Hunting rabbits with small caliber pistols, rifles, small gauge shotguns or airguns is quite challenging. It has many of the same elements as bow hunting…being quiet, getting close, being stealthy and exact shot placement. The smaller size of your quarry just adds to the challenge. Rabbit season ends February 28, so it is time to get serious about hunting them.
The air rifles I use are on par with low velocity .22's. It is more than adequate for close shots on small game. Hunting rabbits after a fresh snow has always been a fascinating thing for me. To be able to see the tracks and see where the animal is going has always fascinated me.
One of the best places to look for rabbits is near old homesteads, particularly those that have a collection of old machinery sitting around. Fencerows are another good spot to hunt rabbits. The thick cover that often grows up in the fence line is a natural shelter for rabbits and they are not bashful about using it. I also look for patches wild berries. Even in winter, this is a good food source and will draw rabbits.
On one old farmstead I recently hunted, I spotted rabbit tracks as soon as I got out of my pickup. There was some movement ahead of me and I saw the rabbit dive into cover behind an old harrow. I circled away from the harrow and peered into the maze of steel and weeds. The rabbit was well camouflaged in this environment. All I needed to see was the flick of an ear or any bit of movement.
I carefully studied the area through my scope. A slight flash of color caught my eye. I dialed up the power on my scope and searched the cover. The shape of a rabbit materialized and came into focus about 25 feet away, but there was a lot of brush between us.
A .177 caliber pellet is easily deflected by hitting anything in its path. The rabbit moved and gave me a better line of sight. I steadied the rifle and settled the crosshairs on the upper shoulder of the rabbit. A muffled puff of air was the only sound and I had one rabbit in the game bag.
I searched around the foundation of what had once been the main home on the property. Long ago it had fallen in on itself and I wondered about the people who had lived here. A rabbit bolted ahead of me and ran toward what must have been the well house.
I slowly moved that way and finally spotted the rabbit. It was nibbling on some remaining greenery, maybe 15 yards away. It did not seem concerned that both it and I were in plain sight of one another. A slight trigger squeeze and two rabbits were now destined for my table.
Another great place to hunt rabbits are Wildlife Management Areas. I was only a few steps away from the parking area when I found a rabbit highway through the underbrush. There were so many tracks here that I decided to just sit and wait. I found a suitable spot to conceal myself into the brush.
It was a warm sunny day and it didn’t take long. A pair of cottontails came down the trail toward me. At 15 feet I took the larger rabbit. Three rabbits were now in my game bag and that was good enough for the day.
One of the easiest ways I have found to prepare rabbits is to use the Shake & Bake mixes you find in the grocery store. They are made for chicken and fish, but these mixes work great for rabbits, too. I’ll have some baked rabbit in my next camp.
Rabbits are excellent quarry to go after and introduce young and new hunters to the sport of hunting. If we have some more snow before the end of the season, get your mentees out for an afternoon of fun. New snow cover is a big help with tracking and trailing rabbits. It is also a great learning tool for new hunters and shows them the habits and patterns of rabbits as they move about on their daily routines. I’d recommend a .410 shotgun to have the greatest chance for success.
Rabbits are often a plentiful small game species and an under-utilized game resource in Nebraska. Give rabbit hunting a try.