How to Find Rabbits When Rabbits Seem Rare

How to Find Rabbits When Rabbits Seem Rare

Whether hunting with dogs or without, today’s rabbit hunter often needs to frequent areas where dense, remote cover provides cottontails the best chance of survival. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

During recent decades, rabbit hunting has changed considerably from the cornucopia days seen by our fathers and grandfathers.

Bag limits were practically nonexistent until the 1960s, and during “the good ol’ days” grandpappy’s day of hunting was limited only by the money he had to spend on shotgun shells or by what he could carry in his game bag. Cottontails were plentiful then, but so were fencerows, fallow fields, brush piles and other features of prime rabbit cover.

Much of that habitat is gone now, tilled or cleaned up by farmers trying to make ends meet or lost to urban sprawl. Cottontails are left with fewer fencerows in which to hide from predators, fewer plants on which to browse and fewer grass clumps in which to catch some sun.

But, even though habitat loss has caused cottontails populations to decline from the bountiful levels of a few decades ago, rabbits still thrive in good numbers across their range. You might conclude otherwise after several meatless days afield, but cottontails are out there—just not where you can scare them up so easily.


“Rabbits”
In years past, cottontails were so abundant, hunters often avoided hunting in places like this nearly impenetrable honeysuckle thicket. Today, however, these are the very spots where rabbits usually hide. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

Today, cottontails are more likely to hide out during daylight hours in dense, tight cover, leaving it to feed only after dark. They will locate secure cover spots that may be as much as half a mile from where they are feeding, visit the food at night and are back in the tight cover and hiding before dawn. So, visiting cover that’s remote from obvious hotspots often is a wise decision today. Plan to search longer and walk farther to find the thickets, brush piles and brambles where cottontails live.


Ten years ago, I might have taken my hunting buddies to a fallow farm field when searching for white-tailed sprinters. Killing limits of rabbits was a cinch, and we rarely bothered to contend with thorn-choked ditches and brush piles.


Now I’d rank such a field near the bottom of my list. Cover that rabbits used to prefer—what there is left of it—doesn’t suit them anymore. Instead of sitting in light cover, they head for the heaviest.

“Rabbits3”
21st-century rabbit hunters often walk farther and have to hunt harder to find their quarry. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

Now I’ll pick a big brush pile, a patch of honeysuckle or the toughest briar-covered hillside I can find as the place to hunt. Rabbits have changed their habits. They’re much more likely to live in the thickest cover available.

It pays to keep an eye out for those places other hunters tend to overlook. It may be a mile from the nearest road, and you may have to walk across open muddy fields to get to it, but those are some of the best rabbit hunting spots you can find.


“Rabbits4”
Befriending a farmer can help the hunter find better places in which to chase cottontails. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

For example, on one of my most successful days of rabbit hunting in recent years, my friends and I killed several dozen cottontails we flushed in a yard of old farm equipment that had overgrown with grass. Abandoned homesteads, old wood lots and fallen trees, especially those where the trunk is still rooted providing food for browsing rabbits, are also good places to look.

When there is a blanket of snow, look for rabbit tracks that lead to good cover and show no sign of exit. Then hunt the cover thoroughly.

Though it seems contrary to good sense, cold miserable days often provide the best gunning. Rabbit fur has poor insulating qualities, so rabbits are forced to take shelter from the weather, making them easier to find and less likely to flush wildly.


To find bad-weather bunnies, think like a rabbit. Where would you go to escape the cold if all you had to wear was a light jacket? Hunt places that are sheltered from wind and open to warm rays of sunshine, then move to other locales offering protection from adverse conditions.

“Rabbits5”
Today’s rabbits seem to prefer the thickest cover available, making them more difficult to find than their counterparts in years past. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

Deep gullies, for example, provide shelter from wind and cold and are worthy of your inspection. Hunt them with the wind in your face if possible. If a breeze is hitting your back, the rabbit’s keen sense of hearing will often detect you before you’re in range. By walking into the wind, however, you can approach within shooting range of most cottontails before they hear you.

Instead of hunting all day in one large swath of brushy territory, you may need to try “leapfrogging,” where hunters cover one brush patch or overgrown fencerow in an hour or so, then drive on to another rabbit hideout. By doing this throughout the day, hunting first one spot then another, chances are good you’ll locate more rabbits.

It’s also a good idea to take time to befriend farmers and ask for their assistance in finding cottontail concentrations. Because they work their land daily and see rabbits regularly, they know where huntable populations are likely to be. Most are eager to keep cottontails thinned out so they don’t cause crop damage.

“Rabbits6”
Cold wintry days can actually be the best for hunting because it’s easier to determine where rabbits will be as they seek warmth. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

One you’ve done so, remember these things. Ask permission before hunting, every time you visit. Follow all rules the landowner asks you to abide by, like passing up shots at the coveys of quail he’s nurturing. Leave everything just as you found it, and always take time to thank the farmer personally. Offer to share your game, and follow up with a thank-you note and a token of your appreciation.

Make these easy-to-follow guidelines part of all your farm visits, and you’ll always have prime rabbit lands on which to hunt.

Recommended for You

Brush-style bowfishing arrow rest and kits designed for simplicity and reliability. Bows

New TRUGLO Bowfishing EZ•Rest

May 23, 2019

Brush-style bowfishing arrow rest and kits designed for simplicity and reliability.

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think? Bass

MLF Pros: What's With the Moon?

G&F Online Staff

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think?

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of defense is insect repellent with DEET to keep chiggers at bay. But when you do get a few chigger bites, use Chigarid to treat them. Hunting How-To

How to Treat Chigger Bites

Lynn Burkhead

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

 Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

See More Stories

More Small Game

From early spring right through the end of winter, Mother Nature plays her best hand, as hunters bet on when and where the ducks and geese will fly this season in the Hoosier State. Small Game

Indiana Waterfowl Hunting Forecast 2018

Jerry Pabst - November 20, 2018

From early spring right through the end of winter, Mother Nature plays her best hand, as...

Squirrels, rabbits, doves and quail are somewhat underappreciated game options. And October is a great time for all of them.  Small Game

2018 Texas Small Game Roundup

Robert Sloan - November 20, 2018

Squirrels, rabbits, doves and quail are somewhat underappreciated game options. And October is...

Kentucky offers many hunting opportunities, and with the cooler weather comes the desire to get out and pursue game.  Small Game

Kentucky's Fall Hunting Roundup 2018

Ken McBroom - November 26, 2018

Kentucky offers many hunting opportunities, and with the cooler weather comes the desire to...

See More Small Game

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.