12 Rabbit Hunting Tips

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Farmers often will allow rabbit hunting on their property if you take time to ask permission and follow each trip with a thank-you note and offer to share the game you kill.

Although most rabbit hunters bag a few cottontails on each trip afield, certain techniques can bolster your success. These 12 tips should help you better enjoy the experience of rabbit hunting this season.

Leapfrogging

As farming operations and urban development encroach on prime rabbit hunting areas, large contiguous blocks of hunting territory are harder to find. This has caused many rabbit hunters to abandon the traditional method of hunting all day in one large swath of brushy territory. Instead, many now opt for “leapfrogging,” where hunters cover one brush patch or overgrown fencerow in an hour or so, then drive on to another rabbit hideout. By leapfrogging throughout the day, hunting first one spot then another, chances are good you’ll locate more rabbits.

Protective clothing like that worn by this young hunter can make it easier to hunt in the heavy cover where cottontails often hide.

Farm Help

Savvy rabbit hunters know that farmers are an invaluable aid for finding cottontail concentrations. Because they work their land daily and see rabbits regularly, farmers know where huntable populations are likely to be. Most are eager to keep cottontails thinned out so they don’t cause crop damage.

Sunrise and Sunset Scouting

Driving rural roads near dawn and dusk is another good way to find potential rabbit hunting sites. Cottontails are most active early and late in the day, especially along the fringes of fields and roadside cover, where briars and thickets provide sanctuary near favorite feeding areas.

Drive slowly, and note any spot where you see several cottontails. Then inquire at nearby homes for the name of the landowner so you can request permission to rabbit hunt.

Dress for Success

Most good cottontail thickets have one thing in common—thorns. Whether you’re rabbit hunting behind dogs, kicking up rabbits yourself or retrieving downed game, some type of stickers will be clawing at your ears, fingers, thighs and other tender parts. Wearing protective hunting clothing can do wonders to make your trips afield more enjoyable and less painful.

Selecting the right shotgun and shotshells can improve your success on rabbits.

Blue jeans are preferred by many rabbit fans, but offer little protection. A good pair of briar-busting breeches with thorn-proof material covering the front should be considered essential equipment no matter where and how you hunt. It also helps to wear a briar-resistant hunting jacket, hunting gloves and some type of hunting cap with flaps that can be pulled down over your ears.

Whistle While You Work

One rabbit hunting trick is to sound off with a loud, shrill whistle whenever you are getting read to jump a rabbit. Some rabbits would totally ignore the sound, but probably half of them would freeze in their tracks the moment they heard the whistle.

Wintry days often serve up the best rabbit hunting, whether you’re walking them up yourself or hunting with a pack of beagles.

Some rabbit hunters have no idea why cottontails respond as they do. But a whistle often gives rabbit hunters a few extra seconds to make a shot before a rabbit completely disappears in dense cover.

Barrels and Bullets

When stomping for cottontails in thick cover, use a shotgun with an improved cylinder choke and No. 6 or 7-1/2 shotshells. Because cottontails jumped in thick cover usually are close and moving fast, a wide, yet sufficiently heavy, shot pattern is needed to put a rabbit down without excessive damage to the meat. When hunting rabbits with beagles, you may want to switch to a modified or full choke. A pack of dogs will push rabbits across fields and woodlots, and the shots you’ll make are usually farther than those presented when you flush rabbits yourself. Use the tighter patterning choke and increase your shot size to No. 4s or 6s.

 

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