Mid-winter Great Time for 'Wabbits'

Mid-winter Great Time for 'Wabbits'
Tim Slone, director of the information and education division of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, admires a rabbit he harvested last winter in Henry County. Winter's cold and snow make great conditions for rabbit hunting.

Outdoors enthusiasts of a certain age well remember their grandfathers extolling the virtues of fried rabbit, declaring it superior to filet mignon and better than any restaurant meal you could buy.

Many hunters scratch around for something to get them afield during that dull period from Christmas until the first warm winds of spring. Grab a shotgun, don some brush pants, a hunter orange vest and walk an overgrown fencerow to jump a rabbit.

“The rabbit population is still really good, we have a lot of rabbits in Kentucky,” said Ben Robinson, small game biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Hunters should find good winter rabbit hunting across the state.”

Mail carriers in rural areas help Kentucky Fish and Wildlife by recording rabbits they see while driving their daily mail routes. “Last year, we had our highest mail carrier survey since the early 1980s,” Robinson said. “They were down a little this year, but there are still plenty of rabbits.”

Late December and January are great rabbit hunting times. Robinson hunted rabbits this past week and did well, harvesting several. “Even if you don’t have a dog, you can still hunt rabbits successfully,” he said. “Kick around some cover and you can jump some rabbits up.”

Robinson and his hunting group had their best success in woody cover. “This cover grows more important for rabbits as the weather gets colder,” he explained. “We found our rabbits in blackberry thickets, in small creek drainages, along fencerows and in wood lots near fields.”

He also said rabbit hunters without dogs must be quick on their feet. “You don’t have the set-up time that you do with dogs,” Robinson said. “When you get near the cover, be prepared for a quick shot.”

Don’t give up on a rabbit if it bolts from thick cover and you don’t get a shot. “That rabbit is likely close by,” Robinson said. “Hunt the next decent cover you come across. A rabbit is not going to run farther than it has to. They hide quickly.”

Cedar thickets make excellent rabbit hunting spots on cold, windy days or when snow blankets the ground. Thick stands of young cedar offer a windbreak as well as hiding cover. Make sure to stop and wait periodically when hunting cedar thickets. “Being still makes them nervous and they will flush,” Robinson said.

The Bluegrass Region and the mountains of eastern Kentucky hold the highest rabbit densities, but practically any wildlife management area in Kentucky offers decent rabbit hunting.

“Some of our smaller off-the-beaten-path wildlife management areas don’t get as much hunting pressure and have good populations of rabbits,” Robinson said, “especially those outside the Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky corridor.”

Shotshells loaded with No. 6 shot make an excellent rabbit load. Most rabbit shots are fairly close when hunting without dogs in winter. An improved cylinder choke works fine. When hunting with dogs, a modified choke is a good choice. Don’t over-choke your shotgun and damage the tasty rabbit meat.

“You will be more successful hunting with dogs,” Robinson said. “A lot of dog owners are looking for someone to hunt with them. It is worth a try to ask to join them. If you have some access to land to hunt and they have dogs, you can make a partnership.”

Rabbit season closes Jan. 31 in the Eastern Zone. The season closes Feb. 10 in all counties west of and including Hancock, Ohio, Butler, Warren and Allen. The daily bag limit is four rabbits.

Robinson asks rabbit hunters to participate in the Hunter Cooperator Survey and fill out a hunting log. This log provides valuable population information to biologists so they can make more informed decisions regarding rabbit management. Participants receive a small gift and a copy of the annual survey. Hunters can find printable hunting logs on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov. Click on the “Hunt” tab, then the “Game Species” tab.

Editor’s Note: Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.

Recommended for You

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

Other Hunting

New Gear: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

G&F Staff

Perfect for competition or a day at the range.

Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lure Lock Tackle Cases: No-Spill, No-Scent

Glenn Walker talks us through the soy-based technology that makes Lure Lock cases spill-proof and scent-proof. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


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...


Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

OutdoorChannel.com Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

See More Stories

More Stories


Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 30, 2018

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos...


3 Coyote Guns

Brad Fitzpatrick - September 28, 2017

A rimfire, old standard and new import top our list of favorite rifles for coyote hunting...


Call Our Complex Coyotes

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 13, 2017

We Coyote hunters spend a lot of time ringing the dog's dinner bell when we call. But we are

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


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