Long Range Airgun Hunting
Jim Chapman describes how he likes to hunt the humble rabbit
Jim Chapman tells us why the desert is his favourite place for hunting rabbits
Like our hunting brethren in the UK, rabbits figure prominently in the game bags of American hunters, representing one of the most commonly pursued airgun quarries, and whilst many similarities exist, there are also some noteworthy differences. When hunting rabbits in North America, the hunter can encounter varied ecosystems and landscapes, a number of different rabbit species, and a diverse range of hunting laws.
I have read that half the world’s rabbit population lives in North America, and while I don’t know if this is true, they are everywhere! There are several species of rabbit, depending on where you hunt, comprising true rabbits and hares. The ubiquitous cottontail occurs in one form or another in almost every state in the country; jackrabbits are found in the western and southwestern regions, and snowshoe hares in the northern reaches.
The cottontail closely resembles the European rabbit, but varies in size according to species. There are over a dozen cottontail species; the pygmy, brush, desert, Mexican, eastern, mountain, swamp, and marsh cottontails, to name a few. The cottontail is a true rabbit, and can range in size from about 1lb for the pygmy rabbit, found in the coastal north-west, to the water-loving swamp rabbits that can go over 5lbs. The jackrabbit (hare) and the snowshoe hare get much larger, and I’ve shot jackrabbits weighing in at over 12lbs.
The environments supporting rabbit populations are as varied as the types of rabbits. They are found in urban/suburban settings, as well as the pastures and agricultural settings that UK hunters are familiar with, but we also find them in the rugged mountains from the Rockies to the Appalachians, in the swampy everglades and bijous of the Deep South, the snow-covered forest of the Northern climes, and my favourite, the deserts of the south-west. Some of my best hunting memories come from rabbit hunts in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin deserts that spread across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas.
The desert resonates with me and is one of my favourite landscapes; harsh and unforgiving, yet at the same time
“I have read that half the world’s rabbit population lives in North America”