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Plan a Cottontail Hunting Trip

The cottontail rabbit is the most popular small game animal in Wyoming and can be a great first hunt for kids. 

Rabbit hunting does not require a lot of specialized equipment, it is active and engaging for kids, and teaches skills that will be used when pursuing larger and more adventurous quarry. 

Cottontails are found throughout the state and occupy a variety of habitats including shrub communities, farmlands, and urban and suburban areas in low to mid elevations. Favorite hangouts include rocky outcroppings, dilapidated buildings, and stream banks that provide good burrowing sites where they can bask in the sun and seek protection from predators.

Rabbits can be very abundant, but population numbers typically swing widely, conforming to seven-year cycles. So do not be surprised if your newly prized rabbit hunting spot is devoid of rabbits the following year. But don’t worry, they will be back.

Cottontail tracks in the snow

When searching for a place to hunt rabbits, look for tracks, and droppings. Snow makes these signs particularly easy to see. Keep in mind that cottontails can leave a lot of tracks in a small area. What may looks like dozens of rabbits might be just a few.

Rabbit droppings in the snow

When the ground is bare, look for trail networks and tunnels through brush and grass. Feeding rabbits leave twigs and stems cut at sharp angles. Close examination of the plants can reveal rabbit teeth marks.

Nearly all Wyoming predators love to eat rabbits. This causes cottontails to be shy, primarily nocturnal, and to avoid open areas during daylight hours. As a result, morning and evenings are the best times to hunt rabbits. Try to hunt on windless or low winds day because high winds affects rabbit’s ability to hear causing them to hide. On really cold mornings (single digits or below), rabbits are often found basking in the sun by their burrows.

When hunting rabbits, look for dark, compact, ball-shaped objects on the ground by bushes and rock ledges. The shape of their ears and black eyes are distinctive and often give them a way. Move at a snail’s pace, using your eyes more than your feet. This will allow you to carefully scan every possible rabbit hiding spot. Additionally, rabbits that you do not see will often become nervous and bolt.  Rabbits have a terrible habit (for rabbits, not for hunters) of running 10 to 15 yards and then stopping and looking back to assess the situation. This behavior often provides more than enough time for a well-placed shot.

A .22 long rifle, scoped or un-scoped, or an open choked shotgun with number 6 shot work great for cottontails. Kids that want more challenge can try archery equipment.

Wyoming’s cottontail rabbit hunting season is long, September 1 to March 31. The daily bag limit is 10 and the possession limit is 20. Adults and children older than 14 will need a small game license or small game/game bird license and a conservation stamp to hunt cottontail rabbits. Hunters using daily small game or small game/game bird licenses are exempt from the conservation stamp requirement. Resident hunters under 14 may take their own limit of rabbits without a small game license or conservation stamp. Nonresident hunters under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult who possess a valid small game/game bird license and a conservation stamp. Daily bag and possession limits for nonresident hunters under 14 are applied against their accompanying adult’s limits. If nonresident hunters under 14 wish to shoot their own limit of rabbits, they must purchase a small game/game bird hunting license and a conservation stamp. All hunters, regardless of age, are required to have a valid hunter safety card or to be a participant in the Department’s Hunter Mentor Program.

Rabbits have delicious white meet that can be a welcome change to the red meat of Wyoming big game animals. There are many rabbit recipes out there, but you can swap rabbit in many recipes designed for chicken.

For rabbits, headshots are preferred. Rabbits have long and complex digestive systems to handle their high fiber diets that includes plants that are unpalatable to other herbivores. Contents from a pierced gut can quickly soil meat. Hunters also should take similar precautions when cleaning rabbits not to pierce the gut. Any tainted meat from bloodshot or gut contents should be removed. It is also good practice to soak cleaned rabbits in salt water for several hours before they are frozen or cooked to remove blood.           
While some consider rabbit hunting a kids sport, it can be a lot of fun for adults, especially hunters anxious to get out during the off-season, making it a great family activity. There is nothing not to like about rabbit hunting, block off a weekend and give it a try.     
 
Where to go:
BLM and US Forest Service lands in sagebrush and foothills habitats
Sweetwater County Walk In Area 2
Carbon County Walk In Area 11
Natrona County Walk In Area 11
Park County Walk In Area-9
Lincoln County Walk In Area 6
Johnson County Walk In Area 11

Tactics:  Look for rock outcrops, brush piles, or riverbanks that provide suitable habitat for burrows. In morning or evening walk very slowly through these areas keeping your eyes open for rabbits hiding under bushes or by rocks. A .22 long rifle or shotgun with number 6 shot work well. Archery equipment can also be used.  

- WGFD -


 
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