HUNTINGsmart! USA Knowledge Base
Module 10 - WILDLIFE
Rabbit hunting is really popular in North America. It’s simplistic and can be a really great first hunt to take a young hunter on.
Cottontails are the most commonly hunted rabbit in the U.S. They have long ears, black feet and small tails with a white underside. The fur on their body is brownish-grey in color and can be a reddish-brown color around their neck. They reach full maturity at 6 months of age and weigh in between 2-4 lbs. Unlike other species, female rabbits can actually be larger than the males. If you shoot one and aren’t sure what you’ve got, just check for testicles—the fellas will have a visible set.
Serious nibblers, rabbits will eat just about anything. They’ll munch on bark, nearly any kind of plant, leaves, twigs, flowers, garden crops, seeds, etc. They tend to forage in the evening, through the night and at dawn. Think about the eating patterns of rabbits when you’re planning your hunt.
Rabbits are located all over North America. In the U.S., they range from the east coast to the Great Plains. They choose habitats that are on the edges of open plains and fields, or even on the edges of landscaped lawns, as long as there is sufficient cover and food in that area. If you’re not sure where to get started looking for rabbits, keep in mind that you would be much more likely to find a rabbit in a farmer’s field than in a heavily forested area. Additionally, rabbits spend most of their lives in a range of less than 10 acres—use their preference of consistency to your advantage when you’re hunting. They live in natural holes they can find in the ground, including the abandoned home of other burrowing animals, but they’ll also nest in hollowed out areas that are covered with vegetation.
Finding rabbit scat can help you find your rabbit. Look for pellet piles that range from about 3 1/6 – 7 1/6 inches in diameter. These little pellets will be dark, hard and fibrous.
Male rabbits fight each other during breeding season (which is basically all the time for rabbits) and you can spot them dancing around and kicking. Look for this testosterone-fueled flurry of activity when you’re on the hunt.
Firearms, Ammo & Your Target
You’ll need excellent marksmanship and stalking skills for rabbit hunting. Although hunters will use a variety of firearms and bows, we recommend using a shotgun to kill the rabbit quickly and efficiently. A spray of pellets is your best bet for making contact with these quick, jumpy game animals. Just remember to pick out those pellets BEFORE you make a meal of the meat. A 20-gauge shotgun will do the trick and for your ammo, the shot size will generally range from 6-7 ½.
Aim for the heart and lungs. With an accurate shot and this small of a target, you’ll likely contact the entire body. It’s not difficult to bring down a rabbit, but your shot must be accurate.