5 Cold Weather Rabbit Hunting Tips

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Winter is something we all feel in our own way. For some of us it is tempting to find a warm spot to ride out the cold while others embrace it and want to enjoy the great outdoors more than ever. Well, just as our behavior changes when the mercury drops, the behavior of rabbits does, too. With food becoming scarcer and the availability of cover decreasing as foliage loses leaves, the rabbit is forced to adapt and change in order to survive. This means your hunting needs to adapt and change as well and here are five suggestions for doing so:

1. Have you ever noticed that when the grass in the yard you painstakingly tended has died, that the occasional patch of clover can still be found? Clover is a legume that deposits nitrogen into the soil where it grows, which then sustains the clover for a longer period of time when cold weather arrives. Rabbits find clover to be irresistible, so if you find it, you will find them. It is most easily located in areas with rich sunshine where soil drains adequately to eliminate standing water. Clover sometimes grows in and around deer plots, which are also locations rabbits are likely to visit.

2. Saplings are another prime feeding location for rabbits. Though saplings are not a number one choice, they are preferred to going hungry. When other foliage such as raspberry and blackberry bushes has been picked clean, rabbits will move on to feeding on saplings. Though these trees may not grow much in the winter months, they are alive and provide a snack of green bark beneath the dry exterior. Look for chew marks to indicate if rabbits have moved on to this food source.

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Photo: Walnut Hill Tracking

3. When the preferred food and cover sources of the warmer months are no more, alternative cover will be necessary. It is at times like this that fence rows and brush piles play an important role in rabbit habitat. Since fencerows are often overgrown, they give rabbits an opportunity to find both food and cover. In the case of brush piles resulting from cleared land or chopped firewood a perfect location is created to safely hide, keeping them out of reach of aerial predators as well as those moving on land.

4. Take note of the temperature. A cold rabbit is not necessarily as mobile as a warm rabbit, preferring instead to hunker down and avoid moving unless necessary. In conditions such as this, where the temperature has dropped significantly, it may be possible to nearly trip over a rabbit that is remaining still to stay warm. At times like this it is vital that you slow down and be extra observant, pausing frequently as you scan areas for hidden rabbits. It may also help to make noise to spur still rabbits into action.

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Photo: Wide Open Spaces

5. Don't forget the Beagles! The performance of a rabbit dog in the cold can actually rival that of a warm day due to the possibility that they can better pick up a scent trail in the cold. Do keep in mind, however, that the distance rabbits run in the cold is not the same as in the summer; does run in shorter loops with bucks taking the longer route. This will require you to pay more attention to the actions of the rabbit as the dogs give chase.

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Photo: Ohio Sportsman

Even if the cold has got you down and inhibited your hunting success, keep in mind that breeding season is right around the corner. More rabbits will soon be born for you and your rabbit dogs to pursue next season. Then snow will melt and it will be time again to consider adding to your pack of rabbit dogs or purchasing new gear.

Do you have any cold weather rabbit hunting tips you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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