Rabbits on the Run

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

rabbits favor. A 26-inch barrel is best for rabbits.

Every shotgun barrel has a choke, a narrowed section near the muzzle. Choke controls how quickly pellets spread out after leaving the barrel.

The goal is to have the pellets spread out enough to cover a 2- or 3-foot circle at the distance where most shots occur, making it easy to cover a moving target. At the same time, the pellets should be close enough together that several strike the rabbit, producing a quick, clean kill, but not so close together that too many pellets ruin the meat.

Common chokes in hunting guns, in order of increasing tightness, are cylinder, improved cylinder, modified cylinder and full. A cylinder choke is too open for most rabbit hunting situations, and a full choke too tight.

That leaves improved cylinder and modified cylinder. In dense cover, where you seldom get a clear shot at a rabbit more than 20 yards away, improved cylinder is a good choice. More open cover, where you shoot rabbits as far away as 35 yards, calls for a modified choke.

No matter what choke you use, you will encounter some shots that are too close or too far. That's when a double-barreled gun comes into its own. Each barrel can have a different choke, allowing the hunter to select the best choke for each shot . . . assuming you are capable of such rational thought while drawing a bead on a zigzagging cottontail.

Many single-barreled shotguns sold today have interchangeable chokes that screw in and out of the muzzle, allowing you to adjust for different cover.

Rabbits are easy to kill. Sometimes a bunny tumbles after a ridiculously poor shot, leaving you to wonder if it died of gunshot or surprise. Use the lightest load available. No. 8 shot is adequate for most situations, though you might want to carry some shells loaded with slightly larger No. 6 pellets for long shots.


The most important garments for rabbit hunters are a hunter orange vest and matching cap. Rabbit hunting requires split-second shooting decisions. You want your hunting companions to be able to see you.

Remember the story of Brer Rabbit and the briar patch? Rabbits really do love places studded with thorns that chew the hides off their enemies. If you hope to meet Brer Rabbit on his turf, you'll need more protection than denim jeans afford.

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