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Rabbits in January

Image Via: Bruce Coleman

Techniques, gear and more

The New Year often finds hunters in the doldrums, looking for ways to get outdoors and cure the cabin fever they contracted over the holidays. Rabbit hunting offers the ideal remedy. It also provides an opportunity to hone your hunting and shooting skills while putting some oft-undervalued meat on the table.

Whether your tastes run to cottontails or snowshoe hares, it’s tough to beat the opportunities offered on a cold, sunny day in Quebec’s forested landscapes. Eastern cottontails wear their brown fur coats all year long, providing some contrast against a wintry background, while snowshoes will have turned white, making them difficult to see if they aren’t on the move. Although the two species sometimes occupy similar habitats, snowshoes are much more prevalent in the more northerly forests, while cottontails are much more adapted to thick wooded copses in the agricultural ones. Both species prefer habitats featuring thick understories offering food and security, so be prepared to work for your shots. Daily bag limits vary depending on the region, so be sure to check the regs before heading out. A day’s rabbit hunt is sure to leave you tired and wet, but you will be totally reinvigorated by the time you head back to the truck.

Technique

Most successful rabbit hunters use a combination of pushing bush and spot-and-stalk methods. The presence—and abundance—of rabbits in a particular area will be betrayed by the number of tracks you find in the snow. Work your way along the edges of the thick stuff, pausing regularly in hopes of prompting a flush. Look well ahead and down low as you move; occasionally you’ll catch a wary bunny before it sees you.

Essential gear

Shotguns and .22s are both good choices, each with its own advantages. Smoothbores (12- or 20- gauges choked improved cylinder) are best for taking flushed rabbits on the move, while rimfires allow extended-range shots at static targets. As for clothing, keep in mind that Quebec winters can be cold; dress in layers so that you can adjust for changing temperatures.

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Ken Bailey

Ken Bailey

An all-around hunter, Ken Bailey enjoys pursuing waterfowl the most. Based in Edmonton, Outdoor Canada's longtime hunting editor Ken Bailey has hunted every major Canadian game animal, in every corner of the country. For many years, he’s shared his deep knowledge of game behaviour, and wide expertise with all manner of firearms with OC's readers. His work has been recognized numerous times by both the Outdoor Writers of Canada and the National Magazine Awards. Ken is a committed conservationist, dedicated to habitat preservation, sustainable harvests, and passing along our hunting heritage to the next generation. He's also an avid fly fisherman, and a pretty darn good game chef.

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