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Hunting is one of man’s oldest pastimes.
When you’re out in the wild, few things sate your hunger like game meat you hunted yourself.
There’s also a measure of satisfaction from outwitting a wild animal.
Plus, it’s a good skill to know if you’re ever in a survival situation.
Rabbits are everywhere and, for the most part, make pretty good eating. Plus, you can use their fur for warm clothing.
But they’re small, fast, and surprisingly smart. Ever try to catch even a tame bunny? Good luck!
Hunting wild rabbits is no simple task, though there are tricks to make it easy. If you’d like to learn how to catch rabbits in the wild, continue reading.
It doesn’t matter how much or little equipment you have on you. With the right skills, you’ll be able to catch a rabbit.
Why Catch Wild Rabbits?
Rabbits aren’t the only meat-bearing animal, so why learn how to hunt them?
Squirrels are more common, deer provide much more food, and fish exist anywhere there’s water.
But have you ever eaten a squirrel? There are only about two bites each! You’ll burn more calories skinning the darn thing than you’ll get out of eating one.
Deer are a great choice for game but are much harder to take down than a bunny. If you don’t have anything better than a knife, well, deer may be out of reach.
Fishing is possible with nothing more than a wooden spear but if you’re in an area without large bodies of water, such as most of the Midwest United States, you won’t find anything larger than minnows. You can’t sustain yourself on minnows.
Mice are easy to catch. But only eat them if you want the possibility of catching hantavirus.
Coyotes are also common and can be hunted and trapped but they are scavengers, which means they aren’t good eating.
Rabbits, however, are almost everywhere. They reproduce quickly so you can take them without worrying about disruption populations.
Bunnies also provide more than a few bites of meat, are easy to skin, and as said before, you can use their fur to stay a little bit warmer.
There is a downside to eating rabbits, though.
Rabbit meat is extremely lean. It’s only about 8.3% fat.
This may sound good to people who want to lose weight, but it’s a simple fact that you need fat in your diet.
Early wildmen such as Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote about rabbit starvation.
Here’s a quote:
“Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source—beaver, moose, fish—will develop diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied.”
Basically, eating too much protein with no fat causes a form of malnutrition called Protein Poisoning.
So, while rabbits can provide calories in the wilderness, you shouldn’t depend on them for long-term sustenance.
With that out of the way, let’s learn how to catch the little critters.
Where Do You Find Wild Rabbits
Though rabbits may seem ubiquitous, they prefer certain environments.
They like to eat grass and small plants (especially clover!) along with small twigs off of trees.
Rabbits are also wary creatures and like being able to escape to safety in a moment’s notice.
The best place to find a rabbit is called edge habitat. This is the area between two ecosystems. In this case, you want the boundary between fields and woods.
Bunnies also like thickets and other thick brush that’s good at keeping larger animals, including humans, out.
How to Trap Wild Rabbits
The easiest way to get a rabbit is to trap them.
Setting up snares and other traps takes less effort than spending a long time hunting. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch several at once!
We already have an article all about making and setting up snares. You can find it here.
Making the snare is only one part of the equation, however. Rabbits move in certain ways, so here are some tips on how to snare a wild rabbit.
How to Size a Rabbit Snare
Rabbits are of a certain size. This means that your snare should be a certain size and a certain height off of the ground.
The snare’s loop also needs to fit around not only a rabbit’s head but its ears as well. So, the snare’s loop should be a bit bigger than expected.
A good loop width is around 7.5 inches wide because the average wild rabbit’s head plus ears typically are a hare under 7 inches in length.
Where to Place a Rabbit Snare
You want to place the snare in a place where rabbits go. That much is obvious, but it’s not always obvious where that is.
Often, you’ll be able to see find a path in the woods where small critters commonly roam. They are creatures of habit and like to take the same path to water from their burrow.
This path, also called a run, will look like a furrow in the vegetation, trampled down by many paws over time.
You can identify a rabbit trail because rabbits of something called a beat.
Rabbits hop. If you’re lucky, they’ll frequently hop in the same place, leaving noticeably dead grass or other greenery. That place is called a beat.
So, a rabbit run will often look more like Morse code than the consistent downtrodden grass of, say, a deer run.
You want to place the snare in between the beats. The best place to snare them is when they are mid-hop and unable to escape.
If you can, place your snare at a natural funnel.
This will be a place where, because of vegetation or rocky ground, the rabbit has to pass through a small area. You can see one in the picture above, just to the left of the unlucky bunny.
Try to avoid placing your snares in open fields.
How High to Place a Rabbit Snare
Because of the height of the average rabbit’s neck and how high a rabbit hops while traveling the bottom of your snare’s loop should be about 6.5 inches off of the ground.
Though, anywhere from 5 to 7 inches is acceptable.
Mark and Check Your Snares Daily
Now, for the most important part of ethically trapping any animal (yes, even in a survival situation):
Mark your snares!
Tie a bright piece of cloth (such as a bandana) to a nearby tree, stick a peg in the ground, whatever.
Just make sure to mark your snare so you won’t lose it.
And check on it daily!
Snares can kill a rabbit quickly. But if not, you need to put it out of its misery.
You also don’t want to leave a trapped rabbit to attract hungry coyotes or wolves.
When you’re first learning how to catch a rabbit in the wild, you will make many mistakes but hopefully these tips will keep you from coming back to an empty snare.
Finally, make sure to physically collect your rabbit traps when you leave the area. Leaving set snares behind is irresponsible and reprehensible.
How to Hunt Wild Rabbits
If you can spare the energy, actively hunting the rabbit is more satisfying and, in some localities, more legal than trapping.
This is easiest done with a dog. Though, if you don’t have a dog, you can hunt rabbits anyway.
In either case, you will want a ranged weapon. A .22 Long Rifle firearm is the best choice to avoid wasted meat and fur. Some airguns are acceptable as well. Shotguns make for easier shots.
You can also hunt rabbits with a slingshot. For more information, read this article.
Hunting Rabbits With a Dog
The best way to catch a rabbit with a dog is to use a dog that’s been trained in rabbit hunting.
If you have such a dog, why are you reading this article? Get out and hunt a rabbit on your own!
However, here’s a secret: Even untrained dogs can be used to hunt rabbits!
That’s because rabbits run in circles.
In a short chase, rabbits will jink to lose their predator. But in the long term rabbits tend to circle around back to their starting position.
Also, rabbits who think they’ve lost their pursuer will stop and stand up to look backward.
This means that overly-enthusiastic untrained dogs can be surprisingly effective at hunting rabbits.
My father has a beagle. I’ve seen that stubborn thing chase the same rabbit around in the same circle several times. It kept howling all the while, which gave us good updates on its location.
So, while purposefully bred and trained dogs are best for hunting rabbits, you can achieve almost the same success with a dog that loves to chase small animals and doesn’t know how to catch them.
Get close to where the dog originally found the rabbit (inside the circle if possible) and position yourself so you can see where the rabbit will return to. Then get ready.
Hunting Rabbits Without a Dog
It’s harder to hunt rabbits without a dog. They blend into the environment and, when spooked, are out of sight in an instant.
In order to hunt rabbits without a dog, you need to find that edge habitat mentioned earlier.
Make sure that the brush isn’t too high. If the grass is up to your waist, chance are you’ll never be able to spot the bunny!
Ditches are another good place to check for rabbits. They often need to cross them to get from food to safety.
You want to be unpredictable, so the rabbits will try to observe you in order to gauge if you’re a threat and they need to run.
A good way to do this is to walk in a zig-zag pattern while pausing frequently. Keep your eyes and ears open for any movement then, after about half a minute, continue moving.
Eventually, you’ll find some rabbits. They may spook and run.
A rabbit will nearly always run towards safety, such as the woods or dense brush. If they need to cross a vegetation-free area to get to this area then you have a shot with your shotgun.
Otherwise, you need to do your best to spot them while they’re paused to observe you.
Or, if you have all the time in the world, scope out rabbit runs. Then put yourself in a position where you can watch the trail and wait.
Don’t waste ammo. Take a shot only when you’re sure you’ll hit!
Wild rabbits may seem like small, inconsequential beasts.
However, rabbit hunting has been such a common pastime for there to be multiple dog breeds specifically for hunting bunnies.
But you don’t need a dog to catch a rabbit, whether for recreation or survival.
Whether you have a gun, a slingshot, a knife, or just some ingenuity, you’ll be able to eat rabbit stew tonight!
When is the best time to hunt wild rabbits?
Rabbits tend to move to and from food or water at dawn and dusk. So, while you’ll find rabbits at all times of the day or night, you’ll see most activity when the sun is rising or setting.
Where do rabbits go in winter?
Rabbits aren’t like bears and are active all winter long. Snow makes it easier to find their tracks but can also change where they roam.
Other than edge habitat, look for south-facing open areas that collect lots of sunlight. Rabbits will often use these areas to warm up, which makes them easier to hunt.
Do you need a license to hunt or trap rabbits?
For most parts of the world, yes!
You often need a hunting license to lethally take rabbits. Sometimes you need a trapper’s license to legally trap them. In some jurisdictions, that trapper’s license will also let you hunt them with a firearm (such as in Alaska).
We cannot offer legal advice, so check your local laws before hunting wild rabbits!