have to find the ball to remove, and bigger shots will save you time. While it might not save you tons of time, if you have five rabbits to clean, the time will add up.
At the same time, some hunters can go out in the woods and knock out some rabbits with their .22 rifles. There is no right and wrong weapon to use. It is just a matter of finding your preference.
Check Your State Laws
Before you head out into the woods, you need to read the laws in your particular state. Every state has different hunting seasons for rabbits. Most will have a period in the winter open for rabbit hunting. Some states have a small game open season in the summer as well.
However, many hunters refuse to hunt rabbits in the summer because they fear worms and parasites that are supposed to live in rabbits during the summer months.
You will also want to know your bag limits. Usually, the law states you cannot take more than six rabbits in one day. Some places have no restrictions on small game. To avoid breaking the law, always check on your state’s website.
Historically, hunters caught rabbits with baited traps. Times have changed, and now spring traps and some snares are illegal in most areas. You can legally catch rabbits with live traps on your property. Check your state’s laws; you may be allowed to trap which would change your method of hunting.
Picking the Right Time to Hunt Rabbits
To have the best results while hunting rabbits, you need to track at the right time of day. All animals are active at different times of the day. For example, deer are more active during the early morning and early evening.
You are most likely to find rabbits around dusk and dawn as well. It is at this time that rabbits, particularly the Cottontail breed, get more active. You also will want to watch the weather. Rabbits don’t prefer cool and wet days, so they are most likely to hide in their holes or bed down in the dense brush. When they are hiding, you are more likely to find them.
Do you plan to bring dogs to hunt rabbits? If so, the right weather makes a large difference. You want the ground to be slightly damp and higher humidity levels. Dry air will dry a dog’s nose, and the dry ground won’t hold the rabbit’s scent. You will want to avoid days with the excess wind as well. An excellent time to take your dogs out to hunt is after a few hard touches of frost when the plants lose their leaves.
Where to Find Rabbits
Your first step once you get out into the woods is to look for areas where rabbits would hide. During the winter months, they are likely to bed down for warmth. They prefer thick cover, with ample food close. An ideal location would be borders of thickets that open up to fields or crops. If you can find clovers, you may be able to find a great spot to hunt rabbits.
They also love briar patches. Rabbits are used to hiding in many places because they have a lot of predators. Thickets with honeysuckle, blackberries and blueberries are a favorite. You don’t want the cover to be any taller than your mid-section. There needs to be gaps or areas the rabbit can quickly flee out to escape.
Look for damage to areas to indicate traditional feeding areas. Plants will have some damage from being a frequent food source. Rabbits also like to chew on trees, so look downwards and keep watch for damage. Favorite feeding areas will have an abundance of droppings as well.
Hunters have to understand rabbits to find them in the woods. Rabbits hate to get wet. So, when you are on the hunt, look for dry ground. They prefer ground that is soft so that they can dig. It is in a rabbit’s nature to want to burrow and hide.
Find The Rabbit Holes
Everyone has heard the term rabbit hole, and it is something that deserves more than a short look. While you are out on the hunt, you need to watch for holes. If there are plants or debris covering the hole, there is a good chance the hole is no longer in use. However, if you stumble across a hole with a clear entrance and leaves pushed away, it is more than likely in use. You just scored an awesome location.
Before you get too excited, check for some more signs of occupancy. Rabbits dig holes at an angle, so check the direction of the hole. The soil should be loose and fresh, as well as the whole.
How to Hunt Rabbits Alone
So, you are out in the woods, alone, and have found some promising areas to check for rabbits. One of the smartest tactics is to stomp brush piles. The idea is to get the rabbits to panic and run away, which is why it is ideal if you can get the rabbits to run into an open field. Fields lessen the chance of missing your shot.
Keep your gun at the ready when you find a rabbit in the brush. Once you spot one, you need to go as far into the thicket as possible. Wear heavyweight pants and coat to help prevent the briar and branches from scratching your skin.
Rabbits run then stop because they want to see which direction you are heading. So, try to confuse them. Speed up, stop and change direction. Walk a few steps and pause for a few seconds. Watch for the rabbit to come out of the brush. They may try to head deeper into the thicket instead of escaping.
Once the rabbit has escaped, it is time to take your shot. Rabbits are fast, so it is wise to shoot just a bit ahead of the rabbit. They will run into your shot. Otherwise, you are likely to miss if you shoot directly at the rabbit. Hunting rabbit takes a lot of practice.
Hunting with Dogs
One of the most traditional ways to hunt rabbits is with dogs. Having your favorite canine nearby will make the process much easier. They can sniff out rabbits with ease in comparison to the process it takes us. There are issues to hunting with dogs, but you have increased chances of scoring at least one kill.
The number one reason hunters bring their dogs out is because of their sensitive nose. Humans can search brush all day and miss a camouflaged rabbit. On the other hand, a dog that is searching the same brush has a higher chance of finding the animal. Check out our review of the top hunting dog breeds to help you on your next adventure.
You have to consider the time it takes to train a dog to hunt rabbits. Some dogs need little training; it comes naturally to them. You may not get a dog that hunts naturally and needs extensive training. Either way, your dog will have to learn to follow a trail. Some dogs may need professional training, and that isn’t easy on the wallet. Add in the cost of dog care. Having dogs just to hunt rabbits isn’t a cost effective method.
If you have an extra person to hunt with you, long netting is an effective way to catch some rabbits. As the name suggests, you just need a long net, set up between a food source and their hole. Before setting up the net, you are going to need to do some research to find an active food source.
Long netting is frequently used at night. One person needs to chase the rabbits from their meal back towards their hole. Then, they will find the net. At this point, the other person can move in to shoot the rabbits that run into the net. It makes killing rabbits humanely because it can be done quickly.
Field Dressing Your Rabbit
Once you have scored your rabbits for the day, you need to field dress them within a few hours. The amount of time will depend on the environment and how many rabbits you have killed. If the temperature outside is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you can wait a few hours to field dress.
If the temperatures are higher, you need to do so right away. Luckily, field dressing a rabbit is a relatively easy process, especially if you are used to large game such as deer.
- Every hunter should carry a hunting knife to field dress. Make small cuts around the ankle bones to remove the feet. Then, make a slit in the back of the rabbit. This process is most easily done when the rabbit is hanging up in the air, such as around a large tree branch.
- Grab the fur with both hands and firmly pull down in the opposite direction. You can imagine pulling off a piece of clothing. The fur will come off quickly.
- Once the hair reaches the head, use your knife or your hands to remove the head. Twisting the neck firmly can usually accomplish the job quickly.
- Make a cut between the groin and ribcage of the rabbit. You don’t want to puncture any organs, so avoid cutting too deeply.
- At this point, you can use your fingers to pull out the entrails. They will come out quickly.
- After the cavity is empty, wash it thoroughly. It should be stored in temperatures below 50 degrees as quickly as possible.
For tips on how to choose the best hunting knife for your needs, see our must-read article on this important topic.
Going Out Hunting for The First Time
You know the laws and have selected the perfect day and time to head out into the woods. You know what area and signs to look for while searching for rabbits.
The only thing left for you to do is decide which method to try. These three options are not the only ways to hunt rabbits. Some people can snare or trap, but that depends entirely on your state laws.
Some people like to use falcons to hunt rabbits. However, professional falconry is not cheap, and it isn’t easy to find a trainer.
You can try just one method or; you can try a few of them to see which one you prefer the most. You can even try to hunt rabbits in a group of friends. Long netting is a popular method in the winter time. However, no matter the method you use, it is important to remember the tips about field dressing. That is a major step for any hunter. To give your tips on how to choose the best dog breeds for hunting rabbits, check out our informative article on this topic.
There you have it! Now you know how to hunt rabbits! Is there a particular way you prefer to hunt rabbits? Let us know in the comments!