If you ask - what was their first game, then most of them will give you the same answer - "rabbit".
Almost every hunter of North America begins their hunting with either rabbits, hares, squirrels, or game birds, usually in their childhood, accompanied by their dad or granddad. Hence, if you’re a pro-hunter then there isn’t anything new that I can tell you about rabbit hunting. This article is for the new hunters mostly. However, an experienced hunter may find it useful as it contains some updated information related to rabbit hunting.
Here we've tried to accumulate all the required info that a hunter would need to know for hunting rabbits including-
-a detailed overview of rabbits
-difference between rabbits and hare
-best places for hunting rabbits
-best time for hunting them
-gun and gears required for hunting rabbits
-rabbit hunting tips and tricks/ how to hunt rabbits
An overview on rabbits
Rabbits are small mammals, found abundantly in the USA. You’ll be happy to know that - around half of the total number of rabbits in the world inhabit North America. This means, more opportunities for hunting rabbits – almost as much as you can is acceptable in this area.
Difference between rabbit and hare
Although rabbits and hares are synonyms to many peoples, they aren’t the same. Not surprised? Ok! but, can you tell the difference?
Few differences are obvious, others are not. One significant difference is how their kits are born. Rabbit babies are born blind and hairless whereas hare babies are born with hair and good vision.
Another difference is their habitation. Except for cottontails, all the other rabbits live in underground burrow known as warrens. But hares live in above the ground nests.
Hares are larger, with long ears and legs. And, they were never been domesticated like rabbits, not domesticable like rabbits. Also, unlike rabbits, hares fur has black marking in their furs.
However, in the case of hunting approaches, there isn’t much difference between these two species. So, this article will cover both rabbits and hares at the same time.
Here's a video demonstration on rabbit vs hare:
Types of rabbits available in USA
Different types of rabbits are available in all over the country. Besides cottontails, swamp rabbits, snowshoe hares, whitetail jackrabbits, black-tailed jackrabbits, brush rabbits, marsh rabbits are also common in different states. However, different types of cottontail are the most popular among hunters.
Found in all over eastern and south-central United States.
Found all over the North America
Western united states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming etc.)
Mostly in south-central United States and along the Gulf coast. They are also plenty in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.
All over USA
Available in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois in the United States.
Where rabbits live
Rabbits mostly live in underground tunnels and burrows. But Cottontails don’t like burrows. They, and also hares, live in normal nests above the ground. Though Cottontails don’t dig burrows, they sometimes choose holes dug by other animals i.e. groundhogs. Cottontails also make their nests in shallow holes, under dense bushes, or hide under vegetation.
Both hares and rabbits are very social animals. They normally live in groups forming dense colonies. Grassy areas with dense green vegetation, where they have sufficient covers for hiding, are their most preferable place of habitation.
What rabbits eat/ Rabbit diet
Rabbits and hares are herbivores. They are exclusively vegetarians. Their diet largely depends on availability. Cottontail’s diet covers barks, twigs, leaves, fruit, buds, flowers, grass seeds, sedge fruits, and rush seeds. Read this if you want to know more!
The best places for rabbit hunting
Do you know that Rabbits and hares weren’t actually native in the USA? They are actually originated from Africa and Europe. Now, these “once an outsider”, becomes native in this country. They have spread all over America now. And, surprisingly, at present North America has almost half of total number of rabbit population of the world.
Their abundance and tasty meats made them one of the most popular small hunting games in the USA. Every state has its own kind of rabbits and hares. So, for hunting, you can go anywhere.
Hunting regulation regarding the rabbit isn’t very rigid in most states. However, every state policy isn’t equally flexible in this case. But, there’re differences in hunting laws from state to state. So, before the outing, you should properly check the hunting policies, rules (including bag limits, weapon, hunting season, etc.), licensing policies of your state.
Considering these factors, here're some of the greatest places in the USA for hunting rabbits (I also include, types of rabbits you can find those places and also some tips you’ll find useful):
A great place for hunting Eastern Cottontail and Swamp Rabbits.
Any gauge of shotgun is allowed but 20 gauge is most effective. Hunting dog is also allowed.
Hunting season: Generally, October to February, from sunrise to sunset
Trapping season: Mid November to mid January
Visit this site for hunting season dates of current year.
Limit: Limit for both hunting and trapping: Daily limit 6 with maximum 2 swamp rabbit and 12 possession with 4 maximum swamp rabbits.
To know best places in Missouri for rabbit hunting visit this link.
Eastern rabbit season is normally starts in September and end in February in Iowa. The daily limits are 10 rabbits and possession limits are 20. Allowed shooting time is sunrise to sunset during hunting season.
Visit this site for hunting season in Iowa dates of current year.
Texas is always a great place for hunting, rabbits, and/or also many other game animals. Why? Let's just consider rabbit hunting in Texas here-
There aren't any restrictions for that! -no specific season or time! Hunting season for rabbits is allowed in all year-round. In this state nighttime hunting is allowed unlike many other states of USA.
To know the bag limit in different county check their official wildlife preservation site.
It's another great place for hunting rabbits, as hunting rabbits are allowed in all year-round.
Rabbit hunting season starts from the beginning of October to the end of February. Legal shooting time is half hour before the sunrise to the half hour after the sunset.
Limit: The daily bag limit is 8 and possession limit is 24. You can visit their official site to know more.
Oregon is just a haven for rabbit hunters. There are four types of rabbits are available here - snowshoe, mountain hare, black tail, and whitetail jackrabbits.
Season and limit: Season open all year round, no bag limits, no one hunts them!
Florida and Arizona
Rabbit hunters would love these two states as there is no closed season for rabbits. Also, rabbit hunting has no bag limits. Yes! you can hunt as much as you want!
Two types of rabbits are available in Mississippi - cottontail rabbits and swamp rabbits.
Season: Middle October to end of February is the hunting season.
Limit: Daily bag limit is 8 .
Rabbit hunting is allowed in some public lands in Mississippi. Location of public land rabbit hunting can be found here.
Three types of rabbits are available in Oklahoma i.e. cottontail rabbit, swamp rabbit and black tailed Jackrabbits.
Season: Normally rabbit hunting season starts from October and ends in March in Oklahoma. One-half hour before official sunrise to official sunset.
Bag limits: Cottontail - 10 daily and 20 possession, Swamp rabbits and Jackrabbit: 3 daily and 6 possessions.
Check this site to know more about rabbit hunting rules in Oklahoma!
Also check our article - Hunting in Oklahoma: licensing, seasons and available games you should know.
Eastern and Dessert Cottontails are found abundantly in this state. Also, two types of Jackrabbits i.e. black tailed and white-tailed Jackrabbits are available for the hunters here.
Season: Generally, rabbit hunting season in Nebraska is September to February.
Check this site to know more about hunting in Nebraska!
Hunting season for rabbits in Georgia generally starts in middle November and ends in February.
Limit: 12 per day limits.
Check this site to know the specific date for rabbit season!
Season: Normally rabbit season extends from mid September to March.
Limit: Daily 8 bag limits with 8 possession.
Check this site to know the specific date for rabbit season!
Another great place for rabbit hunters as this state has plenty of cottontails and snowshoes to offer.
Season: Normally rabbit season extends from September to March.
Limit: Cottontail daily bag limit is 10 with 20 possession. And, snowshoe limit is 4 with possession limits of 8.
Check this site to know the specific date for rabbit season in Wyoming!
Best time for rabbit hunting
First and obvious step is to ensure that you are hunting in allowed season for rabbits with your local state wild life preservation authority. Don’t get yourself into any trouble by violating laws. Check your state laws for that.
That being said, rabbits are most active during early morning just after sunrise and late afternoon to dusk. Rabbits also stay active at night like most animals. But, not all states allow nighttime rabbit hunting. So, be aware of that too.
Apart from that, rabbits love the sun. So, during cool weather rabbits never miss the warmth of bright sunny days. If it’s a sunny day then you are most likely to find many opportunities to hunt then. Just found their burrows and wait in the sun – you’ll busy pretty soon.
Rain isn’t good for rabbit hunting as rabbits aren't very fond of getting wet. So, during rain, they normally do not come out from their hidings. That's why, after a long heavy rain they usually become very active. Long time without food, it's normal to get a little crazy about food, right? So, after rain is a good time for hunting them. And, for the same reason just before storm rabbits become very active. If you can take the risk of stuck by thunder then this could be your another opportune time for scoring rabbits.
Best gun/weapons for rabbit hunting
Different types of weapons can be used for hunting rabbits such as rifles, shotguns, pistols, compound bows, crossbows, etc.
If you’re familiar with shooting and have a certain level of accuracy then .22 Long Rifles would be the best choice for you. But, for a new shooter, it could be difficult in the beginning. In that case, you can go for a shotgun. Much easier.
But, remember, never go above 20 gauges. Otherwise, you’ll mess up the whole rabbit. And, it won’t have any use for you.
But, remember becoming a better marksman depends on how much you practice with your rifle. So, my advice is to go for a difficult option, which may give you some frustrating hunting experience in the beginning but reward you later.
Gears for rabbit hunting
Like most big game hunting, you don’t need a tree stand for hunting rabbits. But apart from your license and weapon, you will certainly need the other things. See the following list:
How to hunt Rabbits
Ultimate rabbit hunting tips and tricks
Now, as we have already learned all the basics and prepared ourselves with the required equipment it's time for the actual hunting tips. Let's dive in:
Rabbits mostly feed on the leafy green. So look for foliage. Weed fields, crop fields, ditches, fencerows, are the places you'll find them usually. You can also look around cutout woods.
Look close to the ground for small pallet droppings around their feeding area. While you are tracking rabbits stay stealthy. The best way is, take 10 steps at a time and then stand still for 30 seconds. Try to listen to any movements are occurring around you. Then again take 10 steps and wait.
Unlike, deer hunting, you won’t need to be quiet all the time. Little sound if OK! Cause, your sound will scare them out from their hidings, which you want.
Where to shoot?
Both head-shot and chest shots are equally effective when you are using shotguns. Because of its massive power, it would be less painful for the rabbits. And, it's the basics of hunting ethics - to kill causing as little suffering as possible.
Rabbit brain is just behind the eyes and between the eyes. If you’re taking a head-shot, you have to shoot here. But as a first-timer, I suggest you forget this. Even within a short-range, this shot is tricky as they move their head a lot. There’s a good chance that it hits the face instead. It would be a mess.
Rather, go for an easier shot. Aim at the lung and heart instead. The chest shot is not shooting at the chest exactly. Halfway up in the middle of the body in the same line with the front legs is the sweet point. Shooting here will kill it fast with less possibility of non-lethal injury.
- Shoot when it's sitting still or just at the moment of jumping
- Try to take a slow-moving or sitting shot.
- While bow hunting, stay quiet when you sneak up on rabbits.
- For a chest shot, shoot it from one side.
- Careful about scent. Don’t overdo with your aftershave, deodorant or cologne before hunting. Rabbits have very sharp olfactory nerves (strong sense of smell).
After hunt game Processing
- A set of knives
- Two separate containers. One for the unwanted parts and the other is for the parts you want.
- Garden shear or scissors
- A mean of suspending the animal
Phase 1: Hanging
Hook the back legs of the rabbit with nails facing the stomach toward you. Then place a bucket just below it. Then cut small area near the rabbit’s neck using a short blade. As soon as the skin breaks, reach with your blade underneath the flesh. Sever the skin near the neck and gradually proceed to the veins and muscle. Then take a large knife to cut the ligaments lie between the vertebrae. Now you can easily take off the head.
Phase 2: Skinning
Cut off the front feet. Cut a small slice around the back legs and insert the blade. Extend the cut so that the foot skin is separated from foot now. Now insert a knife and cut in such a way that the genital area lies at the top and the stomach skin be on one part.
Repeat the same thing for both of the legs.
Now turn the rabbits back toward you. Now insert a knife near the tail and go on cutting through the genital area. Separate the skin from this section. Now grab the separated skin and pull it off.
Phase 3: Cutting and gutting
For removing meat, begin from the front leg. Carefully cut the shoulder muscle and deltoid. Then Insert a large knife into the shoulder socket and sever the ligaments. Then pry off the leg using a blade. Do the same for the other one.
For removing the back straps, start with the side of the backbone. Run the blade from buttock to the clavicle. Now cut the straps and pull it out.
Now it’s time to harvest the internal organs. Pinch the stomach covering membrane. Cut one cm. Hole there. Then insert a knife and proceed down to the rib-cage slicing. Then remove the intestines or other internal organs simply with your hand.
Puncture the diaphragm by poking it with your finger. Yes, this time you are allowed to puncture!
Then take the thigh muscle, first from the top and then from the bottom.
After collecting muscle, they should be rinsed properly. If you want, you can use the bone for cooking stock.
Or, you can follow this quickest of skinning your rabbits demonstrated in the following video, however, it requires expertise in this are. So, be careful with this method.
- If you are hunting in group or other hunters are around then be careful while you take the shoot.
- If you are hunting with your dogs then be aware of that as well. Hunting dogs tends to run after rabbits, they may come to your line of fire. So, unless you want to hurt your dog shoot carefully.
- Always wear hunter orange to reduce chances of getting shoot by other hunters.
Rabbit hunting has always been a fun and action-packed game. Unlike, squirrels, rabbits are always running most of the time with a full blast! So, hunting rabbits is more challenging and fun.Also, rabbit meat is a blissful thing, who doesn’t know that!?