When many people think of rabbit hunting, they think of using beagles. Sure, beagles are bred for hunting rabbits, and they can make the experience enjoyable and more successful. But the aid of dogs isn’t necessary to enjoy a great day in the field pursuing one of our most sought-after small game animals.
My first introduction to hunting was hunting rabbits with my father. We never had a dog so I cut my teeth “stomping the brush.”
We would simply slowly walk through thickets, overgrown pastures, or woodlots all the while rustling any brush piles or tufts of grass we would come across by gently kicking them. Often times when we did this, a rabbit would come busting out the other side of it.
Hunting rabbits in this manner actually can be quite productive, but there are some things to keep in mind.
You will find that when you kick a brush pile which is holding a rabbit, the rabbit will explode out of it at a fast run. Using a shotgun with an open choke (such as an improved cylinder) is best in situations such as this. The open choke is ideal for close shots at fast-moving game as it spreads the shot pattern in a larger pattern.
When walking through overgrown pastures or the like, I like moving slowly and deliberately, even stopping now and then.
First off, a slow walk through the field will hopefully reduce the number of rabbits that flush too far in front of you for a shot. Secondly, by stopping every so often, I have found that this tactic often can cause tight-holding bunnies to get nervous and break from nearby cover, offering a decent shot. Another advantage of working an area slowly is that rather than having shots at rabbits as they come blasting out of the cover, a more deliberate approach increases the odds that a rabbit will break from the cover more slowly – offering a higher percentage shot. By employing this method – of almost still-hunting really – I know of some rabbit hunters who consistently take rabbits with .22 caliber rifles or small caliber muzzleloaders as the rabbits simply may come loping out when not startled.
There is no bad time to hunt rabbits really, but I especially enjoy hunting them with a fresh skiff of snow on the ground.
This not only makes it easier to spot rabbits as they dart in between patches of cover, but it also makes it easier to locate where they may be holed up. If you see fresh tracks heading into a brush pile and not coming out, then you know that a rabbit is calling it home
I prefer a short, lightweight shotgun when gunning for rabbits in thick cover. A longer gun tends to hang up in the brush when you try to swing it in the direction of a running rabbit for a shot.
Also, slings tend to just get in the way when hunting in thick cover. I learned this the hard way, and hence, no longer use slings on my gun when bunny hunting. Shots usually tend to be close in this type of hunting as well, meaning the use of improved cylinder choke tubes is a good idea. No need for tight patterns here as many times you may nearly step on the bunny before it flees so using a choke tube that will produce a large pattern is often a good call.
Wearing brush pants and a brush coat are a must when beating the brush for rabbits. If you think blue jeans and a flannel or fleece hunting jacket will work – they won’t.
Clothing made specifically for the brush, such as Carhartt, should be worn unless you want to end up bleeding and buying new clothes to replace the ones you ripped to shreds.
If you want to feel the weight on your shoulders of a limit of bunnies in your game vest, you don’t have to have a dog - You just may have to put in a little more legwork to get it done.
One plus of not using dogs; when it’s time to go home just hop in the truck and go; no rounding up dogs and getting them in the dog box.
And you have until the end of the month to do it. After that, the season closes until November.