The Perfect Rabbit Gun

Now that it's February, everything is closed here in Iowa but rabbit season, which naturally brings up the subject of rabbit guns. Like the Most Interesting Man in the World, I don't shoot rabbits often, but I when I do, I shoot them with a shotgun.

Usually I shoot rabbits when I'm bird hunting and my dog isn't looking. So my "rabbit gun" is whatever I'm carrying for pheasants or quail. That usually means an IC/M 12 gauge and whatever lead or non-toxic load I'm shooting that day.

The perfect rabbit gun, though, doesn't have to be a 12. Although I've never mangled a rabbit with a 12, it doesn't take a lot of pellets to kill a cottontail. In fact, the best rabbit shoot I ever went on was a quail hunt in which the quail didn't show up and the rabbits did.

We shot rabbits until our gamebags got too heavy and we killed them all with Skeet-choked 20 gauge O/Us and 7 1/2s. A 16 or 20 is all the rabbit gun anyone needs. You could go smaller, although if I hunted with a .410, I'd confine my shots to close range and only shoot at sitting rabbits when I could make a head shot.

The perfect rabbit gun, like a good grouse gun, should be light enough to carry one handed as you fend off brush with the other hand. And it would be a gun that I wouldn't mind taking into the brush in the first place. Mine would have an IC choke, and I'd load it with 5 shot, if only to put fewer stray pellets in the meat.

Of course, the even more perfect rabbit gun would be a combination gun like the old Savage Model 24 with a 20 gauge barrel under a .22 LR barrel, just in case you do spot a rabbit sitting still at 50-60 yards.