Rabbit hunting is an excellent foundation for adopting the hunting lifestyle. While rabbit hunting is well worth the time and effort by being an exciting sport full of activity, there are a few things that are key to having a successful and enjoyable hunt.
Rabbit Hunting Getup and Gear
Warm clothing, a hunting vest for storing rabbits, and generally, a blaze orange piece of clothing for safety are the most important items. Since rabbit hunting often involves hunting thickets and other well-overgrown areas, chaps or briar pants are also essential to protect yourself from being torn up.
Rabbits are small targets that are generally moving close by when you shoot at them, so a shotgun with shells ranging in shot size between #4’s and #6’s will work well.
If you’re hunting with dogs and other people, and you’re not opposed to spending a little more money, a tracking and training collar system and walkie-talkies are also great tools for communicating and keeping up with the location of the pups when rabbit hunting.
Read More: WHY YOU SHOULD RABBIT HUNT
Rabbit Hunting Hours and Locations
It's true that morning and evening are often the best times to hunt rabbits because they’re nocturnal and are more active during these times as they move to and from their midnight endeavors, but you can be successful hunting rabbits at any time of the day. A rabbit hunt can be an all-day endeavor—that’s part of what makes it fun.
Rabbits are usually found in thickets, field edges, understory, wood piles, hedgerows, homesites, or other property abandonments that offer cover. But it’s always ideal to check for sign (such as droppings or cuttings on young saplings) before hunting any location. Rabbits favor bark, grasses, soybeans, gardens, and clover as part of their diet, so keep that in mind when scouting locations.
Running Rabbits with Dogs & Rabbit Patterns
If you’re hunting with dogs, you can’t leave all the work of finding a rabbit up to them. You also have a job to beat bushes and rattle wood piles. While constantly moving is a part of rabbit hunting, it’s important not to move too quickly. You want to ensure both you and the dogs have a chance to thoroughly hunt the area. If you’re hunting too quickly, it’s possible to move past rabbits without realizing it because rabbits stay put except for when they feel immensely threatened. Most of the time, unless you’re practically stepping on the rabbit, it will hang tight. Taking your time will allow the dogs to put their sniffers to work. The same tactic applies if you’re hunting without dogs—hunt slowly.
When a rabbit is being run by dogs, they’ll often make a giant loop around an area back to the area in which they were jumped. They usually don’t go farther than a few hundred yards before circling back, and they’ll slow down once they get far ahead of the dogs. This gives the hunter an advantage when preparing to shoot, which we’ll cover in the next section.
This rabbit behavior is not true, however, when a rabbit is not being chased by dogs. If you’re hunting without dogs, it’s important to be ready to take a safe shot as soon as you jump the rabbit.
Setting Up and Shooting
Being mindful of the location of the dogs and others you’re hunting with is crucial to rabbit hunting. You never want to shoot in a direction where you could harm the dogs or your hunting partners. If the dogs are running a rabbit, set up in the area where the rabbit was jumped and find shooting lanes where you can safely take a shot. If you’re jump-shooting rabbits with others, constantly be evaluating where you can and cannot shoot.
When preparing to take a shot at a rabbit, always be ready to shoulder your gun quickly. Rabbits will be on the move when they show up, and especially in spots with dense cover, you’ll have little time to ponder your shot.
If you’re a rabbit hunting rookie, give these tactics a try. These basics can help increase your chances of bagging some bunnies while you’re having a good time afield.