An easy to follow guide that lays out how rabbit hunting works. This beginner's guide will take you through the basics.
Hunting can be a tough hobby to start.
Consider turkey hunting. If you didn’t grow up hunting, if you don’t know anyone who turkey hunts, it can be difficult to find a place to hunt, how to set up a location, and how to properly call turkeys. (How much gobbling is too much?) Plus, a lot of equipment is required, including decoys, calls, proper chokes, and warm (often pricy) camouflage clothing.
Rabbit hunting, however, presents excellent sport for the new hunter. You don’t need much to get started. Rabbit hunting requires little gear outside of good boots, a quality gun, and proper attire (but not a whole wardrobe). It’s a versatile, exciting, and rewarding sport.
It’s certainly challenging, but you can increase your chances of success by having the right approach before you start.
A Beginner’s Guide to Rabbit Hunting
Who Should Consider Rabbit Hunting?
Honestly, rabbit hunting is a wonderful sport that can be enjoyed by any hunter. In general, parents who want to introduce their children to hunting, as well as adults who want to start a new outdoor hobby, should consider rabbit hunting.
The benefits for children are obvious, as rabbit requires a smaller shotgun or rifle. It’s also an active, moving hunt, so there is less chance for boredom. (Although fatigue may be a factor.) However, safety is a major concern for rabbit hunting, so keep this in mind when introducing a child to the hunt.
While it’s not an elite trophy hunt, life-long hunters will likely enjoy rabbit hunting as well. Before deer, turkey, elk, and waterfowl season (or after), hunters can enjoy an active day of rabbit hunting, a sport that rewards hard work with a plentiful harvest.
When is Rabbit Season?
One of the top benefits of rabbit hunting is that hunters in most states will enjoy a long season. Unlike some hunts, where purchasing a permit gives you access to a weekend of hunting, a basic hunting license in most states will provide access to four or five months worth of “rabbiting,” usually starting in fall and lasting well past New Year’s.
In Tennessee, for example, the season lasts from early November through the end of February. Iowa’s season lasts from early September through January. In New Hampshire, the season lasts from late September into March. Texas offers open season on rabbit and hare all year long!
The specific dates will vary, but if you start rabbit hunting, you’ll likely have the chance to work the sport for multiple weekends. For more information on when the season is open in your area, we found this website to be a good resource.
Choosing a Gun & Ammo for Rabbit Hunting
There are two types of weapons you can use for rabbit hunting: a shotgun or a rimfire rifle. In general, most rabbit hunting is done with a shotgun, stalking rabbits and trying to flush them from hiding, much in the same way you would flush a pheasant or quail. With a rimfire rifle, the sport becomes more of a sit and wait sport, similar to deer hunting from a fixed position.
For shotguns (which is the most common rabbit weapon), a 20 gauge or a .410 are usually preferred. Rabbits are a light, nimble animal, so you don’t need the heavier power and high pellet count of a 12-gauge. That’s not to say that your well-worn 12-gauge can’t be used, but it may be too powerful, destroying the meat and pelt.
Once you have a shotgun selected, you’ll need to choose the right ammo. For rabbit hunting, this means choosing the right pellet size. #5, #6, and #7 shot are usually the best. Pellets in this range deliver good power to the target without significantly destroying the animal.
For rabbit, many prefer non-toxic steel shot. There are excellent hunting products, usually made and marketed for waterfowl, that make excellent rabbit hunting loads. A #6 20-gauge shell with steel shot, for example, is a quality rabbit load.
When is a Good Time of Day for Rabbit Hunting?
Selecting the right time of day to stalk the fields and woods can be critical. While rabbit can be hunted any time there is daylight, most will be active during the early morning and late evenings, so if you concentrate your efforts during these times you are likely to have the most success.
Weather can play a role in rabbit hunting as well. Some rabbit hunters prefer hunting on cold, cloudy, and foggy days, even days with a little drizzle. However, if you only have one day to hunt, going out on a bright sunny day is certainly worth the effort.
How to Find Rabbits
Rabbits present a great opportunity for hunters because they are found in a variety of habitats. Deep woods, grassy prairies, fence lines between fields, damp areas near lakes; all have the potential to harbor a few rabbits. But no matter where you are hunting, targeting the right spots is crucial. It’s best to focus on bushy areas where rabbits can hide, places that offer cover while providing nearby access to food.
If you are hunting in an open grassy area, look for patches of particularly thick and long grass. If hunting in a wooded area, shrubbery and dense vegetation is often the place to find rabbits.
And like most hunts, the more you can get away from common paths and high-traffic areas, the better your odds of success. Take your gun into areas where other hunters may not travel (because it’s too far or too hard to reach) and you’ll have better chances of bagging a few rabbits.
Look for these dense patches of grass or weed growth and make some noise when nearby. Shaking the vegetation or stomping through may flush your rabbit.
Make Some Noise
When hunting rabbits with a shotgun, the general idea is to flush them from their hiding spots so they are out in the open, allowing you to place a well-aimed shot. This means you may have to scare them from their holes by making a little noise.
We’re not saying you should go stomping and shouting through the woods. Instead, stalk slowly through the woods and fields and when you reach a potential hiding spot, give the ground solid stomp; shake a branch, or sift your leg through the tall grass. This may scare the rabbit into darting off, giving you the chance at a safe shot.