Ahead of the game is key to rabbit hunt

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2011 - 6:51 AM

Knowing the different species of hares and rabbits is key to a successful hunt.

hide

A group of archers walked a woodland trail after hunting snowshoe hares. In Minnesota, the hunting season for rabbits and hares continues through Feb. 28.

Photo: Bill Marchel, Special to the Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

BRAINERD, MINN. - It's no secret ice fishing can be slow during February. Walleyes have become somewhat tight-lipped, and the best panfish action usually arrives with warm (relatively) March winds.

So, maybe it's time to switch gears.

Blow off the dust from that shotgun, rifle or bow. There are three species of hares and rabbits residing in Minnesota, and chances are at least one species lives near you.

Snowshoe hare

Snowshoe hares are my favorite species to hunt. Good hunting can usually be found on public land. Often the same cover I stomped for ruffed grouse in October will also support a population of snowshoe hares. Unlike cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares do not go underground, so no matter how bad the weather, a hunter or two tromping good cover can usually roust a snowshoe.

Snowshoe hares travel mostly unseen through the frigid northern forests they call home, their cryptic winter coats of white providing them with near perfect camouflage against the snow. An abundance of hair grows from their outsized feet, allowing the hares to travel nearly effortlessly over deep snow.

My friends and I prefer to hunt the big-footed hares with archery tackle. Our technique of hunting snowshoes employs three or four hunters to make short drives. Usually two hunters attempt to push the hares while the others take stands. We execute short, circular drives of 200 yards or less using fields, roads or other openings on at least one or two sides to act as barriers. Snowshoe hares are reluctant to cross any opening and are thus funneled past the waiting standers.

Snowshoe hares use a maze of runways as they travel in the snow. These paths connect feeding and loafing areas -- an uprooted tree here, a brush pile there. The hunters who act as standers select ambush points near one or more of these hare trails while the drivers -- using the openings as barriers -- attempt to move the hares past their waiting colleagues.

White-tailed jack rabbit

A large cousin to the snowshoe hare is the white-tailed jack rabbit. Despite the name, jack rabbits are actually hares. Unlike the snowshoe, an animal of northern forests, jack rabbits inhabit the prairie. They prefer a home with a broad view.

I have a deep respect for these big bunnies. They can withstand the most severe weather simply by hunkering down in the wide open and letting a howling winter wind drift snow around them. Usually, though, they crouch next to some obstacle such as the base of tree in a shelterbelt or a willow bush in a low spot in a field. I've seen jack rabbits snuggled up to tires supporting a pivoting irrigation sprinkler.

The spots to locate jack rabbits are on sprawling farms with only bits of cover here and there. Those locations are usually on private land so permission must be secured.

Jack rabbit hunting is usually a long-range venture. They are much more wary than snowshoe hares and usually don't allow a hunter to approach closely. Often they'll run for some distance but then stop and stand on their hind legs to assess the situation. A flat-shooting accurate varmint rifle equipped with a high-power scope is the weapon of choice for most jack rabbit hunters.

Cottontail rabbits

Cottontails are true rabbits. That means, unlike hares, they are born naked and do not turn white during winter. Conversely, snowshoes and jack rabbits are hares, and are born fully furred and with their eyes open.

Cottontails are aptly named because when on the run they flash their outsize snow-white tails as they bound for safety, much like a white-tailed deer. The brown rabbits appear to have a cotton ball sewed to their behinds.

The familiar cottontail rabbit is usually found not far from man. In fact, they frequently live in our backyards, much to the dismay of gardeners whose plants disappear overnight.

When deep snow covers the ground, cottontails will be confined to whatever cover is available. Check out brushy draws, wooded creek or river bottoms, rock piles and old farmsteads, especially if these areas are next to farm crops such as standing corn.

When cottontails are sunning themselves near their dens, a hunter is best off bearing a rifle because the rabbits spook easily and simply dart underground. A .17 or .22 caliber rimfire is all that is needed. If the cottontails are out and about they can be jumped from cover and shot with a shotgun as they dash for safety.

In Minnesota, the limit on rabbits and hares is 10 combined with 20 in possession. Shooting hours are a half hour before sunrise to sunset. The hare and rabbit season runs through the end of February.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee 0 Top 9th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox 1 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Cleveland 7 Bottom 6th Inning
Minnesota 2
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco 0 Top 6th Inning
San Diego 1
Texas 0 Top 5th Inning
LA Angels 3
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Appalachian St 14 4th Qtr 4:18
Southern Miss 14
Miss State 34 4th Qtr 8:25
(8) LSU 16
Utah State 14 4th Qtr 4:58
Arkansas State 14
Miami-Ohio 24 4th Qtr 8:16
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 4th Qtr 2:21
Ohio U 29
Ball State 3 1st Qtr 4:20
Toledo 13
(14) So Carolina 27 3rd Qtr 0:23
Vanderbilt 24
(4) Oklahoma 31 3rd Qtr 8:20
West Virginia 24
Ga Southern 21 4th Qtr 8:21
South Alabama 6
UNLV 7 3rd Qtr 11:39
Houston 27
Miami-Florida 21 3rd Qtr 5:09
(24) Nebraska 24
New Mexico 21 3rd Qtr 11:08
New Mexico St 21
(22) Clemson 10 3rd Qtr 15:00
(1) Florida State 3
California 7 1st Qtr 12:16
Arizona 0
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 2nd Half 20:00
Chicago 2
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 16 1:27
Hamilton 25
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close