John's Journal...


Hunt Deer To Locate Rabbits

EDITOR’S NOTE: Large-scale farming has affected rabbits in the South. Clearing vast tracts of woods and swamps to plant agricultural crops has meant losing much of the rabbits’ habitat. Even though the hedge rows between these large fields have produced outstanding rabbit hunting that season, in the past few years, we’ve watched rabbit populations decline. Rabbits, like all other wild species, must have a combination of ample food and proper cover to survive. If an area loses either one, bunnies just can’t flourish. Throughout much of our region, farming practices have changed. The small-plot family farm either has been abandoned or replaced with big-field farms, which are not conductive to rabbit hunting. So where can hunters go to find plenty of bunnies? The answer’s quite simple – anywhere you find an abundant food source and cover to protect the rabbits. Let’s see if we can define some rabbit-food hot spots and learn how to hunt them.

Click to enlargeThe 100-acre soybean field had been cut, and looked as devoid of vegetation as a stock-car dirt track. The only foliage and color left grew in the small fence rows and brush piles around the fields. The small cover strips appeared to be no more than 20-yards-wide. “Did you bring the sack, John?” a friend of mine asked. “All the rabbits that once lived in this soybean field now hold up in the fence rows. We should get a sack full today putting on a bunny drive.” To drive these rabbits out, two hunters stomped the briars, and made their way through the fence row. Two other hunters took stands on the left side of the fence row, and two hunters took stands on the right side of the fence row. At a small ditch about 100-yards down the fence row, another hunter stood to block the rabbits. When the bunny drive began, the shooting that took place sounded like a war. In less than two hours, all of us had bagged our limit of rabbits, and most of us had several quail to fill out our game bags.

Click to enlargeRabbits and deer feed on many of the same grasses and shrubs. Although deer primarily browse and eat brushes, shrubs and young trees, deer also like tender green shoots of grass. The rabbit will eat almost any type of leaves or grass that grows. Oftentimes, where you find ideal deer habitat, you’ll discover productive rabbit hunting. Sitting on the edge of a greenfield at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, a couple of years ago, I watched 15 deer feeding just as night fell. With my binoculars, I scanned the greenfield looking for the trophy buck that a hunter often would find on the edge of a field until shooting light was almost gone and then would move quietly like a mist out into the clearing. Although I didn’t spot my dream buck, I did see large numbers of rabbits coming from the woods, and going into the greenfields. I realized the rabbits didn’t know this greenfield had been planted for deer, and probably thought it was planted for them. When I arrived back at camp that night, I talked with Robert Pitman, the owner of White Oak, about the possibility of hunting rabbits around his greenfields at the end of deer season. When we did hunt, we found the bunnies abundant, as I’d believed we would.

Click to enlargeTo locate rabbits throughout your region, look on the edges of greenfields planted for deer. You often can predict the kind of rabbits you’ll find around these greenfields by where the field is located. If the greenfield is planted in or near a pine plantation or a clearcut, generally you’ll have cottontails to hunt. However, if that planted greenfield lies in swampy terrain, or, on the edge of a creek or a ricer, primarily swamp rabbits may utilize that field. You also can pinpoint productive rabbit and deer hunting in the middle of a pine plantation. Often the fire breaks, the wildlife openings and the greenfields planted for deer as well as the roads leading around and through the pine plantation will be planted with some type of low-growing grass on which rabbits thrive. Remember, all a rabbit must have to survive is food and cover. If rabbits can find those ingredients in a young pine plantation, or, on the edge of a pine plantation, that’s where the rabbits will live.


Check back each day this week for more about HUNTING WILD RABBIT FOOD

Day 1: Hunt Deer To Locate Rabbits
Day 2: Find Railroad Track and High-Voltage Bunnies
Day 3: Use Hot Country Rabbit Hunting Tactics and Hunt High Spots and Protected Places in the Floods
Day 4: Go to the Grass
Day 5: Enter Cane Thickets and Palmetto Swamps



Entry 337, Day 1