Hunting Part 2: The Hunt

This is part two of a three-part series on my recent introduction to hunting for food. The first article explained my reasoning and purchase decisions. This time, we will focus on the process of hunting itself. The next article will be on preparation of the animals once they are caught.

So far, I’ve found that the most difficult part of rabbit hunting is to find a rabbit. Cottontails make this pretty easy. When I crash through the brush in the evening, the rabbits spook. They run about fifty feet, and then try to hide by sitting perfectly still under a bush. Since I’m perfectly comfortable shooting over this distance, it works out pretty well for me.

Jackrabbits, on the other hand, are “wascally,” and most often all I see is a little flash of tail taking off into the distance. I’m not comfortable shooting at a moving target yet, and my aim is not up to taking very long shots, so the only way for me to take jackrabbit is to see one before it hears me and takes off. Much more tricky…

4-CrossingLooking for rabbits is the most time-consuming part of the hunt.

Let’s go through a hunt, start to finish. I’ve found several places within a half hour of where I work, so I like to go out immediately after my shift ends in the middle of the afternoon. In Arizona, it is illegal to shoot after dark, so the hunt ends when it turns dark about half an hour after sunset. I drive to one of the rabbit spots, park the car, and get my gear.

I bring at least a bag to hold my catch (kitchen-size trash bags work well), a pair of cheap disposable gloves to prevent me from catching any diseases when handling the animals, extra ammunition, and the rifle with a full magazine of bullets. I also make sure I have a flashlight in case something keeps me from getting back to the car before dark, and a cell phone in case of emergency.

3-HuntingThe vest holds extra ammunition, gloves, a bag for my catch.

Now, I start to walk, slowly, through the habitat. I like to follow game trails, as they make it easier to avoid thorns. There are open-range cattle here, so there are plenty of paths to follow. I go as slowly and quietly as possible, so as not to alert those jackrabbits. This early in the afternoon, the cottontails aren’t out yet. They seem to show up just before the sun goes down.

Once I’ve spotted a jackrabbit, I freeze. If it sees me now it will take off. If it heard my approach but hasn’t spotted me yet, it will sit perfectly still and rely on camouflage. I aim, shoot, and immediately head over to where the jackrabbit was. Sometimes they move a distance before they die, so I have to be able to follow it wherever it goes. If I let it get too far ahead of me, I might lose it, and that is something I try as hard as possible to avoid. If I aimed well, the rabbit is dead by the time I get to it, and it goes in the bag.

5-TrophyA very good afternoon! Two blacktail jackrabbits. Together they weighed
about 10 pounds (after skinning and cleaning).

There are two targets on a small animal. The head is obvious, and a shot to the head is almost immediately lethal. However, the head on a rabbit is small, and not the easiest thing to hit. The second target is the chest cavity. Just about everything in there is very important, and in an animal this small, a bullet through the chest will be fatal. The bullet from a .22 might be small, but the shock wave it creates damages a lot more than the bullet itself does.

If I miss, and wound the rabbit without immediately killing it, I stop any other hunting until I find and kill it. Besides the obvious ethical issues, there is also a risk of wasting meat with a poorly placed shot. A shot through the abdomen can rupture intestines, essentially making the animal unfit for human consumption without extreme care in cleaning. A shot through the hindquarters damages the largest portion of the meat (most of the meat on a rabbit is in the hind legs and the back around the spine). Again, I am taking a life and don’t want any part of the animal to go to waste. Conclusion: To be humane, don’t try to take shots you don’t feel comfortable taking.

~The Homesteading Hippy

5 thoughts on “Hunting Part 2: The Hunt

  1. Dave Benson

    HH- Glad you had some success afield. I’ve never enjoyed rabbit all that much, but haven’t hunted them. I’ve heard that rabbits which eat a diverse diet are better fare than the domestic alfalfa-raised ones. There are few cottontails here in NH- it’s typically snowshoe hares.

    1. The Homesteading Hippy Post author

      I really prefer taste of hare (jackrabbit here in AZ) to that of rabbit. Hares cook more like dark meet, and taste almost like beef to me. Cottontail tastes more like chicken breast.
      ~The Homesteading Hippy

      1. Dave Benson

        That’s good to know about jackrabbits- used to see them frequently when we lived in AZ. My daily commute took me through an undeveloped area north of Phoenix. Roadrunners and Gambel’s Quail also common. That area is now totally developed, of course.

  2. Pingback: Hunting Part 3: The Meat | The Homesteading Hippy

  3. Pingback: Hunting Part 1: The Rifle | The Homesteading Hippy

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