Updated: Mar 19
There’s nothing quite like the bay of beagles on a fresh fall morning as you and some good friends get after the cottontails lying low and staying warm. Unfortunately, a good dog is not something I have access to presently or will have access to in the near future.
You can hunt rabbits without dogs easily with the help of some friends. The key is to stir the rabbit out of hiding and keep him disoriented until he presents a shot.
The lack of a dog shouldn't keep you in the house. With the proper equipment and strategy, you could be putting in a limit of rabbits regularly. Rabbits are a pretty predictable sort and because of this, the methods used to hunt them don’t vary too much from region to region. Read on for all my tips on how to get it done without a dog.
How to Hunt Rabbits Without a Dog
As Cheesy as it sounds, all you have to do is be your own dog. While we can’t sniff a rabbit out, we can certainly stir one up. Sometimes, that’s all you’re gonna need! Rabbits love to hide in briars, vines, grass, and anywhere else that they can feel safe from predators. Old tractor equipment is a great spot to check as well.
The best method for hunting rabbits without a dog has to be gun-lining a field. Spread out in a line across a field and walk at an even pace with your hunting party. Make sure that you are spread out at least 15 yards. As you walk, have every other hunter make noise by kicking brush and talking. This will spook the rabbit out as you comb the field.
Once you have combed through an open field, you need to be looking for thick cover. Rabbits love to be where you would hate to go. Make sure that you are wearing gear that you don’t mind getting pricked with briars because you’re going to have to beat through the brush to stir them out for the other hunters in your party. Check this list out for what I bring on a hunt.
If there is old tractor equipment or vehicles around that are covered up in growth check them out. These places provide excellent cover for rabbits and are worth a look. It is important that you take turns to spread the work and fun around. Nobody wants to do all of the kicking on a rabbit hunt.
Use Terrain Features to Hunt Rabbits
Rabbits will hang out on the edge of open spaces in the brush or under leafy cover with ample greenery and soft bark to munch on. Try these methods out:
Walk a fence line
Surround a downed tree with overgrowth
Throw rocks into thickets
Flank old buildings that have been overtaken by forest
Sometimes you will be able to kick a rabbit out of hiding. Make one hunter stay where you found him while the others pursue it. Rabbits tend to make big circles to avoid and disorient their predators, so sitting tight could be the ticket to nabbing an unlucky bunny.
If you have a rabbit dart for cover, and he winds up pinned down use communication to position your hunting party around the rabbit. Make sure to exercise safety, and that every hunter knows his or her sector of fire. It is a good idea for one or two hunters on a specific side to make most of the noise to drive the rabbit to the others.
Rabbits blend in incredibly well with their surroundings so make deliberate movements if you are trying to coax them out of hiding.
What Weapon Should I Use On a Rabbit Hunt?
I use and will always use a shotgun for rabbit hunting. Some people use a .22 rifle but I prefer a shotgun. I made a list of every weapon that I use on my hunts for specific species that will help you out when you decide what to bring on your next outing. For rabbit hunts, I like to use number 6 or 5 shot.
For the methods used to kick up a rabbit, a shotgun with a game load will give you the best chances of bagging tons of nimble cottontails with the added benefit of safety. Misplaced shots from a rifle can travel great, distances and cause serious harm. The limited range of a shotgun can mitigate those risks and increase your chances of hitting a rabbit on the run.
My preferences when selecting a good rabbit hunting shotgun would be dependent on the rate of fire and gauge size. Any combination of these is going to be a winner. I left off other gauges because their ammo is much less accessible than these three gauges. My preferences in descending order are:
Automatic I 12 Gauge
Pump-action I 20 Gauge
Bolt-action I .410
Any action on your weapon is fine. I have had great success with an old single action .410 as well as a bolt action 12 gauge. It is the hunter behind the weapon that makes the most difference in the end. Some great shotguns to use for rabbit hunting would be automatic or pump 20 gauge. I like a mid-sized shotgun best, but all work great.
When Should I Hunt Rabbits?
First and foremost, you should make sure that you are hunting in the designated season of your respective state. The best time of day to hunt rabbits is the break of dawn and dusk. Look up when the sun rises where you plan to hunt and be on the field thirty minutes prior. This is legal shooting light where I live but double-check your state’s laws.
I like to call the time thirty minutes before sunrise-proper “blue morning”. I have great success getting started at this time of day. You can certainly stir rabbits up all day if you are willing to get into the brush though. At dusk, you will be able to find stragglers coming out to munch on greenery before tucking in for the night in their burrows.
Overcast days with light drizzles are the best time to hunt. The grey weather will hinder the rabbits from going about their normal foraging so when it breaks they will be hungry and eager to move around. Don’t let a poor forecast keep you on the couch.
Many people think that you have to run a pack of beagles to get some rabbits in the bag, but I am here to tell you that it can absolutely be done without a hound. All you need is a little strategy, a few good friends, and a bit of luck. When done correctly, these tips are a great way to find success when rabbit hunting without a dog.
What did we get wrong? How do you go about rabbit hunting? Let us know below!