As the days tick by on the calendar, rabbit season grows nearer and nearer. Before you know it, the time will be upon us to embark on our first hunt of the season. While we wait with eager anticipation for opening day to arrive, there are a few ways to occupy our time, such as by preparing or purchasing your gun of choice.
One of the many important preparations for hunting season, along with prepping your rabbit dogs, is to have your gun in good condition and ready to go. This could include a good cleaning or a sight adjustment and filling your vest or shooting bag with enough of the proper loads. In other cases, it could mean that the time has come to purchase a new gun, which should be done in plenty of time to adjust sights and get acquainted with it before the time comes to hunt.
Photo: Game and Fish Mag
Many questions come to mind when it comes time to purchase a gun, and with those questions come plenty of answers. Depending on who you ask, you may get responses that are so widely varied that they could be of no help at all. In such a scenario, it is probably best to accumulate information and weed through, deciphering what applies to you and your hunting style.
For example, your gun selection should depend on the means of hunting you plan to adopt on a given day. If you intend to run beagles, your gun preference could vary from cases in which you might hunt without dogs. Although most of us are known to hunt with rabbit dogs, perhaps your dog or dogs need a day off for some reason but you still wish to hunt. It is differences like this that can impact the choice of gun you will need to make, along with an honest assessment of your shooting skills.
If you are a skilled marksmen and intend to stalk or wait out your rabbit prey, you may be able to utilize a rifle or even pistol to get the job done. When snap shooting, however, it is helpful to use a light gun that you can maneuver quickly and easily. This leads many hunters who use these methods to go with either a .22 rifle or a 20-gauge shotgun. While improved cylinder choke is helpful to have, it is not necessary, and most any shotgun makes for a good rabbit gun as long as you adjust your shot size accordingly to something along the lines of 6's with some hunters going after scrawny swamp bunnies opting to go as small as 7-1/2's.
Photo: Our Southern Roots
When using rabbit dogs for the hunt, things become exciting but can also turn out to be challenging. Since rabbits like to stick close to familiar territory, they have a tendency to circle back upon distancing themselves from the dogs. When this happens, you will need to be able to listen, watch, and raise your gun at just the right time to get a shot. As the rabbit moves and evades, it becomes a harder target, so using a .22 rifle will pose more challenges in this case than a shotgun.
It is in this type of hunting that it benefits you to use something such as a 16 or 20-gauge. It is possible to use a 12-gauge but some might argue that it could damage the meat. This is a case of balancing the number of pellets, with the result on the meat.
A .410 is good as well, but you must consider distance and rabbit movement as a head-shot might be necessary for this gun to be as effective as you hope it to be-- again, since you have less pellets, you will have a much smaller pattern, especially at distance.
Photo: Real Tree
The key to a good choice of rabbit hunting gun is more in the load than the gun itself. Whether or not you plan to hunt with rabbit dogs, a properly loaded gun is essential. A few things to remember are:
Being able to snap shoot is important. You may only get a brief shot under heavy cover, at which point calling on your snap shooting skills will be your saving grace.
When taking a pass shot, swing through the body until you are on target in front of the rabbit's head, shooting beyond the rabbit's nose. When the rabbit is running in front of you, aim centrally and slightly beyond the head to avoid meat damage. Always be sure not to aim for the tail; the purpose of a rabbit's tail being white is to distract pursuers, and even if you did make a successful shot, meat could be damaged.
Stay on alert at all times. The minute you take a break is the very same minute a rabbit will probably bolt from cover. Should this happen, remember that rabbits are not patient animals and you will be able to wait them out, so stay in a ready position and keep your eyes peeled.
Good luck this season and may your efforts be fruitful! If you have any gun selection or preparation advice or suggestions you would like to add, feel free to do so in the comments!