Modern gun season for deer is Nov. 10-25 statewide. Buy your license​ todayClick here to see the updated 2018-19 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide. To view a video about what is new this year, click here​.

Rabbit Hunting


HABITAT

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 do run, they are very good at darting in and out of cover to prevent any predator 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 water. They retain water from their food very effectively and normally 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 plus the rabbit can hide between the tufts of grass. In the coldest part of the winter, rabbits will use the burrow of a ground hog 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 apparently 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 lots of rabbits in a given area and habitat remains the same, you can be assured some will still be there the next time you hunt.


TIPS

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 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

When you shoot a rabbit being trailed by a dog, retrieve it before the dog arrives. Dogs may maul the rabbit which isn’t good for your intended meal, and it is possible for the dog to receive parasites if he does eat part of the rabbit (see cleaning).

Walking or Stalking

Without a dog, hunters may elect to either walk through cover, forcing the rabbits to run, or stalk quietly near good habitat. The walking method is good with a group of hunters, taking turns walking in the thickest cover. Communication is vital to keep track of hunter location and to alert a fellow hunter when a rabbit is running toward him. As rabbits will be running, a shotgun is usually the fi rearm of choice when walking.

Stalking is often practiced when hunting alone, and is very effective after snowfall. Hunters should plan to hunt the rabbit’s home one step at a time. Take time to study every form and search for details such as an eye or an ear. Once a rabbit is detected, stealth is important, 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.

Hunt Edges

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 good habitat, there may also be other hunters in the area. Give them space for their hunt and keep track of their location. Just as you talk with your own party, speak to other hunting parties so they know where you are and where you are going.


CLEANING

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 afeild 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 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, make sure organs are hung in a tree, so the dogs can not reach them. This will prevent 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 one last time 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 in the freezer. Meat should be good up to six months.

RECIPES

Hasenpfeffer

Found in recipes, no source, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

  • 2 Rabbits, cut in serving pieces
  • 1 Cup vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 Large onions, sliced
  • 1 12-Ounce bottle or can of beer
  • 1⁄4 Cup flour
  • 1 Tsp mixed pickling spices
  • 1⁄4 Cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tsp salt 1 Tsp sugar


Combine vinegar, beer, onions, pickling spices, salt and pepper in a large earthenware bowl. Add Rabbit pieces. Cover and let stand in refrigerator 1 to 2 days, turning the meat several times. Dry rabbit pieces with absorbent paper, then dip in flour. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet. Add meat and brown on all sides. Pour off excess oil. Strain marinade and add with sugar to meat. Bring liquid to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes, or until rabbit is tender. If desired, thicken 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

Pat Ball, “The Bullshooter Newsletter”
  • 1 Rabbit, cut in serving pieces
  • 3⁄4 Cup Flour
  • 1⁄4 Tbsp salt
  • 3⁄4 Tbsp seasoned salt
  • 3⁄4 Cup oil
  • 2 1⁄2 to 3 Cups of water
  • 1⁄2 Package, baby carrots,cooked
  • 1 Cup rice, cooked and set aside
  • 1⁄2 Cup red cooking wine


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 oil/flour step at least one more time. Pour remaining oil into a deep skillet and heat oil. Add rabbit pieces to 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 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.