Cottontails provide more sport for hunters in the U.S. than all big game animals combined according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife information leaflet, "Rabbits of Oregon." The number of cottontails taken annually runs into the millions. Rabbits furnish more meat on American tables than any other game animal.
Most rabbit hunting in Oregon takes place in winter after most of the other hunting seasons' close. Hunters are allowed to shoot all rabbits and hares in Oregon except the pigmy rabbit. There is a year-round season and a hunting license is required.
Hunt Crooked River Grassland
The Crooked River National Grassland hosts quite a number of cottontails and jackrabbits, but according to Brian Ferry, wildlife biologist with ODFW in Prineville, rabbits are currently at the low end of their 10-year cycle.
Chris Carey out of the Bend ODFW office reports a gradual decline of jackrabbits throughout the entire West. No one is sure why this is, but some suggest climate changes or habitat conversion. In Central Oregon, Carey believes there are more cottontails than jackrabbits.
The term "rabbit" refers to the cottontail family while snowshoes and jackrabbits are actually considered "hares." Rabbits are born blind and hairless and hares are born with fur and eyes that are open. Rabbits also have shorter ears and hind legs than hares.
Three members of the hare family are found in Oregon including the snowshoe hare, black-tailed jackrabbit and white-tailed jackrabbit. Four species of cottontails call Oregon home. The Rocky Mountain or Oregon cottontail, the brush rabbit and the pigmy rabbit are native while the eastern cottontail was introduced.
Other Places To Hunt
Besides the Grassland, rabbit hunting east of the Cascades is good in the south-central part of the state. Mary Jo Hedrick, with ODFW in Summer Lake, reports that jackrabbits and cottontails are both showing an increase in numbers since the heavy die-off in the winter of 1992-1993.
For jacks, Hedrick suggests hunters try areas of BLM land with tall sage adjacent to agricultural land. Areas of low rimrock with sagebrush above or below also is a good area to hunt. Christmas Valley would be a good area to cover as well as the Fort Rock Valley and Summer Lake area. In the winter, hunters have more luck on sunny south-facing slopes. A lot of the land is private so be sure to ask permission before hunting.
According to Tom Collom out of the Klamath Falls ODFW office, cottontails are more abundant than jackrabbits in his district. Collom suggests finding cottontails in brushy habitat, especially around the Keno area. They also can be found scattered throughout Klamath County in sage and timber.
For jackrabbits, try BLM land in southeast Klamath County where tall sage and rabbit brush is present. Jacks also can be found on private land in the southeastern part of the county. Again, always ask permission to hunt.
People Prefer Cottontails
Collom said that both cottontails and jackrabbits eat the same food in the spring, but later in the year, jacks will feed more on sage. He's known people to eat jackrabbits, but most prefer cottontails. Colder temperatures will thin out diseased animals, leaving the healthier ones. Collom said rabbits can carry the disease called Tularemia, but it's not a problem after the first frost.
Both cottontails and jackrabbits also can be found in Christmas tree plantations, especially in the northwestern part of the state.
If using .22s, Carey suggests that hunters stick with solid-point ammunition. Golden eagles, owls, hawks, coyotes, weasels, bobcats and other predators will feed on any carcasses left and ingest the lead fragments from hollow-point shells.
In general, numbers of cottontails and jackrabbits are higher the farther east in the state you go. A good hunting dog will help locate rabbits. Call ODFW district offices for more good spots to hunt rabbits in your area.
Northwest -- 503-657-2000
Southwest -- 541-440-3353
High Desert -- 541-388-6363
Northeast -- 541-963-2138