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