How to Rabbit Hunt in Maryland with Charles Rodney
Fish & Hunt Maryland recently spoke with Charles Rodney, an experienced and avid rabbit hunter. As he says “rabbit hunting is fun filled, challenging and will get your adrenaline pumping.” So if you’re ready, below is everything he shared with us about what you need to know to pursue this fantastic sport.
- Hunters need to be in pretty good shape to do some walking. Rabbit hunting requires lots of walking unlike other hunting sports where you can sit still.
- Rabbit hunting season runs from November 6 –February 28. For a hunter to participate they must purchase a hunting license and must have a picture ID along with the DNR safety course.
- Maryland’s limit is 4 rabbits per hunter per day which is very generous.
- Written permission is required when hunting on private property unless the owner or lessee is in the hunting party.
- The state provides thousands of acres of public land that are located in all counties that can be used for hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities. Click here to learn more about Maryland’s public lands.
Like any hunting or fishing activity safety is first. It’s the most important thing when rabbit hunting. Hunters must wear blaze orange to maximize visibility to other hunters, pay attention to where the dogs are running, and most importantly know where other hunters are located. Never travel or cross roads with a loaded gun. What makes rabbit hunting such a fun sport is the fast almost non-stop action of dogs chasing and rabbits running, but it can be all ruined with one careless or unsafe act. So have fun but most importantly be safe.
When and Where:
While rabbit hunting can be an all day affair, Charles says “I would rather only hunt from about sunrise to 9 am about when the dew or frost burns off.” The reason being that the dogs can scent the rabbits better with the water making for a better chase. He says “Hedge rows or ditches that are covered with briars, grass, honeysuckle, cattails, fence rows and brush piles typically hold a mess of rabbits, but let not forget that cutovers or grassy fields hold large amounts of rabbits as well.”
While you can wear pretty much whatever you choose. Charles recommends briar-proof pants, chaps and overalls hunting vest (or jacket/coat depending on weather) with game pockets and blaze orange panel.
When choosing a weapon, it’s just like other shooting sports. You don’t take size BB shot to hunt doves, so you don’t need a high power gun to hunt rabbits. Most seasoned rabbit veterans hunt with a 20 gauge, 28 gauge and even 410’s. But 12 gauges with low brass field shot will do just fine. When using smaller gauge shotguns Charles recommends high brass size 6 or 7 shot works best.
Rabbits can be hunted with dogs particularly where rabbits are plentiful and the hunt is made of multiple hunters.
The Hunting Party
- 3-6 hunters should make up a hunting party.
- In addition, the use of 3-6 well trained beagles are a necessity. All should be the same speed at slow, medium or fast.
What to expect when hunting with Beagles
- Dogs will search for rabbits and once rabbits are found by scent the chase will begin
- Rabbits return to the place where they got up or were jumped as long as the dogs are pushing or chasing them.
- Hunters will set up a perimeter and wait for the rabbit to return.
- Hunters must be quiet. Rabbits have outstanding hearing.
- Rabbits may return quickly with short runs or make long runs depending on the terrain and how hard the dogs are pushing them. Some will run out of hearing of the dog’s barks and return.
- Rabbits usually run 25-100 yards in front of the dogs.
- Once a rabbit is seen and is close enough for a safe shot then take aim and shoot.
- Check the area where you shot for a downed or wounded rabbit. If you missed or wounded a rabbit, the dogs will follow the scent. If wounded, the dogs will locate the rabbit. If missed, then the chase continues.
- Sometimes rabbits will find safety in groundhog holes. So it is important to look quickly after a shot if you are not sure that you made a kill.
- Multiple rabbits may get up or spooked by the dogs when they are chasing another rabbit. Shoot the side rabbit, pick it up and wait on the one the dogs are chasing.
Field Dressing Rabbits
Field dressing a rabbit is done by slitting the rabbit’s stomach to remove the guts and the insides while in the field. This is done usually when the weather is warm to keep the rabbit from spoiling. Field dressing is not necessary when the weather is cold. However some hunters may use this procedure to eliminate some of the weight if they have many rabbits in their pack to carry.
Rabbits are the easiest game to clean. Simply cut a slit in the rabbit fur midway the body and pull the fur apart. One can pull the entire fur over the rabbit’s head and hind legs with one strong pull. Pull off any remaining fur. Remove the head, feet and any remaining insides. Wash thoroughly and soak overnight in cold water to remove any additional blood. After soaking for 8-12 hours the meat will be free of blood and light as chicken meat. You can freeze in any variety of freezing paper or eat immediately.
Variety of ways to cook
Charles prefers to brown rabbit with grease, make gravy, and season and eat over rice or with potatoes. Important to remember that no matter how you like to prepare the USDA recommends cooking rabbits to an internal temperature of 160F.
Other ways to cook
- Fry (young ones)
- Some hunters prepare according to their ethnic cooking backgrounds – German, Italian, French, English or Spanish
Ready to try your hand at rabbit hunting? Be sure to visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for information on rules/regulations and licenses before heading out to hunt. For information on lodging options, hunting guides and outfitters, outdoor retailers and shooting ranges check out our Planning Resources page, and if you are looking to turn your hunt into an overnight don't miss these great holiday deals in Maryland.