Knowing when the best time to hunt rabbits are can be a bit tricky if you’re not experienced with finding them in the field. While the furry little guys sure seem to pop up everywhere when you don’t have a weapon, there are definitely some times more ideal than others to make sure that you maximize the amount of meat and fur you can bring home while in the field.
How to Find the Best Times to Hunt Rabbit
1.) Legal Hunting Season
Make sure that you know the legal hunting season for rabbits in your area. This varies greatly from state to state, for instance in Washington it’s perfectly legal to hunt them from September 1st to March 15th, while in California the season is open from July 1st to January 29th.
Poaching is punishable by huge offenses, so make sure that you know the legal hunting times for rabbits in your area. There are also some subtle nuances to this.
If you look at the links to the Fish and Game websites above you’ll notice that it’s illegal to shoot jackrabbit at all in Washington, while in California they’re perfectly legal to take year round.
Always be sure of the species you’re hunting in order to make sure that you stay within the bounds of the law as well. If you shoot a cottontail at a distance after mistaking it for a jackrabbit, after all, you’ve still broken the law and you can be subject to some serious fines if caught by a ranger or warden.
State laws are extremely different for rabbit seasons and this makes it an entirely different kind of hunting depending on which state you’re hunting in.
2.) The Best Seasons
Most hunters consider the prime season for hunting, in states where it’s allowed, to be in the winter. This is more because cottontails will stand out against the snow than for any other reason.
Others contend that the best time is in the fall after a couple of freezes have occurred. This mostly has to do with a certain stigma that rabbits often carry parasites and the freeze will kill them off. For the most part, this isn’t true, although you may want to let the bodies “cool off” for a bit after you shoot them in order to allow fleas to go find other prey.
For the most part, if you’re worried about parasites then you’ll want to hunt them in cooler weather. A simple pair of latex gloves will keep you protected if you’re truly concerned about it, but most hunters won’t find it to be much of an issue.
It should also be noted that snowshoe rabbits have white pelts in the winter which can be quite attractive and look different from the normal brown and black pelts you’ll find on most game animals. This can also make them attractive to hunt in the winter if your state allows it.
3.) The Best Time of Day
Anyone who’s spent a good amount of time in areas where there are rabbits knows that the little meat bags like to emerge whenever you don’t have a weapon. While hunting is most often a noble and skilled game of cat and mouse, hunting rabbits is almost like target shooting.
That said, you’ll want to pay attention to what time of day you venture out to find them in order to maximize your chances of bringing home your bag limit.
Rabbits are most active in the early morning and afternoon. These dawn and dusk hours are their primary feeding times and you’ll find the most action during these times. Get out a bit before sunset and find a likely location and you might be able to fill your bag before noon.
Of course, pretty much any time of day they can be found in most areas since they are primarily diurnal and are rather active animals. As long as the area is host to rabbits, then you’re likely to find some at some point.
These times of day also make for ideal scouting conditions if you’re new to hunting in an area. It’s always a good idea to know the terrain and animal behavior in an area and it can make for a nice hike or drive depending on how you do your scouting.
Look for areas with heavy activity and mark them on a map, your phone, or just make sure you can identify landmarks. You can always come back later with your gun or bow and take them since now you’ll know where they are.
Get out there early, or show up in the mid-afternoon and stay until dusk in order to increase your chances of adding some to your table and you’ll find the results quite pleasing for the most part.
4.) Weather Conditions
It might seem a bit counterintuitive, but those cold, damp days when you’d rather just stay in bed are actually the best times to get out the .22 and go rabbit hunting. So get up and get out there when the weather is mis
The key to utilizing this kind of weather condition to your advantage is the fact that rabbits will tend to “hunker down” when these conditions are present. This is because their fur isn’t particularly thick and it makes them cold. It also makes them less active, and they won’t flee quite as quickly while you’re approaching.
The ideal way to take advantage of this is to have properly scouted the area beforehand. You’ll want to find an area with dense cover with somewhere nearby where the sun is shining strongly. The rabbits will then occasionally emerge in order to warm up a bit before returning to shelter.
We’ve just outlined the conditions and times that’ll make for the best hunts for you. The best time to hunt rabbits depends on a large number of factors and even state’s laws can make it a unique experience. Don’t just rely on the best time, after all most of us have busy schedules, just make sure you get out there next season and bring home some rabbit for the table.
Questions? Comments? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you.