The Myths Versus the Facts About the Cottontail
When it comes to hunting the rabbit, there are many debates out there among sportsman that include whether or not the creatures are even safe to eat during the summertime. There are also debates on where, exactly, one can find the best cottontail hunting in America.
Dealing with the location issue first, most rabbit hunters do not have a problem bagging more than a few cottontails or swamp rabbits on every trip they take to the State of Arizona. Arizona is a perfect place to experience rabbit hunting, not to mention a huge number of small game including, squirrels, quail, grouse and more.
When it comes to the Southwest, Arizona boasts three separate species of cottontail: Nuttall’s (AKA mountain cottontail); Eastern cottontail; and, Desert cottontail. It is the short-eared mountain cottontail that’s actually restricted to hunters when it comes to elevations above 7,500 feet. The larger eastern cottontail is found in the mountains of southeastern and central Arizona, where it sits side-by-side with the quail and Coues white-tailed deer. But the most common cottontail is the long-eared desert cottontail. This is a widespread species found in every county.
Cottontails are extremely popular when it comes to small game hunting in Arizona. And from novice to expert, hunting along desert washes or canyons with a shotgun or small-caliber rifle, is the chosen way to bag the game. For those who are really adventurous, however, archery is also a great method to use in order to get in some much-needed practice. Dogs, although used liberally in other parts of the country for cottontail hunting – such as the Midwest – are not used in Arizona, because of the harsh landscape. With the frightening terrain, the cottontail can be sent into hiding and the dog into the ER.
The debate about taking down the cottontail during the summer months still goes strong. But many hunters will speak to the actual facts versus myths when it comes to dining on rabbits. The fact is that cottontails (and other larger jackrabbits), play host to internal and external parasites all year long, not just the summertime.
When the hunter is careful and understands the actual game and how it must be handled, the fear will subside. The common sense approach is to absolutely wear rubber gloves when dressing the catch; cooling the rabbit before carrying it on your person; washing your hands thoroughly; and, when creating the meal, cooking the rabbit correctly. Most hunters skin and dress the cottontail immediately during the hunt, which reduces the chance that any external parasite can/will switch hosts.
Also, the location matters a great deal. Hunting rabbits below 3,500 feet during any portion of the year reduces exposure to both plague and tularemia.
One thing spoken about when it comes to only eating a rabbit after the frost, is that weevils burrow under the creature’s skin and cause the meat to become infected with worms in the summer; whereas, in the winter the worms are killed by the cold. Of course, the rabbit is a warm-blooded creature, which means the animal’s ambient internal temperature is actually the same before and after the frost. In addition, worms are killed when cooking; if the rabbit is cooked until it reaches 160 degrees, all worms will be dead.
A drop in outdoor temperature may prevent worms from spreading to another rabbit, but once the cottontail has them, they’re there, and it doesn’t matter how cold it gets.
The other disease spoken about is Tularemia, which can live for years in any cottontail locked in your freezer. It can, however, be killed by heat – so cooking the meat solves the issue. Studies have shown that you only have a 1 in 100,000 chance of catching this rare disease and, statistically speaking, the hunter has a higher chance of catching it from rabbits in the winter.
In other words, if you wish to drive and scout in the sunrise and/or sunset, discover potential hunting sites, and bag the game – do it without fear.
By using common sense, rabbit fans can still have a cottontail adventure in the summertime.
Source: Sportsmans Life / Baret News Wire