A Kid’s First Rabbit Hunt, Plus Cleaning and Cooking Cottontails

Tips and videos for finding, hunting, dressing, and roasting bunnies
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two brothers admire a dead rabbit
Two brothers admire the elder's first rabbit. Aram von Benedikt

Cottontail rabbit hunting is a great way to beat the winter blues, sharpen your marksmanship, and put some tasty meat on the table.

It’s also a great way to get the kids outdoors and work on their hunting skills. I enlisted the help of my good friend Greg Nunn, who took my two boys and me to one of his rabbit hunting hot spots. Watch as 11-year old Ivan takes his first-ever cottontail rabbit with one perfect shot.

Locating Cottontails

To find winter bunnies, look for areas with lots of tracks, clipped vegetation where rabbits have been feeding, and tons of scat. Hunt them during cold weather, preferably while snow is on the ground. Look for cottontails sunning themselves along rocky cliffs or ridges in the afternoon, or feeding just before dusk. Use a .22 Long Rifle and shoot rabbits in the head only—that way the meat is left intact for the table, and you get to practice your sharp-shooting. Always follow local small-game regulations.

Field Dressing

Here’s a way to clean a rabbit in less time than it takes to describe it. First, place your foot on the rabbit’s head, and pull it free. Discard. Then, beginning at the hind legs, peel the skin forward and free. Pull off the tail, and peel the remaining skin down to below the leg joints. Cottontails usually have fleas, so work rapidly, get rid of furry parts quickly, and inspect your hands and sleeves when done. If you find any little creepy-critters, just blow them off with a sharp breath.

Next, open the abdomen and pull out the entrails and organs and discard them. Inspect the body and liver for abnormal spots or blisters. (If you find any, don’t eat the rabbit and wash up thoroughly.) Clear the pelvis and remove the sphincter.

Lastly, clip or cut off the four legs just below the meat. Clean the rabbit in snow, water, or whatever’s handy, and you’re done

Recipe: Spit-Roast a Rabbit

Here’s how to cook a rabbit out in the wilderness: Just build a fire, cut a green stick for a spit and two more forked sticks to support the spit. Skewer the rabbit through the brisket and pelvis, set the spit on your forked sticks over the coals, and turn to prevent scorching. Paint every ten minutes with a glaze made of melted butter, pure maple syrup, salt, and black pepper. Once it’s well done (this will vary depending on your fire—it took about 45 minutes in this video) and you’re ravenous, carve and enjoy.