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Do you want to continue hunting during the winter? Would you like to learn how to hunt cottontail rabbits? Cottontail rabbits are fast, elusive, and difficult to find. With so many predators, they learn to protect themselves from the air as well as the ground. In this article, we discuss how to hunt cottontail rabbits to help you take more rabbits home during the winter.
How To Hunt Cottontail Rabbits
Cottontail rabbits live in burrows. When the weather is cold, they remain in their burrows. When it is warm, they will come out. When you scout an area for signs of cottontails, look for overgrown homesteads, rock piles, brush piles, fence rows, hollow logs, thorn tangles, briars, unused barns, fallen trees, and anything that can provide aerial protection from predators.
Additionally, look for tracks, trails, and droppings. The droppings are small, round, and about the size of blueberries. If you spot tracks, a maze-like network of trails, tunnels, and droppings close by brush piles and heavy cover, you just might be close to cottontail territory. Cottontails are most active early in the morning and late in the evening. Therefore, when learning how to hunt cottontail rabbits, the best time for scouting cottontails is during those hours.
When it snows, that is a good time to get out and look for signs of cottontail rabbits. Look for tracks and droppings. Study the tracks to see where they are leading. If they disappear in thick cover, then cottontails are most likely under the thick cover.
Additionally, it is easier to spot them after a snowfall thanks to the snow-white background. The days after a snowfall are the best days to go looking for cottontails as they will come out to benefit from the warmth of the sunny sides of trees and rocks. When learning how to hunt cottontail rabbits, check the backroads after a snowstorm to look for tracks of animals like cottontail rabbits.
3. Eating Signs
Cottontails eat herbaceous plants and the bark of many trees in the winter. Cottontail rabbits will chew twigs and stem at sharp angles. If you look closely at the plants, they will have teeth marks. Cottontail rabbits eat the bark of trees until they are without any bark for a couple of feet.
They also eat clover, alfalfa, and berries. Locate bushes with these and you might find cottontails nearby. When learning how to hunt cottontail rabbits, be attentive to the plants and check for signs of chewing.
4. Rabbits Behavior
Don’t give up when a rabbit darts off at top speed zig-zagging as it goes. Watch it and be ready to shoot a quick burst. They tend to run and put some distance between you and them and then stop near cover to assess if the danger is still present.
When they stop to assess the danger, that is the opportunity you have been waiting for. Take quick shots to take it down. You will learn this as you spend more time figuring out how to hunt cottontail rabbits.
5. Black Eyes & Pinkish Ears
When you are learning how to hunt cottontail rabbits, be on the lookout for pinkish-colored ears and black eyes. If you start looking for eyes and ears, you will notice how many cottontails you pick out beneath trees and rock ledges. Also, look out for dark, compact, and ball-shaped objects. When searching for these signs, be ready to take a shot once you spot them.
6. Jumping Cottontails
In areas with thick tall grass, cattails, downed trees, and thick vegetation, you can walk slowly in these areas and then stop for about a minute. This activity unnerves cottontails. Repeat this a number of times and rabbits will eventually flush by themselves. If you have a hunting partner, one can “kick up” the rabbits while the other is waiting with a rifle ready to take a shot.
7. Hunting With Dogs
You can also use dogs to hunt cottontails. Beagle is the dog breed that is often used to hunt cottontails. The dogs will be on the trail of the cottontail rabbits once they pick up their scent. Some well-trained dogs will go after the rabbits even in very thick covers and not just remain on the edges of the cover. This will get the rabbits out of their cover and help you take them down once they are exposed.
8. Jump & Circle Maneuver
Rabbits don’t go very far from their home area when they are flushed by dogs or hunters. They will dart off and put some distance between them and the pursuers. It will then stop and wait. if the dogs or humans get close to it once again, it will move again to put distance between it and the dogs. This entire escape run will circle them back to their home area. The circle is usually within 100 yards.
However, you will experience situations in which the rabbits will go far off before circling back to their comfort area. This change in their behavior is the result of hunting pressure from many hunters.
9. Small Game Weapon
A .22 rifle, the .17, or a 20-gauge shotgun will do the work when hunting cottontail rabbits. You don’t want to completely destroy the rabbit especially if you intend to eat it. Crossbows as well as bows and arrows can also be used to hunt cottontails. If you will be stalking cottontails and shooting them before they move, then a rifle is the best choice. However, if you will be flushing the rabbits causing them to run away, then a shotgun is the best option.
10. Wind Direction
When hunting cottontails, you want to work downwind of them. You don’t want the wind to take your scent to the rabbits. Once they pick up your scent, they will dart off. Hunt with the wind in your face as it will prevent your scent from reaching the rabbits and also drown the noise you make as you approach them. Cottontail rabbits have very good hearing ability and that is why you should move slowly and quietly.
11. Hunter’s Orange
For safety reasons, always wear hunter orange as it makes it easier for other hunters nearby to see you. Additionally, the orange color won’t scare off cottontails.
12. Talk To Farmers
Find time to talk to farmers nearby the areas you hunt for cottontails. They will know where cottontail rabbits seek cover. Most farmers will be forthcoming with information as the rabbits are a nuisance to their crops. If your chat with the farmers goes well, you could also seek their permission to hunt cottontails on their farms. If you want to hunt snowshoe hares, you can read how to hunt snowshoe hares.
The Bottom Line
How to hunt cottontail rabbits is not as difficult as it seems. Hunting cottontail rabbits is challenging and exciting. Cottontails are difficult to locate as they seek protection in thick cover from the ground and aerial predators. By good scouting, understanding rabbit behavior, and hunting strategies you can be successful in hunting cottontail rabbits.
In this article, we discussed how to hunt cottontail rabbits. If you want to get the best rabbit hunting tips, then click this link. You can also read how to hunt snowshoe hares, how to hunt jackrabbits, and how to hunt javelinas.