The winter season is soon to start and with it will come plentiful rabbit hunting opportunities. In some parts of the country, there is already snowfall, but the number of snowy locations will be increasing in the coming months. Once snow covers the ground, rabbit hunting becomes more fun and interesting for you and your rabbit dogs.
As the landscape turns white with snow, cottontails begin to stand out in stark contrast. This makes them easier to see and therefore easier to harvest. A brown bunny is far more noticeable in a world blanketed in white than he may be in an environment rich in hues of green and brown. Instead of staying in the warm house when the flurries start, make plans instead to seek and find cottontail rabbits. In the case of southern swamp rabbits, however, this may not apply as there are regions that rarely if ever see snow.
Although the cottontail is going to be easier to notice against a winter background, the snowshoe hare will be a trickier undertaking. The pelts of snowshoe hares will actually turn white in winter, making snow their friend and your foe. It takes a good eye and a good dog, of course, to spot a white snowshoe hare, but keep in mind that tough their bodies turn white, their ears do not. Keep an eye out for dark ears and eyes when seeking snowshoe hares in the dense coniferous forests they call home. Remember, too, that they are nocturnal and active at dusk and dawn.
Photo: The Photo Naturalist
Regardless of the type of winter rabbit or hare you seek, there are a few things to remember. First of all, the same trusty standby locations should be kept in mind. These include thickets, brush piles, downed trees, and the like. Although some rabbits do live in holes, other rabbits prefer to make these types of locations their homes. Keep in mind that rabbits use several entrances and exits to their den, so just because a bunny shoots out of one place does not mean he didn't go back in another.
Whether it is your presence or that of your rabbit dogs that raises the rabbit alarm, once a rabbit is on the move, circling back is inevitable. It is a rabbit's natural inclination to do so, but your dogs will also run him back to you, so patience on your part is necessary as you wait for that to happen. Wait for a the best shot possible because the time it takes you to recover from a miss could cost you when your rabbit dogs do their job and run the rabbit into an area where a better shot can be taken.
When the time comes to take a shot, make sure you are ready. This is not a time when you want to be fumbling with ammunition that is buried deep in a back pocket between winter layers or some other hard to access place on your person or in a pack. Be prepared to get on target and take your shot as well as to reload as necessary between shots. No matter which type of firearm you use, be sure to handle it properly when firing as well as between uses, keeping safety in mind at all times as this will ensure you and your rabbit dogs will both be free from danger as you hunt. The better your hunting habits, the better the hunt will be, with increased odds of success and relaxation for all involved.
Is winter hunting something you enjoy? How do you feel that the presence of snow affects you and your rabbit dogs? Let us know in the comments!