Depending on who you ask, rabbit hunting can provide one of the most fun and exciting hunting adventures you’ll experience all season long. Rich in tradition, rabbit hunting will cause you to step back in time and chase after one of hunting’s forgotten treasures. The sights and sounds of Beagle hounds in hot pursuit of fleeting rabbits will bring a smile to any hunter’s face. Rabbit hunting roots run deep, and if you dig deep enough, you’ll find rabbit hunting was the norm long before deer and waterfowl hunting stole the show in more modern times. Still, there are those, like rabbit hunting guide, Billy Montague, who would prefer rabbit hunting with a shotgun over sleep and supper. I recently caught up with Mr. Billy to talk hounds and the rabbits they pursue, for some insight on the great tradition of rabbit hunting with a shotgun.
The rich tradition of rabbit hunting promises a good time with great friends.
Where to Go
Rabbit populations tend to vary by region and can be largely dependent on predator populations in an area as well as the development of suitable habitat. Provided you wait until after deer season, some landowners are more than willing to allow you to access their property for rabbits. And with so few rabbit hunters still in the sport these days, competition from other hunters is often slim to none. Better yet, you can find rabbits just about everywhere. Rabbits are adaptable creatures that tend to live along field edges as well as timber. Rabbits will hide out in some of the thickest terrain imaginable. Look for heavy cover in and around fields, or in broken up timber.
Overgrown fields and timber edges make a great place to find rabbits hiding out.
Putting the Dogs to Work
Because rabbits inhabit some of the thickest vegetation on the farm, rabbit dogs (Beagles) are typically put to work to get them out of the “hole” and ran past the hunters. Like most sporting dogs, the Beagles work is a pursuit of passion. They live for the opportunity to sniff out and chase a rabbit. And listening to the sounds of dogs on the trail of a rabbit is music to a rabbit hunter’s ears.
Billy Montague with the hounds he affectionately refers to as his kids.
What Gun Works Best?
“Most hunters typically carry a 12 gauge or 20 gauge,” says Montague. “Either gun works just fine on both cottontail or swamp rabbits when choked with a modified, 26” or 28” barrel.” When it comes to guns, everyone seems to have their favorite. The key is to have the one that allows you to smoothly swing on a fast-moving target, regardless of whether it’s a pump gun, break action, or auto-loader. As for the best loads for rabbits, Mr. Billy has his favorites on that as well. “I like a long brass 7 ½ shot for cottontail rabbits and 6 shot for the larger swamp rabbits,” says Montague.
Several popular shotgun options from Mossberg include the Mossberg 500 or 835 pump shotguns, Mossberg International Silver Reserve II Over/Under break action shotgun, and the Mossberg 930 autoloading shotgun. These guns are tough, dependable and priced just right.
Best Time for Rabbit Hunting?
So when is the best time to go rabbit hunting? “Every day of the season is a good day to go rabbit hunting,” says Montague. “But the best days seem to be when the temperature is 45-55 degrees and the sun is shining. Cloudy days seem to find rabbits holed up more often.”
Do your part to keep the old tradition of rabbit hunting alive this year. Round up some friends, hounds, your favorite shotgun and a pocket full of shells, and hit the woods for what will no doubt be one of the most exciting hunts of the season.
Quick Tips for Rabbit Hunting
- Wear comfortable clothes and boots that can handle the terrain you’re hunting. Briar-proof pants or bibs are worth their weight in gold when it comes to busting brush for rabbits.
- Shots on rabbits can be fast and furious. Make sure everyone in your hunting party is wearing orange so they are easily seen.
- Rabbits typically circle back to their home area after being jumped by the dogs. Move in and set up on the spot the dogs first strike a rabbit, with hunters spread out 50-70 yards apart.
- Wear a hunting vest with a game bag for easily toting your rabbits throughout the hunt.
- Whistle like a hawk to make a rabbit stop and stand up for the shot. It’s not just a myth! It actually works – if you can whistle like a hawk!
Book a rabbit hunt with Billy! If you’re in the Tennessee, Mississippi or Arkansas area, give Mr. Billy a call. He hosts hunts on his own land as well bringing his dogs to your land. Call 901-626-5822 or check out Beagle Chase Hunting Service on Facebook.