Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Mid-winter is a great time to hunt rabbits
– 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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
Region and the mountains of eastern Kentucky hold the highest rabbit densities,
but practically any wildlife management area in Kentucky offers decent rabbit
“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.”
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
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.
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.