John's Journal...


Deciding On a Rabbit Gun

Editor’s Note: Rabbit Click to enlargehunting comes in several variations, but all of them are fun. Here's how to score, using the various tried-and-true methods.

The way you choose to hunt rabbits determines which gun is the most appropriate for you. Some folks prefer to take rabbits with slingshots. I have hunted rabbits with a .22 rifle. I've also hunted rabbits with a 3-inch magnum and wished I had a howitzer. I enjoy stalk-hunting rabbits early and late. During the mornings and evenings rabbits will most often leave thick cover and head for fields and pastures to feed. By moving slowly and using binoculars, I can Click to enlargeusually spot a pair of longears or a brown body at 30 to 50 yards. With an accurate .22 equipped with a scope, making the shot is usually easy, if I utilize a rest. When I am stomping for rabbits in thick cover, I prefer a 26-inch barrel with an improved cylinder choke for my 12 gauge. I shoot field loads with No. 6 shot and have considered No. 7-1/2s. Since the rabbits I jump will usually be close and fast, I need a wide pattern with enough power to put the rabbit down but not destroy an excessive amount of meat. For cottontail hunting with beagles, I will use a full-choke, 32-inch barrel on my 12 gauge. An aggressive pack of Click to enlargebeagles will push a cottontail across fields and woodlots. So the rabbits I shoot at in front of the dogs will usually be out farther from me than those I flush myself. Therefore, I increase my shot size to either No. 4s or No. 6s in high-velocity loads and utilize the tighter patterning barrel.

Big swamp rabbits in river-bottom hardwoods are in a class of their own. If I am jump-shooting these large rabbits, I will use a full-choke 12 gauge with high velocity No. 4s. I feel I must haveClick to enlarge the knockdown power of the bigger shells and the tight patterning advantage of the full choke to reach out and take big swampers and to penetrate the thick cover through which they often run. But, if I am beagling swampers, I rely on my 3-inch magnum I use for turkey hunting. The dogs will often be a quarter of a mile behind a swamper that is tiptoeing through big timber. Since many of the shots will be at 30 to 40 yards, I have found that the 3-inch magnum gives me the range and knockdown power I need at that distance to take swampers, which may weigh over 5 pounds. Although some sportsmen may consider the 3-inch magnum to be too much gun for rabbit hunting in their areas, I've experienced days when I was severely under-gunned in the big river swamps where I primarily hunt.



Check back each day this week for more.

Day 1: Learning Where to Find Rabbits
Day 2: Choosing Good Rabbit Dogs
Day 3: Deciding On a Rabbit Gun
Day 4: Selecting Clothes for Rabbit Hunting
Day 5: Cooking Rabbits



Entry 340, Day 3