Rabbit hunting is one of the oldest and richest in tradition type of hunting. It is great for beginners; nevertheless, it does not lack excitement. Most agree that the behaviors of the cottontail are quite predictable. Yet, it doesn’t fail to surprise at times. Hunting rabbit requires a great deal of patience and understanding.
The adrenaline rush when the dogs are in hot pursuit of fleeting rabbits is incomparable. Beagles are used especially in the US, but hounds are widely used in Eastern Europe. Sicilian (Italian), Serbian (also knowns as Balkan) and Serbian tricolor hound are three very popular breeds.
Choosing the right shotgun and choke can definitely boost the chances of a kill success. Let’s first see what exactly a choke is, and which one would be the best choke for rabbit hunting.
WHAT IS A CHOKE?
A choke is a constrictive piece placed inside the bore of the barrel. It controls to the spread of the pellets of the ammunition. It also protected the bore from being damaged. The tighter the constriction, the more concentrated in the center the pellets are. The higher the concentration of central pellets, the further the distance they can reach.
TYPES OF CHOKES
Older shotgun either would usually have fixed or adjustable chokes. Fixed chokes are integrated in the barrel and can only be permanently changed by a gunsmith. Adjustable chokes are throughout the entire range by turning a sleeve e.g.: polychoke.
However, most of the shotguns come with interchangeable chokes. They are easily removed and inserted, even out in the field. Interchangeable chokes can be either internal or external.
The most common types of interchangeable chokes for hunting include: cylinder, improved-cylinder, modified, improved-modified, and full. They can be identified by the number of cuts, also known as stars, on the choke. The cylinder has 5 stars, the improved-.
cylinder 4 stars and so on. The constriction starts from 0.25mm on the improved-cylinder and proceeds with 0.25mm steps. The reaching distance starts with up to 20 meters with the cylinder choke and it increases by 5 meters steps per choke.
The type of choke used depends on the type of hunting. Let’s look at them one by one.
Cylinder choke has no restrictions, therefore it is not even counted as a choke most of the time. Improved cylinder has a minimal restriction (0.25mm). The pellets spread widely which increases the chances of hitting a target. It can reach up to 25 meters far. Cylinder chokes are the most popular for shooting at a short distance. They also are chokes of choice for birds. For targets within the reaching limit, the aim doesn’t have to be perfect due to the spread of pallets. The chances of missing a target at a further distance are higher.
The modified choke
Modified choke has a constriction of 0.5 mm and reaches up to 30 meters. It’s subsequent, the improved-modified choke, has 0.75mm constriction and can reach up to 35 meters. The modified chokes are middle choice between the cylinder and the full choke. They provides the best of both worlds. If aimed well, they can destroy anything at a close distance.. This choke can be used for most types of small game hunting.
The full choke (continued by the extra full and super full) offers a restriction of 1.0mm. It is used for distances beyond 35 meters. Seventy percent of the pallets remain in the centre, compared to only forty percent in the cylinder choke. Therefore, it provides high accuracy at further distances. The full choke was developed especially for Turkey hunting and some types of goose hunting
WHICH ONE IS BEST CHOKE FOR RABBIT HUNTING?
A picture of my father, Manush Xhaferaj.
The answer to the question would depend mainly on the environment of hunting. Most agree that best choice would be between either a modified choke or an improved-modified choke. These two chokes would be ideal in thick bush or woods, where the bunnies are expected at a close range. However, my father, a rabbit hunter of over 40 years, swears by the full choke. He has always hunted rabbits with dogs and would be prepared to shoot them from a far distance. Other factors, such as the length of the barrel and the shotgun type should be taken into consideration, too. For cottontails, a short barrel of 51cm-61cm would be the most suitable.
IS A 12-GAUGE TOO MUCH FOR RABBIT?
Nowadays, most of the shotguns manufactured for hunting are 12-gauge. The 12-gauge firearm is definitely powerful and can be used for any type of hunting. Some might say that a 12-gauge destroys the rabbit and if one intends to have their hunt on their dinner table, it might not look pretty. However, one can aim at the had instead of the body. Most importantly, it is not so much about the size of the inside diameter of the barrel but rather the ammunition used. A shot size No.4 or No.5 works best.
HOW DO YOU CALL A RABBIT FOR HUNTING?
As a hunter, it has never crossed my mind to have to call a rabbit out of their holes. Apparently, this is considered a survival skill. What wouldn’t want do to survive, right? Anyways, if you are in desperate need of some protein, here’s what you got to do.
Calling a rabbit requires a mirror/ or simply the screen of a smartphone and polystyrene (Styrofoam). The polystyrene makes a squeaking noise when dragged over the wet, flat surface (you must wet the surface. Spit will do). Now, if in total-total survival mode, you can learn how to suck on your finger to create a squeaking noise similar to the one the polystyrene on flat surface makes.
The noise made by these two techniques imitated the ‘death cries’ of a rabbit being attacked. Other rabbits have the instinct to get out and see what the threat is. The noise doesn’t have to be very loud. The way the rabbit hole is constructed in the form of a funnel, which channels and transmits the sound waves well.
Wear bush-pants to protect your legs from scars and scratches and make sure you are wearing good quality hunting boots.
If hunting in groups, stay in your position and don’t make any sudden appearances to avoid accidents. Its best to stay 50 feet apart and walk in alignment and in staggered succession. Also, wear your orange blaze.
Be patient and do not rush. Even when seeing the rabbit rushing in front of you to get away, take your time with the shot.
Rabbit are known to run uphill 99.9% of the time. So, go vertical.
Get to know the habitat around and the best time to get there.
Be ready of sudden surprises. Practice on developing a very fast shooting instinct.