Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - 38

iron sights, but any good small-game rifle
will do.
Shotguns are still an option, but using
a .22 adds an element of challenge by
forcing you to focus on stealth and shot
placement.
If you do use a shotgun, be aware that
you'll often be faced with very close
shooting that could put a lot of pellets
in the meat. As an alternative, you could
kick the rabbit up and shoot it running,
but then, you're right back to where we
started.
Meanwhile, binoculars will let you
confirm that brown lump you can barely
make out through the saplings is a rabbit.
You'll only be able to see about 30 yards
ahead of you in the best still-hunting
bunny cover.

UNCOVER THE COVER
Once you've got your gear, the next
step is to find the right cover.
Start by erasing your notions of giant
rosebush tangles and blowdowns so thick
you can't see into them.
What you want to look for is the early
stages of forest regeneration - old fields
growing up in cedars, alders, aspen, dogwood and other fast-growing softwoods.
These spots provide rabbits with overhead cover from aerial predators, and even
at ground level, the tree stems are thick
enough to make navigation tricky for
mammal predators.
The best spots are thick with saplings.
Rabbits will feel safe in the dense cover,
but the vertical orientation of the tree
stems makes them easier to see and allows
for the possibility of sneaking through a
.22 bullet.
If you're not sure a spot will be good
for cottontails, all you need to do is look
38

at the stems and exposed roots of small
trees and vines.
Rabbits love to eat young tree bark,
especially in winter when much of their
other food can be scarce. Areas with rabbit
feeding activity will have trees with the
bark chewed off around the bases. If you
find a spot like that, you're in business.

SPOTTING & STALKING
My go-to spot for stalking cottontails is
just 7 acres. It's an old field full of cedars
and small trees 15 to 30 years old, situated
between a field of blackberries and thick
grass. A creek bottom with lots of blowdowns and multiflora rose, and a mowed
grass field running along the landowner's
driveway rounds out the area.
The rabbits have food and cover, and
every winter I always find sapling bases
chewed near the point of girdling.
I can count on one hand the number of
times I've hunted the area without seeing
a rabbit.
When walking to my spot, the first
thing I do is get ready for the inevitable
"edge rabbit."
Rabbits love to hug the edges of different cover types, especially when cover
butts up against an open feeding area.
I rarely get a shot at the rabbits I chase
into cover on my way in, but I always
take note of where they head so I can try
to circle back to them later.
Once you're in the cover, it's time to
slow the pace and really tune into your
surroundings.
Pay attention to the cover, the lay of the
land, and everything around you.
Where are the thick spots where rabbits
are likely to hide when alerted? Where are
the concentrations of bark-stripped trees?
Your eyes are the most critical tool to help



Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - 5
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - 21
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2018 - Cover4
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