It appears the halcyon days of early rabbit season are essentially over.  Those lovely days with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s that saw rabbits sitting out in weed fields, in thin fencerows, light brush and curled over grass have turned into days with snow, bitter winds, and temperatures that hardly break freezing.  Weather like that sends comfort loving rabbits under heavy brushpiles, down woodchuck holes, and into thick brush and briers where they’re hard to jump.

Of course, dog hunters don’t care.  Those with agile little beagles can send them into the thickest brush to bounce out cottontails, or weaseling under huge brushpiles where their barking breaks the nerve of the toughest rabbits and sends them streaking forth.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t have dogs, so if we want a meal of fried rabbit it’s time to go to Plan B.

One segment of that plan, if you belong to the Tough Man Club, is to don heavy, brush bucking pants, coats, and gloves and dive into cover where they’re waiting, leaving a man or two outside to take the shots because you certainly aren’t going to get any.  You’ll need patience too, as well as stamina.  I once jumped on a big brushpile that I KNEW held bunnies for nearly five minutes before a rabbit raced out.  I missed him.

Another choice that will very often pay off is to plan your hunts for those few days when a warm front comes  through.  These happen all winter, and are choice times to hit the fields.  Rabbits, as most of us know, forage at night, heading out to feed on bark, bits of exposed clover, fallen apples,  corn cobs still holding a few kernels, and other tidbits.  If the night is “warm”, above freezing, some will elect to shun the crowded chuck holes and heavy cover and stay above ground or in lighter cover.  It’s a golden chance to bag a few, and I’ve done so many a time.

Look for them at these times in packed down cattails around a pond, in rolled over swale grass, around and under old farm machinery, in smaller brushpiles, and brier thickets.  Hunt these places hard, because late season cottontails are often hard to flush, and sometimes you’ll need to nearly step on them to push that grey flash into the open.

A final option, one I personally favor highly, is to wait until after a light snow fall to do some hunting.  Again, rabbits move at night and they’ll leave tracks wherever they go.  If you see tracks going into a small brushpile and none coming out, be ready to shoot.  No tracks?  You needn’t waste precious hunting time jumping on it.  Walk around those cattail swamps too, and look for tracks that might be in just one section.  He’ll be there.  And the same holds true for tracks in one small area of swale grass or brush.  Snow makes them easy pickings, a just reward for long hours spent previously when nothing much was happening.

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