HOW TO EAT RABBIT & Hare

Rabbits eat their own poop. For the vitamins…

But mostly they seek out a protein rich plant diet that includes winter wheat, clover, dandelion, green grasses, twigs and tree barks.

 

Besides that, they procreate. Often. Almost all predators, from wolves to rattlesnakes eat rabbits. They are nervous animals that die of shock unfortunately easy. Each year around 80% die from weather, disease and predators. But the remaining population rebounds with vigor in the spring. A reliable, abundant and widely available population of protein rich triple pounders. 

 

Rabbit is a lean, tender, dark meat. It is gamier than chicken, but anything you can do with poultry you can do with rabbit. It is drier than domesticated rabbit. Either of these things is over come with marinades; used before roasting, frying, or featured in stews, creamy casseroles, or sweet and spicy sauces over beds of rice.

09/16/17 - 02/28/18

Harvest Season

1. Did You Harvest?

a photo of your hunt or harvest!

The RecipeS:

 
 

The RecipeS:

FIELD NOTES

 

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can anyone do this?

HOW TO BECOME A CERTIFIED MINNESOTA HUNTER

Anyone born after December 31, 1979 must have a firearms safety certificate in order to purchase hunting licenses. 
Revenue from the sale of these licenses is what funds the acquisition of habitat and wildlife management programs.
The nitty gritty requirements are here, but you can take the online course. The course allows you study the material on your time. There are chapter safety tests then a full exam. Under 18 requires in person attendance at one of the scheduled range safety days. After $35 in fees you are issued a voucher and instructions on how to self-certify with the state of Minnesota.
With firearms safety completed, you may order and print licenses online, or pick up at a licensing agent. You need a small game license ($22) for this.

HOW TO BECOME A CERTIFIED MINNESOTA TRAPPER

Persons born after December 31, 1989, who have not been issued a trapping license in a previous license year may not purchase a trapping license without a trapper education certificate.
 
The Minnesota Trappers Association conducts trapper education courses statewide, free of charge to participants, and issues the certificates. Find available course information here.  There is an online classroom portion with an examination, then a field training day. This course introduces you to animal identification, laws and ethics, tools of the trade and land & water trap setting techniques. 
After this education and certification, you will need a small game hunting license ($22) to hunt rabbit with firearms and also a trapping license ($23) if wanting to take them with traps. 

what does a rabbit even do?

HOW TO BE THE RABBIT

Rabbits eat their own poop. For the vitamins…

But mostly they seek out a protein rich plant diet that includes winter wheat, clover, dandelion, green grasses, twigs and tree barks.

 

Besides that, they procreate. Often. Almost all predators, from wolves to rattlesnakes eat rabbits. They are nervous animals that die of shock unfortunately easy. Each year around 80% die from weather, disease and predators. But the remaining population rebounds with vigor in the spring. A reliable, abundant and widely available population of protein rich triple pounders. 

THREE RABBITS

Minnesota has three rabbits species.

The common eastern cottontail, a small grayish brown critter grows to two or three pounds. It’s belly and chin are white. 

 

The white-tailed and long-legged jack”rabbits” are technically two species of hares. Jack rabbits are a goofy lot, with exceptionally long ears and the leaping gait of an antelope. They’re around two feet long and can reach ten pounds. They are brownish-gray in the summer and turn white in the winter. 

 

The snowshoe hare is a northern species. It’s large, namesake feet allow it to run fast on soft snow without sinking. They grow to about 20 inches long and reach several pounds in size. They turn from brown in the summer to white in the winter.

what's the difference?

Hares are high speed critters. They are born furred, with open eyes and get moving in short time. Rabbits are born blind, helpless and hairless and require some time in the relative safety of a nest before taking to the world.

TASTE THE RABBIT

do they taste different?

oh, sounds tasty. what do I need?

Differently delicious. Rabbit is a lean, tender, dark meat. It is gamier than chicken, but anything you can do with poultry you can do with rabbit. It is drier than domestic rabbit. Either of these things is over come with marinades, used before roasting, frying featured in stews, creamy hot dishes, or sweet and spicy sauces over beds of rice.

where to I go to hunt rabbit?

HOW TO FIND RABBIT HUNTING LAND

Eastern cottontails are one of the most common small game mammals across the state. They can be found everywhere but the most northern reaches of Minnesota. In those northern conifer forests you’ll be after snowshoe hare. 

 

Jackrabbits live in open areas. Their range spills into central hardwood forests from a more populated home in the western plains counties. Intensive farming has made them harder to find, but those same farms may allow you to hunt them if you ask. Jackrabbits are often considered a nuisance, as they eat their crops.

 

Regulations don’t typically allow rabbit hunting in your city park or backyard.

 

Any public land hunting options, including all state forests and wildlife management areas within the state can offer rabbit or hare hunting of one species or another.

I'm here. what am I looking for?

HOW TO LOCATE RABBIT IN THE FIELD

Optimal cottontail rabbit habitat combine open feeding spaces with dense cover for protection. They forage open grassy areas, clearings and old fields for grasses and herbs. They shelter in thickets; brush piles, downed trees, hedges and dense patches of low growing shrubs protect from birds of prey, fox and coyotes.

 

Walk fence rows and the edges of fields or alder swamps. Circle dense shrub groves and weave in and out of forest edges. They won’t be deep in the woods. 

 

In the winter, rabbits feed on a few particular favorites; clover, black and raspberry bramble shoots, the twigs and bark of young deciduous species saplings and the same food plots or cultivated agricultural remains that deer are going after. Locate these and you’ll locate hungry rabbits. 

 

In the north, snowshoe hare inhabit dense jack pine uplands and edges, tamarack bogs and scrub fens. They desire dense, brushy coniferous cover for protection and insulation. In winter they will feed on aspen, willows, hazelnut, ferns, birches, alders and sumacs.

 

In winter, watch for their tracks. They will run the same places, to and from thickets or burrows, leaving droppings in protected feeding areas. Inspect the saplings for scraping and chewing in these areas. 

 

Jackrabbits are solitary individuals. They spend most of their life above ground. In open grassland or agricultural fields, use a pair of binoculars and scan your surroundings. Glass the bottom of thickets and the edge of brush, looking for the black tufted ears of rabbits sunning themselves. 

ok. where do I shoot it?

If the temperature has dropped recently, rabbits consider it cold. They will sit quietly as you walk right over and past them. Work the same habitat, but slow your pace and take long pauses. Unnerve them into taking flight. 

 

Approach with preparedness some south facing slopes. Rabbits will be taking full advantage of the sun’s warming rays. 

SOME WINTER HUNTING METHODS

If you’ve got a rabbit sitting still and are hunting with a rifle, aim for the head. This is the most humane death and does the least damage to the meat. 

oh, there it goes!

A shotgun may cost you some extra care removing shot pellet when cleaning and eating, but may be worth the drastically improved opportunity to bag them at all. With a shotgun you can take a rabbit on the run. Aim down the barrel and if you can, lead the animal and hit mostly the head.  

can I get them without a gun?

In the winter it becomes possible to set a trapline for rabbits. You can determine where the animals are traveling and have a couple of days to check while the cold keeps your quarry from spoiling. Setting a dozen well placed snares can yield you a few rabbits in a weekend while you carry on with other activities. 

HOW TO SET A RABBIT TRAPLINE

where do I place a rabbit snare?

Snare wires are to be placed in the natural paths rabbits are taking. 

In winter, watch for their tracks. They will run the same places, forming 6 to 8 inch wide runways. Search these runs for natural funnels; where sticks, branches or obstacles narrow the path of least resistance where these critters will travel. In these narrowed opening is where you set your snares. 

HOW TO SET A SNARE FOR RABBIT

Ideally, you set the snare so that it closes around the neck of animal passing through it, and doesn’t include the legs or waist. 

1. Open your snare into a loop about 7.5” wide to account for the animal’s ears.

2. .Hold in place your snare, so the lowest point of the opening’s diameter is 5” to 6” above the runway.

3. Wrap the wire 3-4 times around a branch to hold it secure. 

Check your snares after the night and the early hours of the morning have passed.

I've got rabbits. How do I make them into food?

FIRST BEWARE RABBIT FEVER

Rabbits can be a carrier of a bacterial disease called tularemia. Hard freezes in colder months kill the bacteria, but in warmer weather, be aware. It can be passed to humans, most commonly through skin contact with infected animals. This happens rarely, and if you’re on the lookout for a few obvious indicators of the disease, it’s easy to avoid. 

 

1.  Rabbits with tularemia act incapable or unwilling to move very fast. If at all. If you can walk right up to a rabbit, make contact with it, or pick it up even, it’s probably infected. It’s best for the environment to dispatch (kill) this animal and dispose of the remains (deep burial or in a trash bin) where other animals won’t eat it and contract the disease. 

2. Tularemia causes breakouts of dark bubbles, pustules on the flesh of the rabbit. They can be visible on the face, from the outside and under the skin. It’s good risk management to use gloves while cleaning a rabbit but not absolutely necessary. These dark blisters may not appear above the skin. Be on the lookout as you flesh the animal. 

3. One final telltale sign is to inspect the liver. A healthy rabbit liver should be a solid hue of dark red, like a beet, merlot or garnet. If it is a bright red, and if it has white growths on it, particularly in dispersed specks, this animal is infected and you should dispose of it. 

 

It’s best practice to find an alternative meal, but if cooked thoroughly, to temp, the bacteria will be killed. If infection is contracted, flu like symptoms will occur in 3-5 days and with medical attention, a course of antibiotics is the usual result.

It’s important to ‘field dress’ freshly killed animals as soon as possible to cool down the meat and prevent occurrence of disease-causing bacteria. Removing the flesh, fur & warm internal organs then wrapping the carcass and placing it in a cooler will keep the safety and quality of the meat. The warmer the kill, the easier it is to skin. You can do it immediately, or at the end of your outing, but definitely within the first day of the kill. Try to find a spot near water for easier cleanup. 

HOW TO FIELD DRESS & CLEAN A RABBIT

Take your knife and game shears.

 

1.  Make a cut in the hide across the back. 

2. Grasp a fold of skin on each side of the cut and pull in opposite directions. The hide should pull away easily. 

3.  Remove the head, feet, and tail to complete the process.

4.  Place the blade at the anus and cut through the skin and pelvic bone.

5.  Cut up to the breastbone, placing a finger under the blade to avoid cutting any organs.

6.  Reach into the body cavity and pull the esophagus and windpipe loose, then remove the entrails.

7.  Wipe out the cavity and allow to cool.

what do i do with these guts?

Nature does a fantastic job at recycling animal carcasses, especially when food is tough to come by in the winter. If you are on private land, just leave them out of sight and smell for the scavengers and the soil. On Minnesota public lands disposal of animal carcasses is prohibited. You’ll want to bag them up and toss them in your garbage. 

what do i do with the fur?

Wild rabbit fur typically comes off in patches during cleaning and doesn't offer a reasonable opportunity for tanning pelts. Dispose of it with the other internal organs. 

is this food ready for the kitchen?

Remove your meat, make these cuts and portion it into five ready for the kitchen pieces.

Rabbit can be kept in the freezer as is after cleaning for a month or so.

For longer term, try freezing them in zip lock bags filled with water. To get all the air out of the bag, hold it under water in the sink, zip it mostly closed. Squeeze out most you can then fasten it fully shut. Freeze them this way and they’ll be good for cooking until the next season arrives. 

It can be safely canned with a pressure canner. 

HOW TO PRESERVE RABBIT MEAT

how long can I keep this meat for?

 

GEAR GUIDE

TRAPS

Snares for small game don't need to be terribly robust. They can be made from many materials, but a handful of 1/16" galvanized aircraft grade cable with micro locks are easier to work with. 

WIRE & CLIPPERS

A roll of 11 or 12 gauge wire and some clippers allow you to secure the snares to nearby branches.

KNIFE

A versatile trapping knife includes a sharp, clip point for penetration and detail work and a spey blade for general skinning. Stainless steel blades are highly resistant to rusting.

FIELD SHEARS

A strong scissors makes quick work of breaking leg bones, leaving only skin for your knife blade to separate.

SLED & HARNESS

Compact expedition sleds are deep enough to cradle your gear, scooped in the front and scoured with runners to glide effortlessly behind you. If you don't go for a sled/harness combo, it is fairly easy to DIY attach to a skijoring or climbing harness with rope or cord.

SKIS 

A pair of classic-style backcountry nordic skis, 70 to 90 mm wide under foot are the right choice to haul extra weight across the variable snow conditions of a Minnesota winter. Waxless is lower maintenance and sufficient for workhorse skiing.

SKI BOOTS

Be sure to match your boot and ski binding system. The most common backcountry binding will be a 75mm 3-pin. Look for a rugged sole, reliable insulation and stabilizing heel cuffs.

SNOWSHOES 

There are short, wide snowshoes for better handling in the brush, and long, narrow snowshoes for efficiency on the trail. Try to select something right in between.

HEAD

Trapper hats on the trapline...

GLOVE LINERS

Look for windproof fabrics that block the breeze and sticky, dextrous fingers for dependable set management.

MIDWEIGHT GLOVES

The puffier they are, the warmer they ought to be. Strike a balance between loft and finger dexterity for handling your ski poles. 

BASELAYER UPPER

Wear wool or synthetics next to skin. These fabrics transfer moisture, manage odor and continue to insulate after wet from a sweaty tree stand approach. 

INSULATING MIDLAYER

Get hotter and heavier with a fleece or pile sweatshirt.

SHELL JACKET

To protect your insulating layers from wind and precipitation, put on a hard shell jacket made from durable, waterproof, breathable fabrics.

UNDERWEAR

Ex Officio, always. Wear one pair all weekend with the most comfortable, breathable, quick drying briefs.

BASELAYER BOTTOM

Lightweight/midweight, wool or synthetic thermal “long johns” will trap heat right against the skin and wick away any moisture during periods of overheating.

INSULATING MIDLAYER BOTTOM

A synthetic fleece or pile pant maximizes the trapped and toasty dead air space, but sweatpants will work too. 

SHELL BOTTOMS

To protect your insulating layers from wind and precipitation, put on a hard shell bottoms made from durable, waterproof, breathable fabrics.

SOCK SYSTEM: ULTRALIGHT / LIGHT / HEAVY WEIGHT

Ultralight synthetic liner socks will transfer any moisture to a lightweight/midweight merino wool. Adhere a full foot length heat pad then layer on a heavyweight and expedition weight sock. 

GAITERS

These are an added layer of protection from moisture and debris entering your boots while you post-hole your way around a snow laden swamp.

INSULATED BOOTS

A winter-weather-weight pair of snow boots has taller cuffs, a Thinsulate liner wrapped in a waterproof/breathable membrane and will insulate you to -30/-40 degrees F. 

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REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer

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Equipment

Apparel

COMPLETE A RABBIT HARVEST?

1. Did You Harvest?

You harvested a natural food source from your local environment. That's awesome. 

It's an honest, well earned meal. Proceeds from that license you bought will protect and sustain more acres of habitat for future animals. 

You deserve a reward. Maybe one day, after you submit photos of your hunt and harvest, you'll receive a rabbit token, that unlocks merchandise exclusive to those are one with the rabbit. That day is not today. But you're excited even without the incentive, you say?! Well, submit and share your bounty anyways! 

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Get oot and after it.

You are how you eat.

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