Rabbits on the Run

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

Invest in a pair of brush pants or chaps.

Boots should be lightweight and provide good ankle support. High tops will keep brambles from climbing under your cuff and up your shin.

Where to find 'em

You won't find rabbits in large expanses of forest or pasture. Instead, look in between, where brushy vegetation offers shelter adjacent to food. A narrow finger of forested land in an alfalfa field is a rabbit factory. Osage orange hedges that separate crop fields in west-central Missouri are good bets, too.

Stream corridors, however narrow, will harbor rabbits if they aren't heavily grazed and have some rose bushes or other low, shrubby growth. Ditches answer the same purpose in southeastern Missouri.

Hunters often drive past rabbit bonanzas without recognizing them. Railroad, power line and pipeline rights-of-way add up to thousands of acres of first-rate rabbit habitat. Abandoned farm houses, often the only places where sumac, blackberry and other brush are allowed to grow amid cropland, always hold a few bunnies.

Brushy edges of junkyards are cottontail gold mines. The same is true of areas where farmers retire worn out discs, seed drills and pickup trucks.

Most rabbit hunters look for brush piles. All are not created equal, however. A dome of cedar limbs so dense that it offers no access is little use to a cottontail. What you want is a pile with lots of openings and cavities inside.

Size is important, too. A brush pile five feet across is big enough to shelter two or three rabbits, and scaring them out takes only a well-placed kick. But a brush pile 20 feet across can harbor 10 bunnies without you ever seeing one.

Tactics

Hunting rabbits with hounds is wonderful, but most new hunters don't have this option. Anyway, freelancing for rabbits allows you to learn things about rabbit behavior you would never discover by watching cottontails with a pack of beagles on their heels.

  • Cottontails will swim creeks and hide beneath overhanging banks. They can disappear into a clump of grass scarcely larger than themselves.
  • In severe weather and late in the season, rabbits tend to sit tight, almost requiring the toe of a boot to flush them. But bunnies get edgy if predators linger in their proximity. Pause every 20 or 30 feet to look around, and a rabbit may panic and bolt, offering a shot.
  • If you know that the

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