By Josh Boyd
As you wade through the thickets and brambles that dot the landscape before you, as if from the very ground beneath your feet, a cottontail rabbit emerges, sprinting toward the next available source of cover. In a flash, you shoulder your shotgun, swing to the target, and capitalize on the opportunity at hand.
With yet another fine specimen to add to your bag limit, you find yourself ever closer to the wonderful meal that awaits should the day’s hunt find much success. Few things warm the chilled bones of a hunter that has been afield in winter’s harsh grip, as well as a simmering pot of rabbit stew.
Long before the reintroduction of the wild turkey to many areas, or the reemergence of the whitetail deer, rabbit hunting was one of the highest regarded forms of outdoor endeavors.
Hunters from all walks of life gathered to kick brush piles or listen to the singing of a pack of beagles bent on running down ole’ cottontail.
Rabbit hunting serves as a reminder of the very essence of our hunting tradition. No amount of trail cameras or fancy calls will make you anymore efficient of a rabbit hunter, and no one has ever dictated the killing of a rabbit based on score or if they will be bigger next year.
Your success when rabbit hunting relies solely on woodsmanship and a little good old-fashioned luck. Whether you return home with a limit of rabbits or not, the time spent in the vast expanses of nature’s beauty and the camaraderie shared with friends and family is the true bounty of the day.
Part of the allure toward rabbit hunting stems from the fact that nothing is required to enjoy time afield, short of a shotgun or .22 rifle, a few shells, and a little slice of habitat. One can escape to the field in search of rabbits with little more than what most individuals carry in their truck.
A minimalist approach to rabbit hunting includes walking brushy field adjacent to areas of favored rabbit food sources such as clover. Alternatively, briar thickets or brush piles hold their fair share of rabbits and a half-hearted kick with a boot heel is often all that is required to send a rabbit sprinting from under foot.
This can be a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon, and hunting brush makes for an easy escape when time for your hunt is limited. By “kicking up rabbits”, a woods wise hunter can work about the brush at any pace desired, often bagging a limit of cottontails in no more than a couple of hours.
Another significantly popular method for hunting rabbits includes the use of dogs. Beagles or other specially trained breeds run rabbits from their brush clad hideaways in hopes of presenting the awaiting hunter with a clean shot.
This can be an immensely enjoyable way to hunt when multiple hunters are involved. When hunters stagger their location, a shot is often presented to one member of the party, no matter which course of escape a rabbit should choose.
Care must be taken when hunting with the use of dogs. Since a rabbit can often take a looping path while being pursued, awareness of the locations of others in your hunting party is paramount.
When rabbit hunting, firearm selection is relatively straightforward. A shotgun of virtually any bore is sufficient, although the use of an overly tight choke should be cautioned because of the potential for meat loss. #6 or #7 1/2 shot is often the preferred shot of many.
Some hunters prefer the use of a .22 rifle when rabbit hunting. A .22 will certainly get the job done. However, marksmanship is key, as hard running rabbits seldom stop long enough to present a hunter with a stationary target.
No matter your method of pursuit or weapon of choice, a hunter is well advised to don relatively thick and durable clothing when going afield.
When hunting rabbits, traversing briar patches and thickets dense in flesh puncturing thorns is commonplace, and carefully choosing how you are outfitted for such an endeavor goes a long way toward preventing a sore and bloody afternoon.
Hardy, canvas style pants or bibs, accompanied by a similar style jacket, can make for fine rabbit hunting attire. Durable, puncture resistant gloves are also a wise choice, although your selection must be made with dexterity for shooting in mind.
Wearing hunter orange clothing is also a worthwhile consideration. Although not required in some states, the use of hi-vis clothing can aid in discerning the whereabouts of all members of your party. This also assists in keeping you out of harm’s way from others hunting in the area that might not be aware of your presence.
As popular as game species such as whitetail deer and turkey have become today, let us not forget the pursuits of old, many of which, we as hunters cut our teeth on in our youth. Rabbit hunting is as enjoyable now as it has ever been, and there is seldom better of an opportunity for getting the young outdoorsmen and women among us afield.
This winter, as the frost shimmers across the rural landscape, grab your shotgun, a pocket full of shells, and a couple of friends, and head out in search of cottontails. You are certain to enjoy every moment, and maybe even reflect upon your youthful hunts of yesteryear. If you are lucky, warm rabbit in the crock-pot might just be the icing on top.
Editor’s note: Dan’s Hunting clothing is an excellent choice for any brush busting hunt situation such as rabbit but also upland birds or deer drives. Their briar proof clothing is your editor’s go to clothing for all rabbit hunts and upland hunts. They have a good selection of men’s, women’s and youth clothing. Plus the clothing is made in the USA! www.danshuntinggear.com.