As a kid growing up in Southeastern Kansas, it was a rare occurrence to see a deer or even run across any deer tracks, and it was the same way in central Illinois where I spent my summers along the Mississippi River. In the 1980’s, modern wildlife management was beginning to hit its stride in the Midwest and the Whitetail deer were becoming hunting royalty while rabbits and birds, which had kept the nation’s outdoorsmen fed for generations, were starting to fade in popularity. Recently, rabbit hunting is making a comeback and if you want to try hunting these tasty fur balls, here are a few tips to get you started.
Micro-spots. The days of hunting massive farms for rabbits have come and gone. Any farm with good hunting ground will be leased or locked up for deer hunters, so find smaller and unsuspecting plots of ground with heavy briar patches and heavy brush that will contain rabbits. If you can put together several of these small hunting hot-spots, you will be able to break up the routine and get to experience more scenery.
Scout Smart. Don’t underestimate scouting for rabbits. Finding good rabbit sign can be done in the comfort of your own truck during the early morning and late evening hours when rabbits are most visible. You can drive around glassing for rabbits in open fields, or you can look for tracks in the snow at road crossings and creeks. Don’t forget to look for predator tracks as well, since they inhabit areas with good rabbit populations. Bobcats and Coyotes love rabbits.
Dress smart and safe. The key to successful rabbit hunting is to be comfortable and to be safe. Forget wearing jeans and wear good brush-busting pants or chaps. Nothing is worse than trying to hunt while briars and thorns are working you over. Most states have hunting orange laws, but if your state does not require it, you should wear it anyway. You never know where or when you will run into a person, so be prepared and be safe by wearing hunter orange.
Hunt nasty weather. For some reason, rabbits like bad weather. They like to feed, socialize and travel during heavy snowfalls and windstorms. Take advantage of this and hunt those bad-weather bunnies on their own terms. There is also one good thing about bad weather, it cuts down on the number of people out hunting and having no competition is great if you want to hunt any public ground hunting spots.
Spot and stalk. Try different methods and mix up your rabbit hunting. I like to go with people who run Beagles whenever possible. There is nothing more exciting than watching and listening to hounds run rabbits. I also like to spot and stalk bunnies to hone my primal hunting skills. If you want to try some stalking, forget looking for their bodies and look for their eyes. Those big round eyes stand out like crazy after you spot your first one, so look for the eyes.
Rabbits not only taste great, but their little hides are also worth saving and having tanned. If you want to try something old but new, hop on the bunny train and start a new and affordable chapter in your hunting career.