Some Arkansans, probably a small number, consider February as rabbit hunting time. Deer hunting is over except for a few bowhunters. Duck season has closed. Dove seeking is long past. Turkey hunting is two months ahead.
However, rabbit and squirrel seasons are open, and chances are you will run across few other hunters out there. Another advantage is squirrels and rabbits are nearly everywhere in Arkansas. Rabbit hunting is simple, requiring only a shotgun or .22 rifle, some ammunition, a hunting license and a place to find the game. If you or a friend have dogs suitable for sniffing out rabbits, that is another plus.
In Arkansas, there are two varieties of rabbits and nearly all are cottontails. Swamp rabbits, much larger than cottontails, are found in some low areas, especially in the eastern section of the state.
Good opportunities for rabbits are in most of the wildlife management areas of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and these are open at no charge. The only other requirement is a free Sweet Sixteen permit for some of the wildlife management areas.
Skip the deep woods and the open fields for finding rabbits – unless those fields have some brushy spots in them. Rabbits are usually on the edges and particularly along brushy or grassy ditch banks.
Plan on doing a lot of walking in hunting rabbits, although on private land an all-terrain vehicle may help get around. This can be an option for persons who have difficulty with extensive walking.
Rabbits are quick but not fast in comparison to a deer. They tend to hide in cover and run only as a last resort. When one bursts from cover, the hunter’s priority is getting a gun up into shooting position while using peripheral vision to make sure another person or a dog is not in the line of fire.
Hunter orange clothing and caps are not required for rabbit work, but many Arkansans choose to wear them for safety when tall brush or grass may obscure a fellow hunter.
More shotguns than .22 rifles are in action in February rabbit hunting. A shotgun with an improved cylinder or a modified choke is best. Singe shot, double barrel, pump or semi=automatic – just pick what you have available. Field load shells like you have left over from dove season will work, but a better choice may be “high brass” No. 7 ½-inch shells for a little more punch and range.
You can take eight rabbits a day in any part of Arkansas. Get a limit, and you will have the makings of several tasty meals.
An old guideline for cooking rabbit is to prepare it any way you would a chicken. For an older rabbit that may be on the tough side, many cooks parboil them first. This is boiling in salted water for 20 to 30 minutes, then let cool and continue with the recipe.
Image courtesy Arkansas Game and Fish Commission