Each season holds a special place in the hearts of Michigan sportsmen. Spring gets the turkey hunters wound up. Summer is the right time to kick back and fish. Fall gets the deer and waterfowl hunters out of bed in the morning. When the snow starts piling up, it’s time to chase rabbits, and Michigan has some outstanding rabbit hunting.
The season for hunting rabbits in the Great Lake State runs from September 15 to March 31. Most avid rabbit hunters in Michigan wait until December or later to really kick in the season. Depending on how you’re chasing them, a rabbit gun is usually a shotgun or a .22 LR. For shotguns, go with a 20 gauge or smaller. Another option is a .17 HMR, which has proven to be an extremely accurate caliber and great for hunting rabbits.
One of the great things about hunting winter rabbits in Michigan is the snow gives the hunter a great way to track them. You can often follow a set of tracks right to the brush pile the bunny is hiding in.
There are two species of rabbits in Michigan. The most common is the cottontail. The population of cottontails throughout the state is pretty strong and steady. In the winter, they can be found near food sources and especially around brush piles, which they use for cover.
Less common is the snowshoe hare. A bigger bunny, snowshoes change colors in the winter from brown to white, and tend to be found closer to open fields. Most hunters will tell you that snowshoe numbers are down dramatically, especially in the Lower Peninsula. It is the color change that is credited with the decline. Less snow in the southern part of the state causes the hares to stick out to predators.
Come on Rover boy, let’s go hunting
It’s not uncommon to see a truck at a gas station in Michigan with an eager beagle in the back and an orange cap on the dash. Hunting rabbits with a dog is just ridiculous fun and a real treat during a Michigan winter.
Beagles aren’t the only dog that will hunt rabbits, but they were bred for it and it is just a ton of fun to be on the hunt with one. They have short, compact bodies that are perfect for getting into the thick brush and cover that rabbits use, and they have one of the best noses in the business for sniffing them out. You just have to be careful—once a beagle gets on the trail of a bunny, he’s not going to give it up. You’ve got to be quick to keep up. If you’re not careful, the second part of the hunt can be hunting to find your dog.
If you’re not hunting with a dog, fear not. All you need is to find the cover. A bit of jumping, bumping, and noise-making can be all that is required to get the bunny to bounce.
Michigan is one of the most scenic states, as proven by many recent awards and national polls. But, of course, we all already knew that. Rabbit hunting is the perfect excuse to get outside on a brisk winter day and enjoy the splendor that is the Great Lake State. There’s over eight million acres of public land in Michigan, and most of it is open to hunting. Forestry operations and natural management have left lots of brush piles and thick cover for rabbits to flourish, and for rabbit hunting to as well. Add to that the vast agricultural side of Michigan that helps add to the rabbit’s food source and you’ve got a recipe for a strong population for hunters in every part of the state. Speaking of recipes, don’t forget rabbits make for excellent table fare.
So get outside. Take a few buddies, and better yet, take your kids. Rabbit hunting may be the optimal hunting trip for kids. What could be more fun than spending the day hiking through the glorious, snow-filled Michigan woods with your kids and the family dog in search of a few rabbits for the dinner table? Better take your camera too. Those are memories you’ll want to capture.
This article was produced in partnership with Pure Michigan.
Image by Herbert Lange on Flickr