Although they are not one of the most glamorous of hunting targets, cottontail rabbits are one of the most frequently hunted mammals in North America, meaning they are among the most popular game species hunters pursue each fall.
The attraction of rabbit hunting lies in both the ease and challenge offered by these quick and quiet rodents. Rabbits are abundant, so it can be easy to find them, yet shooting them can be difficult, because they are small, fast and elusive. If you plan on pursuing cottontail rabbits this fall, here are four important tips that can improve your level of success.
Because rabbits are so abundant, especially in farm regions, it may not seem necessary to scout for them before hunting. While it is true that rabbits can be found just about anywhere, within a given area, there are commonly pockets with high populations of rabbits. These are the areas you want to concentrate on.
The best way to scout for rabbits is to drive dirt roads or walk trails around sunrise or sunset. When you see a rabbit, look for others in the same area. Also look for other signs, such as rabbit droppings or chew marks at the base of small trees or shrubs. If you see multiple rabbits or signs of high rabbit activity, the chances are good you have found one of these pockets. Mark it on your map. Once you have found a handful of these pockets, you will have some productive areas to focus on for your hunt.
During the hunt, concentrate your efforts on heavy cover. Rabbits are food for countless predators and one of their few defenses is their ability to stay out of sight. Keeping this in mind, remember that rabbits like dense brush, high grass, deadfalls and other thick cover to hide in.
Whether you are using a dog or hunting solo, it is important to work the thick cover and try to drive the rabbits from their hiding places, so you can get a shot at them.
A productive strategy when rabbit hunting is to make your steps loud enough for the rabbits to hear you. This sound often makes them flush, but other times it may freeze them in their hiding spot. This is why it is important to periodically pause for a minute or two at regular intervals. Often, this pause makes the hiding rabbit think they can make a break for it, to escape danger. This gives you a shot at a rabbit you might have otherwise passed by, without seeing the animal.
If you flush a rabbit and it takes off running through thick cover, and you are unable to get a shot off, do not follow the animal. Instead, just wait. Stand very still or conceal yourself behind cover. If you let the rabbit think danger has passed, in a short time, it will come back to the place you flushed it from. Make sure to wait in an area with the clearest possible shot at the rabbit’s cover.
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