Plentiful game species provides year-round alternative to upland and big game

PRATT -- Winter is just around the corner, and while many hunters pursue upland game birds, waterfowl, and deer this time of year, rabbits are an overlooked resource. Prolific breeders, they are found throughout the state, and many hunters find the lack of competition for these elusive mammals a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of upland bird and deer seasons. Rabbit hunting is also a good way to put tasty wild meat on the table. And for those hunters who also love the early excitement of upland game bird and deer seasons, rabbit hunting provides the promise of continued good hunting throughout winter.

Although found statewide, cottontail concentrations are greater in the central and eastern portions of Kansas. Kansans don't hunt them heavily, so populations can be very good -- so good, in fact, that nonresidents travel hundreds of miles to Kansas from states where rabbit hunting is a tradition.

Grassy and brushy habitats are rabbit factories, and many cottontails are taken incidentally while hunting upland birds or other game. Ideal cottontail sites include shelterbelts, thickets, and woodlots, especially when located close to crop fields. Abandoned farmsteads with heavy weed growth, dilapidated buildings, and even old farm machinery can be cottontail hideouts.

Due to their natural camouflage and preference for thick cover, cottontails are often hunted with beagles, which move the rabbits in a slow circle through cover, and finally back in front of stationed hunters. "Rabbit roulette" might be an apt name for this technique. However, beagles are not necessary, and "spot and stalk" rabbit hunting can be excellent when snow is on the ground and rabbits can be easily seen.

Excellent hunting opportunities can be found on wooded public hunting areas and Walk-In Hunting Access land. Permission to hunt on private land may be easy to obtain due to lack of competition from other hunters.

Rabbit hunting is one of the best ways to introduce youngsters to Kansas hunting. Most hunters use a .22 caliber rifle although small gauge shotguns are used, as well. Healthy rabbit populations, coupled with liberal hunting seasons and bag limits, make rabbit hunting in the Sunflower state a fine option for small game hunters.

Rabbit season is open year round. The daily bag limit is 10, and the possession limit is 30. Kansas hunters 16 through 64 years old must have a valid Kansas hunting license, unless exempt by law. All nonresidents must have a Kansas hunting license unless hunting on their own land.