The 2019 cottontail rabbit hunting season began on Nov.1 and will end on Feb. 29, a basically four month season. And over the first weeks of the season, there'll be a good many hunters of all ages out looking for fast moving bunnies to provide the main ingredient of fried rabbit and gravy.
They'll likely find some too, because first of the season hunting is traditionally the years best. The weather should still be fairly warm and the cottontails sitting out in weed fields, brushy areas, fence rows, and hillsides decorated with clumps of green briers and old apple orchards. They'll be fairly easy pickings.
There are several ways of bagging a dinner of Buckeye cottontails, and probably the most common is to gather up half a dozen friends or relatives, line them up against a weed field filled with purple asters, goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace, and tall grasses, then start a slow walk through.
The hunt leader should watch carefully to make sure the line stays straight with no one hurrying ahead, this for safety's sake, and when a bunny squirts out to start its high speed, dodging, jinking run, almost everybody should get a shot.
It's a type of rabbit hunting that I've enjoyed dozens of times, and in proper terrain with plenty of cover from weeds to brush, chances of bagging a goodly number are high. I've seen just one refinement of the above, which is placing a couple of old timers who might tire easily at the front of the fields end, though well out to each side for safety's sake.
When rabbits are flushed in such places they'll often run to the fields end then circle, giving quietly waiting oldsters a shot. You'll need to walk with careful hunters who are very mindful of the waiters off to each side, but given that, the tactic will pay off with extra game.
A second method of seeking these early cottontails is to hunt with a single partner, and this too can be a lethal way of filling game pockets. To do it, you'll hunt smaller patches of cover, sending one through the thicket or whatever and placing the other at its end.
This works particularly well in grown up fencerows. The walker isn't likely to get a shot and might not even see a fleeing rabbit, but the one at the end standing clear and waiting probably will. Of course, the team will switch between walking and standing occasionally.
The third way is to hunt your game alone, something I often did on short after school hunts to small farms. I'd walk along very slowly with my double barrel at port arms, and check every bit of likely cover as I did so. When I saw a spot that looked particularly good I circled around a bit so any rabbit that jumped would be forced into an open area where I could get a decent shot. And slow walking was crucial.
Often I'd catch one sitting then for an easy head shot, and hiking slowly would often break the nerve of a tight sitter and flush it out instead of hunching down as the hunter hiked past. Any of the above will work, and the time to use these tactics is right now.
Dick Martin is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for 30 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Martin writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.