Four Tips To Improve Your Chances For Cottontails
By John Jameson
Many hunters use dogs, particularly beagles, to hunt rabbits. A good hunting dog sniffs out or spots the rabbit and flushes it toward your gun, making it easier to get a kill shot. However, not all hunters work with dogs, and with practice, they are just as effective. There are many different methods on how to hunt rabbits without dogs, including working with a partner or going it alone. Many hunters prefer to go without dogs because they feel self-reliant, and the hunt has an enticing challenge to it. Here are some tips on what you need to know about how to hunt rabbits.
1. Understand Rabbits: Habitat and Movements
First, understand that rabbits circle the areas in which they live and eat. They don’t like to get chased out of this area, so if you do flush one, most likely it will circle back. Your job is to be ready. The next step is to learn where they like to live. Many prefer wooded areas that line the edge of grass fields, farmer’s fields (they especially like alfalfa, soybeans, wheat, etc.) and gardens. They hide in brush piles and tall grass. Finally, they love to spend time in the sun on the first warm day after a cold front, so make this the day you go hunting.
2. Flush-Out with a Hunting Partner
If you have the opportunity to go with a hunting partner, at least the first few times, do it. There are a couple of methods you can employ, including walking in staggered succession, about 50 feet apart, both of you with guns ready. As you both walk, take turns pausing. For example, while your buddy pauses, you walk forward a few feet, then switch. The pause may convince a hiding rabbit that you have spotted him, which will make him break cover and run.
The other method is to send your partner into the woods or on top of a brush pile to flush out the rabbits. You’ll be ready to shoot as the rabbit runs toward you. Both methods are effective; however, it is very important to practice gun safety at all times to avoid injuring your hunting partner. Know what you are shooting before you pull the trigger, never aim at a person, and keep your safety on at all times until you are ready to shoot.
Tracking rabbits is an enjoyable experience when you’re alone on a quiet day. The best times are immediately after a snowfall; fresh tracks mean the rabbit is nearby. Keep in mind that the rabbit circles it’s home area, so try to follow the tracks to narrow down where the rabbit lives. Then, flush it out or sit and wait.
Stalk rabbits by walking slowly along the edge of a field where it might graze. Use binoculars to look for rabbits that may be in the middle of the field. Move as quietly as possible, and remember to pause every few seconds as you walk so a hidden rabbit believes you have spotted it. Whenever possible, make maximum use of cover, and even consider crawling on a final approach. But don’t let anybody catch you on video crawling around on a rabbit hunt! That’s a tough one to live down. Another option is to drive slowly up rural roads at night and watch for rabbits to run out. Mark the area on a map and return the next day to flush them out. When you flush a rabbit out, try to whistle shrilly. Some will stop and look at you, giving you the opportunity for a kill shot.
• Find the food and hunt the edges.
• Stop more often than usual. Most hunters do too much walking, and that doesn’t spook rabbits.
• Try carrying a whistle and see if it gets some rabbits to pause in their escape.
• Stagger your walk with your buddy. Walk 10 or 20 yards behind and take turns pausing for 30 seconds or more
Have fun with your rabbit hunt!
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