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Five Reasons to Give Rabbit a Run

By Peter Brookes

Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR

You don’t hear a lot about rabbit hunting in Virginia these days. That’s likely because fewer folks are chasing rabbit—and more are hunting deer and turkey due to the upswing in numbers of these species across the state, according to some experts I consulted.

But chasing rabbit with dogs for sport or hunting rabbit for harvest is a great Old Dominion sporting tradition—and a fabulous way to beat back cabin fever, brought on by Old Man Winter every year about this time.

Despite its seemingly unheralded status among Virginia’s sportsmen and ladies these days, here’s why I think that chasing or hunting rabbits, among other reasons, makes for a terrific day in the field:

Reason #1: You’re outside. Unless you’re binge-watching episodes of Bugs Bunny on Looney Tunes, the only way you can chase or hunt wascally wabbits is to go outside. As the health experts all seem to say: Getting outdoors is good for you.

Reason #2: You’re active. Besides being outside, walking across the countryside is great exercise; another thing we get too little of in winter. No sitting in a tree stand or a blind for hours on end, half freezing to death. Instead, you’ll feel full of vim and vigor as you amble over hill and dale.

Reason #3: Watching dogs work. Yes, you can chase or hunt rabbits with dogs in Virginia. Watching a single or a pack of hounds such as beagles scenting and baying as they pursue a rabbit is quite a sight. It’s also a wonderful way to see our best friends do what Mother Nature intended them to do—work. The dogs love it, too.

Reason #4: You can be social. No need to be quiet while pursuing those fleet-footed fur balls. You can do it with a group. It doesn’t need to be a solitary pursuit with vows of monk-like silence. Go ahead, chat away…neither the rabbits nor the dogs seem to care about last week’s play-off game when the chase is on.

Reason #5: It’s a great way to introduce hunting to someone new. Rabbit hunting can be a less intimidating and complicated day of sport for a new hunter. With its fast pace, it’s full of action, and is a good way for someone new to hunting to feel comfortable afield.

If you decide to take a rabbit for the pot, make sure you consult reputable health and wildlife safety guidelines. For example, use good hygiene in the cleaning of harvested game, properly dispose of carcasses, store meat properly, and use appropriate cooking techniques to safely prepare the wildlife for consumption. Find some recipes here!

So shake off those winter blues by getting out into the wild to  chase or hunt Virginia’s Eastern cottontail (everywhere), Appalachian cottontail (mountains), or Marsh rabbit (southeast Virginia).

Of course, before heading to the field, bone up on the wealth of important information on the Department of Wildlife Resources’ (DWR) website and in DWR’s Hunting & Trapping regulations for matters such as the rules, regulations, precautions, and suggestions for chasing and hunting rabbits in Virginia.

Whether for the thrill of the chase or to bring game to the table, rabbits are a great part of the Old Dominion’s outdoor heritage. It’s a sport you might want to try–or share with someone who wants to get outside this winter, giving a little what for to that nippy Jack Frost.

Dr. Peter Brookes is a DC foreign policy nerd by day and an award-winning VA outdoor writer by night.

  • February 2, 2023