An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
The following animals are considered small game: squirrels, rabbits, northern bobwhite (quail) and grouse.
Only rabbits and squirrels may be trapped. Quail and grouse may not be trapped. Hunting bag limits apply. Trapping equipment and restrictions are the same as those listed in the furbearer section.
A trapping license is required for anyone 12 years of age and older.
Trappers must harvest squirrels and rabbits upon capture unless they possess a captive wildlife permit from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Seasons on WMAs and other public hunting lands not managed by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife may differ from statewide seasons. Individual area listings are available online
Hunters may only use the following to take small game during the all and winter seasons:
Resident and nonresident youth hunters and trappers ages 15 and younger may hunt and trap small game without a hunting or trapping license for seven consecutive days starting the Saturday after Christmas.
Hunter orange clothing must be worn by all hunters from December 31, 2022 - January 1, 2023, since youth hunters are also permitted to hunt deer with firearms at that time.
Youth hunters must comply with all equipment regulations and bag limits for small game when hunting or trapping. Hunter education is not required for license-exempt hunters. Adults accompanying youth hunting and trapping week do not need a license if they are not hunting/trapping.
The limit for this hunting method is two (2) of any small game or furbearer species per falconer per day, except during the fall and winter seasons when the limits are the same for other methods. Falconers must possess a falconry permit, which costs $75 and is valid for three years, as well as a valid Kentucky hunting license, unless license-exempt, and obey all applicable state and federal laws.
Kentucky Rabbit Hunt with Friends
Rabbits are known as an edge species. They are animals that are most comfortable when they can find food, cover and space, all in a reasonably small area. By hunting in areas with corners between field and forest, fence lines, and overgrown building sites, hunters will have the best opportunities for multiple rabbits.
Rabbits use a variety of escape techniques. First, they sit very still where they think they can not be seen. When they run, they are very good at darting in and out of cover to prevent predators from having an easy meal. When running, they may include long jumps, rapid darting motion in all directions, and varied speeds.
Rabbits typically eat as close to their hiding cover as possible. They will eat most forms of vegetation, including grasses, shoots from woody plants, buds or flowers, waste grain in fields, and the bark from trees (especially in winter when other food is snow-covered).
Hunters should not plan on ambushing rabbits on their way to the water. They retain water from their food very effectively and typically do not require a water source. They will, however, drink standing water when it is plentiful.
The thickest cover in the area is the place to hunt rabbits. Briars are particularly attractive because they prevent many predators from approaching. When there is abundant native grass growing in the thick cover, it is even better. The grass provides food, and the rabbit can hide between the tufts. In the coldest part of the winter, rabbits will use the burrow of a groundhog or other animals that dig. This allows them to hide underground where the wind is not a factor, and rabbits can conserve their energy.
Rabbits typically live their entire life in a reasonably small space, perhaps a few acres. They learn the features of their home range and will use everything within that space to their advantage for the various functions of their lives. Therefore, when you see many rabbits in a given area, and the habitat remains the same, you can be assured some will still be there the next time you hunt.
Rabbits should be field dressed, especially in warmer weather. All fresh meat begins to spoil quickly and warm temperatures held by the internal organs can enhance spoilage. Most hunters that field dress their rabbits keep plastic bags in their game pouch to prevent blood stains.
Rabbits can be completely cleaned or the hunter may simply want to remove the organs. Rubber gloves are always recommended but should not be discarded in the field. To skin, slit the skin in the middle of the back, across the spine. Place fingers from both hands inside this slit and pull. Skin will come off both ends.
With a sharp knife, gently split the stomach lining. Place the point of the knife just inside this lining and open the rabbit from the rib cage to between the hind legs. Gently cut through the meat between the legs and split the pelvic bone. All internal organs can now be removed. Feet can be removed at the joints above the foot.
When hunting with dogs, ensure organs are hung in a tree, so the dogs can not reach them. This will prevent the passage of internal parasites.
If you only removed the organs in the field, finish the job as soon as you get home. Take great care to remove all hair from the cleaned animal. Shot wounds should be carefully cleaned and badly damaged areas removed. A cut up rabbit will have four legs and two halves of the back. The back can be left whole for some recipes such as “Hasen Rucken” (back of the hare), a variation of “Hasenpfeffer.”
Whether you intend to eat your rabbit immediately or freeze it, place the pieces in ice cold salt water for at least an hour. This will remove blood from the meat and wounded areas.
To freeze your rabbit, rinse each piece again and carefully place the pieces in a plastic bag. Broken bones can cut through the plastic and leak water into the freezer. Cover all parts with water and squeeze the bag until water begins to leak out the top. This removes all air. Seal the top and place it in the freezer. Meat should be good for up to six months.
Let the Dog do the Dirty Work
A good rabbit dog is worth its weight in rabbits. Cottontails tend to have a small area for escape and will return to the same general area where first jumped. A slow working dog will allow the rabbit to slowly return while the dog’s barking lets the hunter know the rabbit and dog are approaching. Hunting with a dog can best be accomplished with a shotgun, as you should expect a moving target across a small shooting area.
Retrieve Rabbit Quickly
Walking or Stalking
Stalking is often practiced when hunting alone and is very effective after a snowfall. Hunters should plan to hunt the rabbit’s home one step at a time. Study every form and search for details such as an eye or an ear. Once a rabbit is detected, stealth is essential, as it has probably been watching you for some time. Slowly bring the .22 rifle or shotgun to your shoulder and make your shot count.
Take advantage of the rabbit’s habits that allow it to escape the predators in the natural world. In all rabbit hunting situations, hunt the “edge” between heavy cover and fields offering food.
Know Your Shooting Zone
A primary lesson in hunting is to know the zone where it is safe to shoot. Better to watch a rabbit escape without a shot than to explain to a landowner why your shot rattled the side of the barn. When a rabbit is in sight, focus on the total picture rather than the target animal.
Know Other Hunter Location
You should always know where other hunters in your party are located as you hunt. If you are hunting in suitable habitat, other hunters may be in the area. Give them space for their hunt and keep track of their location. As you talk with your own party, speak to other hunting parties, so they know where you are and where you are going.
Found in recipes, no source, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Combine vinegar, beer, onions, pickling spices, salt and pepper in a large earthenware bowl. Add Rabbit pieces. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for 1 to 2 days, turning the meat several times. Dry rabbit pieces with absorbent paper, then dip in flour. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add meat and brown on all sides. Pour off excess oil. Strain the marinade and add sugar to meat. Bring liquid to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until rabbit is tender. If desired, thicken the liquid with flour mixed with a little water. Serve meat with sauce, potato dumplings and buttered green beans. Serves 6-8 people.
Country Fried Rabbit with Gravy
By Pat Ball, in the “The Bullshooter Newsletter”
Mix salts, pepper and flour in a large bowl. Put oil in a separate bowl. Rub or brush all parts of rabbit pieces with oil, then dredge in flour mixture. Repeat the oil/flour step at least one more time. Pour the remaining oil into a deep skillet and heat the oil. Add rabbit pieces to the oil. Brown on all sides. Add the wine and 2 cups of water; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender. Add water as needed to keep it from sticking. Place rice on a platter or in a large bowl. Place rabbit pieces on the rice and pour the gravy over the dish. Garnish with carrots. Serve with kale greens and biscuits or garlic bread.