Hunting cottontail rabbits in February: timing is everything
I only had about an hour to hunt, but I thought I’d call my hunting partner anyway. He’s always up for a quick small-game hunt, and even though the conditions weren’t great, I figured we might get a cottontail or two running.
We probably did, but neither one of us saw a single bunny. To blank is bad enough, but to not even lay eyes on a rabbit is something else. This was before the latest round of fresh powder hit the state, which meant the rabbits were capable of running anywhere they felt the urge. It was also warm and crunchy, and while we should have been out there in the afternoon, we were there at lunch time. In other words, the conditions and timing were not in our favor.
We joked about our “nature hike” as we walked back to my pickup, while also making plans to return to the farm some time before the closing bell when the conditions will be better. Cottontails have plenty of methods for avoiding predators, and getting ahead of them is just one strategy. They’ll go into their burrow, too, and that means the best hunts occur when the rabbits should be out feeding and generally active.
Or in other words, sunny afternoons are best. I prefer to rabbit hunt with some fresh snow as well, which makes it awful easy to identify the spots bunnies like to frequent, and if you get enough of it, limits their escape routes and their willingness to bust out 100 yards ahead of you. They also become much easier to spot.
If you’re going stir crazy this month and need a little outdoor therapy, pull up your weather app on your phone and check out the upcoming conditions. If there is a warm afternoon in the future and you’ve got some free time, check cover that is gnarly and overgrown and conducive to harboring plenty of cottontails. If the fresh sign is there, be ready for bunnies.