February is the time of year when small game hunting seasons are the sportsman's only focus — a time to join some rabbit-hunting friends in pursuit of cottontails. Beagles will chase the rabbits using their instinctive drive, and the hunters will move to cut them off. The hunt will demand an early start, and vigorous activity as sportsmen walk the land and enjoy pulse-quickening excitement when the rabbits are running.
Rabbit hunting can usually involve a small pack of beagles. Their keen noses can pick up the faint scent of the cottontail. The pack, when fully engaged, can sound like a banshee blowing through the area. Nevertheless, the dogs are well known to their handler, and he can pick out their individual voices, deciphering which animal is leading the chase. Some dogs have special noses that can pick up a cold trail while others are better suited to trail when the rabbit has flushed and the scent is fresh.
5 Tips for a Beginning Rabbit Hunter
1. The cottontail rabbit is usually found on high ground. Their favorite haunts tend to be abandoned structures such as a house, barn or cattle pen. In addition, if you should find a brush pile near one of these structures, you have located an ideal place to hunt. Veteran hunters never overlook a good briar patch. The dog driver will walk his hounds through a chosen area and may stop to stomp on a brush pile, which invigorates the dogs to investigate it closer.
2. The rabbit won't make a move when confronted by man in his thicket; however, a wailing beagle, capable of slithering into a thicket, can make the rabbit nervous. If a rabbit is flushed, usually one hunter gets a glimpse of it heading away, and the beagle pack will then be in hot pursuit.
3. The rabbit hunting parties take stands where the rabbit is heading to, or stand in a likely location nearby that offers enough ground-visibility for a shot. Once on your stand, a rabbit hunter must be keen because the rabbit's pace can change from hopping along on full afterburners, to sneaking through the woods and being very wary of any unnatural sound or movement made by awaiting hunters.
4. Missed shots followed by beagles continuing to sound off are just part of the fabric of a rabbit hunt, making everyone feel a part of the same action. If the beagles get quiet after a shot, it generally means that the cottontail was harvested, and even the best marksman can find a running rabbit to be a challenging shot.
5. Rabbit hunters usually wear orange blaze hunting vests like the RedHead Blaze Cap and Vest combo because they can store extra shotshells and the anti-microbial game bag can hold harvested rabbits. Another rabbit hunter must-have are brush pants like Cabela's Upland Traditions, or brush chaps that can stand up to the rigors of multiple briar patches. Blaze orange hats and 12-gauge shotguns round out the equipment list.