Rabbit Hunting 101

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rabbit hunting equipment
Rabbit hunting requires little in the way of equipment: a shotgun or other firearm, some shotshells, bright orange clothing for safety and maybe a game bag to carry the kill.

Bunnies and Beagles

Some things go together so perfectly that when one of the elements is missing, the whole thing seems out of kilter. One such combination is rabbits and beagles. It’s possible to hunt rabbits without dogs, but it’s tough to hunt them as well.

Two things make the beagle/bunny coterie so appealing. First is the rabbit’s instinctive habit of circling. Rabbits have a small area they call home, and they don’t like to leave it. So when flushed from cover, ol’ longlegs is likely to sprint away, leaving the dogs far behind, then slow down until it feels threatened again, when it once more easily outdistances the dogs. But somewhere out yonder, usually not more than a couple hundred yards, Br’er Rabbit begins turning back to the area where he initially hopped out.

Rabbit hunters follow the chase by listening to the baying of the dogs, and that’s the second big thrill of this sport. The hullabaloo of a beagle pack hounding a rabbit on a frosty winter morning is the kind of music angels will play for rabbit hunters who make it to the Happy Hunting Grounds.

Before long, the beagle music starts back the rabbit hunter’s way, and he climbs up on some high ground to watch and wait. With luck, he’ll soon catch a glimpse of the quarry running, maybe hopping, depending on how far back the dogs are. When the time is right, the gun comes up and another tasty rabbit is added to the bag. Usually. Sometimes the music is so enthralling the rabbit hunter doesn’t want it to end, and he stands there, cradling his gun, just taking in the magical sights and sounds.

Walking Up Rabbits

Some things go together so perfectly that when one of the elements is missing, the whole thing seems out of kilter. One such combination is rabbits and beagles. It’s possible to hunt rabbits without dogs, but it’s tough to hunt them as well.

Two things make the beagle/bunny coterie so appealing. First is the rabbit’s instinctive habit of circling. Rabbits have a small area they call home, and they don’t like to leave it. So when flushed from cover, ol’ longlegs is likely to sprint away, leaving the dogs far behind, then slow down until it feels threatened again, when it once more easily outdistances the dogs. But somewhere out yonder, usually not more than a couple hundred yards, Br’er Rabbit begins turning back to the area where he initially hopped out.

The rabbit hunters follow the chase by listening to the baying of the dogs, and that’s the second big thrill of this sport. The hullabaloo of a beagle pack hounding a rabbit on a frosty winter morning is the kind of music angels will play for hunters who make it to the Happy Hunting Grounds.

Before long, the beagle music starts back the rabbit hunters way, and he climbs up on some high ground to watch and wait. With luck, he’ll soon catch a glimpse of the quarry running, maybe hopping, depending on how far back the dogs are. When the time is right, the gun comes up and another tasty rabbit is added to the bag. Usually. Sometimes the music is so enthralling the rabbit hunter doesn’t want it to end, and he stands there, cradling his gun, just taking in the magical sights and sounds.

Shooting Tips

Learn to snap shoot. Rabbits in heavy cover seldom offer more than an instant in which to make your shot. There’s no time to swing through your target. You have to locate the dashing rabbit, shoulder your gun and shoot all in one motion.

On the rare occasions when a rabbit bolts across open ground you’ll do well to ponder your shot, but not very long. On pass shots, swing through the body and beyond the head, shooting just as the bead clears the rabbit’s nose. When your target is running straight away from you, don’t draw your bead on that cottony-white tail. Instead, swing through the rabbit, centering your shot just beyond the head. The result is a fast kill and undamaged meat.

It pays to be ready for a cottontail’s fleet rush from cover. Rabbits are adept at making their move when you and your partners are chewing the fat and let your guard down. Don’t prop your gun over a shoulder or cradle it in your arm. Keep your firearm in the ready position, with your trigger hand on the grip and your index finger on the trigger guard. You’ll miss too many shots if you parade around like a soldier with your gun pointed at the sky.

The real magic of rabbit hunting is its simplicity. It takes some work for rabbits, but it’s not as hard as for some other game animals. There’s no need to build blinds or stands. It’s not imperative to be out at daybreak, and fancy, high-dollar hunting equipment isn’t needed. Just find the rabbits, and the fun comes naturally.

Field Care and Cooking

cooking rabbit
Rabbit can be prepared in a variety of delicous recipes like this stew.

Few wild game meats are as delectable and versatile as rabbit. The flesh is delicate, white and lean, with just a hint of gaminess. It can be cooked in every conceivable way, from simply fried, baked or roasted to stews, casseroles and pies. The taste is comparable to that of chicken, and recipes for the two are interchangeable.

Wear disposable rubber gloves when dressing rabbits to avoid the possibility of contracting tularemia or other diseases cottontails occasionally carry. Use a sharp knife to skin and gut the rabbit, and remove the feet and head. To prepare the rabbit for cooking, cut the forelegs from the body at the shoulder, and then cut and remove the hind legs at the hip. Separate the rib section from the loin and you’re done.

For delicious fried rabbit, cut a rabbit into serving pieces and parboil in a pot with enough water to cover plus one hot pepper and four sliced cloves of garlic. When the rabbit is tender, remove from the heat and drain off the water. Combine 1 cup milk and 2 slightly beaten eggs in a shallow bowl. Dip the rabbit pieces in the egg mixture, dredge in plain flour seasoned with some salt and pepper, and fry the pieces until done to taste in 1/2 cup shortening heated in a skillet. Serves 2.

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