Heading off to your first rabbit hunting trip? Don’t underestimate these little critters! Yes, they’re small, but they’re also swift, smart, and agile. You’ll need to prepare yourself physically and mentally if you want any shot at bringing home a big haul.
10 Essential Rabbit Hunting Tips Every Beginner Should Know
— This post is courtesy of the American Gun Association shared with permission —
1. Prepare a Hunting Backpack With Hunting Gear
We cannot stress the importance of one’s hunting gear. No matter how skilled you are as a hunter, you won’t be able to put your skills to use if you do not have the necessary equipment.
So before you even consider becoming a sharpshooter who can shoot down prey from hundreds of yards away or a skilled tracker capable of accurately pinpointing the location of their prey, you first need to learn how to become a well-equipped hunter.
To ensure you don’t forget to bring any essentials, make a hunting gear checklist.
2. Wear Hunting Attire
Too many newbie hunters force themselves to wear uncomfortable clothes for the sake of fashion.
Yes, rocking a cool outfit in post-hunting photos is great, but you would look a lot cooler if you had multiple cottontails hanging on each hand. Remember, the goal of hunting is to hunt, not to have a photoshoot.
With that in mind, we strongly urge hunters to dress for comfort. The last thing you’d want is for you to get distracted by discomfort in the middle of a tense hunting session.
Some factors to consider when choosing your attire include the:
- Weather: The first thing you need to consider is the weather. Trust us, taking an accurate shot when your sweating bullets or walking down a long trail in the freezing cold is not easy, and your only protection would be your clothing.
- Sensitivity to Sound: You might not notice it, but your clothes make a few noises when you’re moving. On a normal day, this won’t mean meach. However, when you’re out on a quiet hunting trail, even the slightest rustling can set off certain animals. As a general rule, wear clothes that don’t rustle too much.
- Surroundings: You’d want to wear an outfit that allows you to naturally blend in with your surroundings. This is especially important when hunting rabbits as they have excellent 360° panoramic vision. No matter what direction you hide, they’ll be able to spot you.
3. Bring Proper Weapons
One of the best rabbit hunting guns to us is a 20-gauge shotgun. It’s strong enough to take a rabbit down in just one shot and is convenient to carry around.
Any bigger than a 20-gauge shotgun and you’ll run the risk of completely obliterating your prey, especially when shooting them up close. Remember, you’d want to keep the body intact for later consumption.
Apart from your rifle, we suggest bringing a hunting knife with you. This is for situations where you fail to shoot down a rabbit and it starts closing in on you. Knives trump any kind of shotgun when it comes to fast-paced, close-quarters attacks.
Note: Most upland cottontails aren’t aggressive enough to attack humans. However, if there’s any chance that one does, you need to be prepared. They’re not as fearsome as coyotes, but having a rabid rabbit scratching eyeballs out would still send you to the E.R.
4. Take a Furry Friend With You
Beagles one of the best coonhounds to take with you on a rabbit hunting trip. Rabbit hunting with beagles is popular because these dogs are energetic, intelligent, and are small enough to go through the same trails that rabbits do.
The only downside is they’re quite expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of other coonhounds to choose from such as dachshunds, basset hounds, redbone coonhounds, Weimaraner, and Jack Russell terrier, among others.
5. Steer Clear From Strong Scents
Rabbits have a strong sense of smell. They’ll run away as far as they can from anything that emits an unusual scent that doesn’t blend with the environment.
With that in mind, avoid using cologne and deodorant on the day of your trip. Try switching to unscented soap, shampoo, and detergent as well for a more natural, unsuspicious scent.
6. Check the Weather
The habits and behaviors of wild cottontails change depending on the weather. For example, if they sense that a storm or heavy downpour is coming, they’ll be running around frantically in search of shelter, so hunting them during strong rains might not be a good decision.
Meanwhile, rabbits are quite active and forage for food in the cold weather. If you have a knack for telling the weather, time your rabbit hunting trip on cold, cloudy, foggy days with light drizzling.
However, accurately predict the weather yet, it’s safe to schedule your hunting session on a sunny day with very little chance of heavy rains.
7. Find Foliage or Bushy Areas
When tracking down rabbits, it’s best to go by bushy areas that rabbits might feed on. Apart from pinpointing the location of their herd, it’s much easier to shoot down prey if you take them by surprise when they’re defenseless and vulnerable.
A wild cottontail’s daily diet generally consists of leafy greens, clover, alfalfa, and blackberry bushes.
8. It’s Okay to Make a Bit of Sound
Making a bit of sound might be beneficial if you’re able to time it properly. Either way, your goal should be to flush the herd of rabbits out of their hiding spot.
9. Try Slow-Moving Shots
Rabbits have 360° panoramic vision, a great sense of smell, and excellent hearing, so be as stealthy and sneaky as possible. If you flush them too early, these speedy critters will get away from you.
10. Aim at the Heart or Lungs
Always aim for the lungs or the heart. As we mentioned earlier, we’d want to keep the rabbit’s body intact, so as much as possible minimize the damages by taking it down with just one shot.
Pro Tip: You can also shoot the head, but carrying a decapitated rabbit around on your hunting trip is a hassle—and frankly, quite disgusting.
Here’s an infographic guide to make your rabbit hunting successful. Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:
Cottontails are some of the easiest games to hunt. They’re small and don’t put up much of a fight, you can easily carry multiple carcasses around, and best of all, their meat tastes great! A big haul is definitely not out of reach.
However, don’t make the mistake of underestimating these critters. Yes, they’re far less dangerous than wild coyotes or crows, but that doesn’t mean you can forego preparation. Unless you have the proper hunting gear, know the prey’s weak points, and are familiar with their habits, don’t expect to bring home even one cottontail from the trip.
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