WON Big Fish Challenge


Hunting Report: Rabbit Season Opener

Rabbit season opens July 1 for long run

BY BILL KARR/WON Staff Writer Published: Jun 25, 2013

SACRAMENTO — Rabbit season opens July 1, and while it’s the first hunting season of the year to open up, and there are plenty of the critters running around all over California, not many hunters get out in the field.

Why not? Two reasons: One, is that it’s hot out there that time of year! And the other, is a fear of disease, mostly tularemia, which proliferates during warmer months, and tends to become less of a problem with colder weather.


RABBIT COUNTRY looks very much like this, with tall shade trees, low-lying cover including blackberry bushes all over, nearby water and plenty of grasses in the areas. WON Editor Bill Karr with a cottontail he shot last year. WON PHOTO

Rabbit season opens July 1 and runs through Jan. 26, and the limit is 5 rabbits, 10 in possession. “Rabbits” by definition in the regulations are brush rabbits, cottontail rabbits, pigmy rabbits and varying hares (snowshoe rabbits). Jackrabbits are fair game all year long with no limit.

The toughest part of hunting cottontail rabbits is finding the type of habitat they frequent, and that generally means low growth where they can hide and tunnel, in relatively close proximity to water and a food source. Here in California, blackberry thickets are a prime habitat for cottontails, and usually where you find blackberries, you’ll find bunnies.

When it’s hot, hot, hot outside, you’ll have to devote your hunt times to early and late, because as with most animals and humans, they’ll seek shade and cool areas once it gets hot. But that still gives hunters an easy couple hours in the morning, and an hour or so in the evening.

There are some easy steps you can take to avoid being infected with tuleramia, and one of the first is to avoid rabbits that appear to be “lazy” or not acting “normal” in the field, they may be infected. The second, is to always wear long sleeves, gloves, and eye protection when cleaning any game animal.

After cleaning the animal, clean and disinfect all knives, clothing, or cleaning surfaces and absolutely make sure to wash your hands and forearms frequently and carefully with soap and water.

During the cleaning process, be sure to wear gloves, and hunters should examine the external surfaces of the rabbit for any infected areas. Always check the liver for the appearance of white or yellow spots. Even if the liver appears bright, does not have spots, and the rabbit appeared healthy in the field, make sure to cook the meat thoroughly; F. tularensis are killed by heat above 160 F.

Rabbit hunting is a fun sport, and offers great table fare in yet another “white meat” game animal, that turns out great fried, or in rabbit and dumplings. And best of all, it’s an excellent way to get youngsters involved in hunting, and makes for a fun family outing. Get out there and enjoy!