How to Muzzleloader Hunt Winter Rabbits

Test your winter bunny mettle with black powder

Photo by Donald M. Jones

Anyone can grab a few boxes of shells and get after some winter cottontails. But if you've already been there and done that a few times this season, I say it's time to up your game. Muzzleloaders add a whole new challenge to bunny hunting, when pellets aren't flying and you can't quickly get off a second shot. Want to test your skills this winter? Here's what you need.

On The Arm
My choice long rifle for rabbits is a .32-caliber Pe­der­soli Kentucky Percussion (above) topped with buckhorn iron sights. I sight in dead-on at 25 yards, swabbing the barrel between each shot. With slight aiming adjustments, I'm comfortable out to 40 yards in the field.

On The Ground
When you're using a .32-caliber front stuffer, you need sitting bunnies, so stand hunting and still-hunting are the ways to go—and location is key. My favorite cottontail haunts are thick patches of wild rose brambles on the edges where agricultural ground meets spare timber, or an old junk pile. Rotting vehicles, stacks of rusty corrugated tin, and railroad ties overgrown with brambles and horseweeds make for great stand hunting. On overcast days, pick a comfortable seat with good fields of fire and wait them out. Shooting sticks can help here, as can a thermos of hot coffee. On sunny days, rabbits will come out into the open to soak up the warmth. It's a good time to still-hunt along cover edges, looking for that telltale shiny eye.

Load Recipe
-20 grains of Triple Seven
-Cotton patch lubricated with Bore Butter
-.310-diameter pure lead roundball
-RWS No. 11 percussion cap