I'll be the first to admit, that when it comes to hunting rabbits, I'm a
meat hunter. If it were not for the fact that cottontail rabbit is some of the
tastiest wild game ever to cross these lips, I know that I would not bother
Oh sure it's fun, but not so much fun that I would drag my rear off the
couch and head for the woods on a cold, winter day.
When the Clancy Girls were all home and it took several rabbits just to feed
the hungry horde, I did most of my rabbit hunting with my old 20-gauge pump
gun. When you are interested in numbers of rabbits, a shotgun is more efficient
on rabbits than a .22 rifle. With a shotgun loaded with No. 6 shot, a running
rabbit is not that difficult to hit. But only a handful of hunters are
proficient enough with a .22 to consistently take rabbits on the run.
Spot Rabbits Before They See You
Now that it's just Nancy, Katie and I at home, I usually take the .22 when I go
out to hunt rabbits. Instead of barging through bramble thickets and kicking
brush piles hoping to dislodge a rabbit like I do when hunting with a shotgun,
I get real sneaky when carrying my rifle. The idea is to spot the rabbit before
it sees you. It sounds easy. After all, rabbits are brown and snow is white,
which would leave one to suspect that a rabbit in the woods would stand out
like a big zit on Miss America's nose. But most of the time, it's not all that
easy to see rabbits. They blend in well with brush and bramble and rarely will
a rabbit be sitting in the open on a stark white snowdrift. Those that did
became dinner for some hawk. If you train yourself to look for it, it is the
eyes, which are easiest to see. The eye is a dark, shiny object in a world
devoid of dark, shiny objects.
My favorite time to hunt rabbits is right after a fresh snowfall on a calm,
cold, sun-drenched morning. Every cottontail in the woods will be sitting
around sunning itself on a morning like that. I slip along slowly, looking for
rabbits and rabbit eyes.
If you move slowly, most rabbits will not run, even when they do see you.
Rabbits have been preyed upon by just about every predator ever invented for
millions of years. They have learned that to run is to die, but that if they
sit still and let the danger pass them by they might live to help produce more
rabbits in the spring, which by the way, seems to be the sole goal of rabbits.
Find A Rifle Rest
When I spot a rabbit, the first thing I do is look for a tree on which I can
rest the rifle. I shoot much better with a rest than I do off-hand and so does
everyone else. I do not stop walking until I reach the tree. Then I bring the
rifle up, put the crosshairs on the rabbit's head and squeeze the trigger. A
cottontails head is a good sized target and a shot to the head kills the rabbit
instantly and wastes no meat.
When you are looking for a place to hunt cottontails, remember, that a
cottontail must have cover in which it can avoid being picked off by avian
predators such as hawks and owls. That means some kind of overhead cover.
Conifers are great, so are blowdowns and tops left over from logging
operations. Some bramble and briar thickets also provide excellent overhead
Cottontail rabbits are easy to clean if you do the job while they are still
warm. Just use a knife or game shears to cut off the feet and then make a slit
in the hide in the middle of the back. Insert the fingers of both hands into
the slit and pull in opposite directions. Remove the head and entrails and the
job is done. Once you get the hang of it, you can clean a rabbit in about a
And when it comes to eating, any recipe, which works for chicken works for
rabbit, but no, rabbit does not taste like chicken!
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