Rabbits on the Run

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

Cottontails inhabit every county in Missouri. They can be pursued without years of experience or a daunting investment in equipment. They are challenging, but not so elusive that they discourage first-time hunters. Perhaps best of all, cottontail meat is lean and savory. Reminiscing about the hunt is best done over a steaming plate of pan-fried rabbit.

If hunting had an affirmative action program, the cottontail rabbit would be its celebrity spokesperson. No other game animal is better suited to encourage novices from every walk of life to try their hands at hunting.

Following are some tips for aspiring rabbit hunters.


The only indispensable piece of rabbit hunting equipment is a shotgun. This is a firearm that throws an ounce or so of small pellets at the target, in contrast to a rifle, which fires a single projectile.

The least expensive type of shotgun is the single-shot. These sell for $75 to $150 new. If you make the rounds of gun and pawn shops you may find a good used single shot for $50.

With a single-shot, you have just one chance to bag your game before reloading. This encourages good shooting skills.

The most popular rabbit gun is the pump-action. Pump guns are modestly priced (some under $200 new) and hold three shells. You reload after each shot by pulling the gun's front stock back to eject the spent shell and then pushing it forward to chamber a new shell.

Semiautomatic shotguns reload themselves. All the shooter has to do is pull the trigger three times. Good autoloaders start at a little over $500 new.

Double-barreled shotguns are the ultimate rabbit guns. They come in traditional side-by-side or over-and-under varieties. Low-end doubles start at around $600. They pack one less shell than autoloaders and pumps, but a third shot seldom amounts to more than a hasty farewell salute to a departing bunny anyway.

Shotguns come in sizes. The two most common are 12 and 20 gauge, with 12 gauge being the biggest. A 20-gauge is more than adequate for rabbit hunting and doesn't kick as hard as a 12-gauge.

Finding shells for shotguns of other gauges can be troublesome, so I don't recommend them for beginning hunters.

Shotguns also come with barrels of different lengths. Most are 26 or 28 inches long. A short barrel makes a gun quick in hand and maneuverable in tight quarters, like the thickets that

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