Outdoors

Rabbit season underway in Mississippi

MISSISSIPPI WILDLIFE FISHERIES AND PARKS 
 Rabbit hunting season will last until Feb. 28.
MISSISSIPPI WILDLIFE FISHERIES AND PARKS Rabbit hunting season will last until Feb. 28.

Rabbit hunting season in Mississippi began last weekend The statewide rabbit season closes on Feb. 28. The bag limit is eight per day, regardless of species. Rabbits can be found on any area throughout the state, especially with plenty of grasses, legumes, other broadleaf plants, and low brushy covers.

The summer rainfall has provided good vegetation conditions for food and cover resources to produce a strong crop of rabbits.

"Rabbit populations are kind of difficult to estimate and predict, but I expect numbers to generally be good in areas with suitable habitat," Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Small Game Program Biologist Rick Hamrick said. "Observations of rabbits from areas of suitable habitat suggest that rabbit populations will be good this season.

"Most of the state had pretty good rainfall early that would have set the stage for good vegetation conditions for food and cover resources. This late drought in the central part of the state might have led to a slight decline in some of the late summer food resources. However, this is the time of year when much of the native succulent vegetation is starting to decline anyway."

The state has two kinds of rabbits: cottontail and swamp. Cottontail is sometimes called a hillbilly and swamp are often called cane-cutter. Cottontails are probably the most widely distributed. Cottontails prefer brushy cover for protection in upland agricultural fields and grasslands, and reach their highest populations in areas that provide a patchwork of several usable habitat types. Swamp rabbits are associated with wet areas, preferring moist lowlands and brushy cover along streams and ditch banks.

Scouting is a key to successful rabbit hunt. Cottontail rabbits are highly active at dawn and dusk, usually when most rabbits can be seen. It is also recommended to use a shotgun with an improved cylinder choke and No. 6 or 7 shot. Because shot distance is limited in heavy cover, close shots are usually taken quickly where a wide pattern with heavy shot works. Some hunters prefer to use a modified or full choke when hunting with dogs to make sure no stray shot brushes a dog.

A tighter choke with heavier shot such as No. 4 will allow for longer shots. Cold, damp days provide the best days for rabbit hunting. Rabbits often take shelter somewhere hidden from the cold and the wind with easy access to open areas to absorb the sun. The first warm day after a cold snap often provides good hunting.

Hunters are advised to cover their human scent and stay downwind of the rabbit. Low humidity and dry ground could cause a poor hunt.

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