BOWHUNTING RABBITS IN WINTER   3 comments

One of the late winter game animals most neglected and yet most challenging is the rabbit.  My early bowhunting training came at the expense of brother rabbit.  The archery tackle needed to hunt this animal was none other than the normal hunting bow and a few blunt tipped arrows.  Later when I had deer hunting arrows with the replaceable broadheads, I just removed the broadhead and substituted a blunt one in its place.  My arrowheads came from places that sold archery equipment.  

For those who have arrows with glue on heads, the change is a little more work but just as simple.  It is simply a matter of heating the head over a flame.  The kitchen stove works well.  The glue becomes liquid in the heat and the head can be removed with a pair of pliers.  Do not use unprotected fingers to pull it off as the metal head becomes very hot.  The shaft and glue are reheated and a blunt tip is applied to the shaft.  As the glue cools the head is solidly in place. 

Those with carbon arrows should leave them at home.  Rabbit hunting is hard on arrows and the carbon arrows are too expensive to be shooting into brush and snow.  They might get broken or lost. 

If one has a problem obtaining blunt heads, a .38 caliber brass casing from a place that sells pistol ammo works as well.  The inside diameter of the casing is 11/32 inch.  This caliber is popular with pistol shooters and they are reloaded to save money.  Gun shops that sell reloading supplies often sell the brass as well.  They usually are only a few cents a piece. 

While on the subject of doing it yourself, let us not forget the arrow.  If you are using wood shafts, as they are the cheapest to make, it is a good idea to dip them full length in a clear lacquer.  The lacquer helps to seal the shaft and reduce warping from exposure to rain and snow.  Keeping costs down is a good idea for rabbit hunting as many arrows are lost in the snow and brush. 

As for the fletching on the arrow, the flu flu normally used on small game is not recommended for rabbits as it flys too slowly.  The faster, straight fletching of four to 5 inches is better. 

Hunting rabbits late in the season is far more difficult due to weather, smarter quarry, etc.  Early season hunters have already harvested most of the “dumb bunnies.”  Rabbits that make mistakes have been taken.  Mother Nature has taken her toll on the population by claiming the weak ones through reduced food supply, disease and natural predation.  The survivors are well aware of the danger you present.  Bowhunters are in the field for the challenge or else they would have taken up another weapon. 

Because they are the top of the menu for just about all other critters, a rabbits first consideration is cover.  Late season rabbits are concerned with cold and wetness first and wind second.  Ask anyone who has owned a rabbit fur coat, they are not warm and when wet they tend to mat.  Therefore, rabbits want to have an area where they can get sun for warmth and still be out of the wind.  On sunny days, they are to be found in direct sunlight.  They will preen and fluff their fur to maximize its protection from the cold.  If the ground is wet in some areas and dry in others, they will go to the dry bare patches with cover nearby. 

If the day is cold and windy, they can be found deep in the cover, shielded from the wind.  They will burrow into brush piles or seek ditches and culverts for protection.  On cold days with the sun shining, rabbits move to the side of the brush pile bathed in sunshine. 

By knowing his quarry’s habits, the bowhunter can ease along heavy cover from the shaded side and strike before the rabbit knows he is there.  Rabbits tend to hold tight to cover in the late season.  When stalking rabbits, it helps to remember that they will face into the wind on a blustery winter day so that the wind blows with their fur and not against it.  It helps to keep them warm.  In addition, facing into the wind helps their ears to catch the sound of an intruder or predator.  Bowhunters are advised to walk into the wind in hopes of catching a rabbit from behind.  Often the archer can get quite close without the rabbit even being aware of his presence.  

On cloudy, overcast days, rabbits are very nervous and tend to stay in the deepest part of their cover.  This is probably due to the problem with winged predators.  On a sunny day, a hawk will cast a shadow on the land that the rabbit will react to by fleeing.  On the overcast day there is no shadow and the rabbit reacts to this vulnerability by hiding in heavy cover out of reach. 

As a rabbit flees, he does so in a pattern.  His first few jumps are wild, erratic and evasive in nature.  The rabbit will straighten out his path as he gains speed and hits one of his runways.  At that point he presents a better shot for the bowhunter.  Runways are rabbit game trails.  Rabbits travel in such patterns that they beat down the snow.  As they travel along, rabbits have a tendency to browse on the twigs, making the trail even more open.  The trails are usually about the width of a rabbit and about 10 inches high. 

Since runways are escape routes for the rabbit, the intersection of several runways is a good place to stake out.  If there is a thicket or a brush pile nearby, give it a look as you might flush the resident.  In snow, it is a good idea to follow the tracks.  Many times the quarry is not seen, but tracks will lead to the cover.  By then stomping through the cover, a rabbit may be flushed.  When tracking in snow, it is best to walk beside the tracks and parallel to them. 

By walking parallel, a hunter has a better chance to see the rabbit.  It is easier to spot a rabbit from the side than from directly behind or straight on.  A rabbit seen from the side presents a better target. 

Like many of nature’s animals, rabbits react to fronts.  When a storm front moves in, the rabbit will hole up and not feed.  As the front passes they come out to feed and will be active all day. 

Late season rabbit hunting is fun and can add another meat source for the freezer.  Rabbit stew on a cold winter night is an excellent end to another fine day in the field.

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3 responses to “BOWHUNTING RABBITS IN WINTER

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  1. Pingback: Skyview’s Rabbit Hunting With Ron Asbury Dec. 22nd. 2007 | Ultimate Fishing and Hunting Blog

  2. do you lose alot of arrows rabbit hunting

    • Yes quite a few. That is why I do not use expensive arrows like carbon arrows. I convert some of my older target arrows for use in rabbit hunting. Although during the past couple of winters we have not had a lot of snow so the recovery rate on arrows is a bit better. Have you tried bowhunting for rabbits? If not give it a try this year.

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