View Full Version : Eating Cottontail?

September 6, 2006, 04:27 PM
I hunt conttontails here in southwest washington. Everyone looks at me like i am crazy when i start hunting and eating the rabbits once the season opens in september, it goes to march. I hear a lot of stuff like ya dont wanna eat em in months ending in Y or some other stuff like that. Is there any true substance to any of this, pertaining to inside my season?
Thank you.

September 6, 2006, 04:29 PM
Here comes peter Cottontail,
hoppin down the bunny trail...
Shoot him up, eat him up
Any time of the yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!


Wild Bill Bucks
September 6, 2006, 04:31 PM
Here in Oklahoma, they say you are not supposed to eat them until after the first freeze. Here lately, the freezes are hard to come by. I think it has something to do with a parasite of some sort. The freeze is supposed to kill it. (I THINK):o

September 6, 2006, 05:03 PM
Probably because of tularemia "rabbit fever", which is transmitted by ticks and deer fly. Less bugs on the rabbits to bite you and give you the disease, after a hard freeze. You also can get it through cuts or mucous membranes coming in contact with infected rabbit's blood. It is possible to get it from the meat if you don't cook it well.

I don't think that cold weather cures the infected rabbits, just reduces exposure to infected ticks and biting flies, and breaks the life cycle by killing off the bugs. Also reduces rabbits' exposure to the insects that spread the disease.

How is tularemia spread?

Many routes of human exposure to the tularemia bacteria are known to exist. The common routes include inoculation of the skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue while handling infected animals, the bite of an infected tick, contact with fluids from infected deer flies or ticks, or handling or eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat. Less common means of spread are drinking contaminated water, inhaling dust from contaminated soil or handling contaminated pelts or paws of animals. Tularemia is not spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms of tularemia?

Symptoms vary, depending on the route of introduction. In those cases where a person becomes infected from handling an animal carcass, symptoms can include a slow-growing ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered the skin (usually on the hand) and swollen lymph nodes. If the bacteria is inhaled, a pneumonia-like illness can follow. Those who ingest the bacteria may report a sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

September 6, 2006, 05:06 PM
Flies & insects is what I always heard. In springtime either even if flies aren't out yet because they're all pregnant & having babies.

September 6, 2006, 05:45 PM
Bot Fly. Here is the link.
This is why we don't hunt rabbits or squirrels until about a week after the first good frost.I've always heard my Granddad call the warbles "wolves", guess its not too far of a stretch. I don't bother to correct him. I know better.

September 6, 2006, 05:49 PM
I thought the cotton tails were exempt...

And that Jack Rabbits were the ones with tularemia...?

Somebody clear that up for me... Please

September 6, 2006, 06:24 PM
In North Carolina the season runs from Thanksgiving until the end of February.Most hunting is in the last two months because deer season is over.If there is any disease it is rare.There was a time when things were hard enough here that you almost had to eat rabbits and squirrels to survive.Thirties especially.I don't know of anybody that ever had a problem with it.My mother is eighty seven years old.Eat some she cooks and her biscuits and you will hunt them more often.

September 6, 2006, 06:26 PM
I allways thought it had something to do with rabbies. I never hear about rabbies in the winter months here in Wis.

September 6, 2006, 06:33 PM
I have hunted and eaten cottontail in washington. I have heard some people warn about wierd diseases but never verified it. I never got sick and dont know anyone that has. I wonder if theres any truth to it?

September 6, 2006, 07:00 PM
Rabbits harbor lots of nasties. Folklore says don't eat them until after the first freeze, and there may be some truth to it. Fleas that can transmit several diseases are killed or greatly reduced by freezing weather. Various types of biting flies and mosquitoes are killed by freezes.

The biggest threat is blood-borne diseases. Rabbits that are sick are killed or reduced by freezing weather, since it takes so much more energy to keep warm and active. Cottontails can harbor tularemia, but only in areas where it is endemic, and again, after it freezes the number of sick bunnies drops.

In western Washington we don't have tularemia, but we have lots of fleas. If you want to know what hell will be like, kill a rabbit and put it in your game bag early in the morning in August. The fleas will get on you and bite you and make you wish you hadn't done that. But once the temp drops, have at 'em! There is nothing like fried rabbit and rabbit stew.

September 6, 2006, 07:14 PM
R.D. Wheeler has it right. We use to do alot of hunting on FT. Hood for rabbits, squirrels, armadillos and such. In the warmer months the rabbits would oftentimes have a Wolve (That is what we call them also) just under the skin of the armpit.
They look like a giant brown maggot:barf: about the size of the last joint of your thumb!:eek: We always left the Bunnies so infected in the field.

September 6, 2006, 07:32 PM
I LOVE fried rabbit. Cottontail is my favorite. They were great hunting with a .22. Only if we were in the mountains would we use a shotgun. We always waited to eat them until after first freeze killed off the weak ones in the early Winter when up North. Down in Southern Nevada, where I was raised, we just were careful to avoid the bugs'n'blood and cooked them well. The only fried rabbit I had growing up down there were domestic.

Take a roaster, cover the bottom with 3 or 4 layers of onion slices (red or Spanish onions are best.) Pour on a can or two of beer and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Lay your quartered rabbit(s) on the onilon and liberally sprinkle with lemon pepper. Cover rabbit with onion slices and put the cover on. Cook in the oven at 250 for two hours or so. It is hard to overcook this, so you could put it on as much as 4 hours ahead and drop the temp to 225.

This works really well with a clay pot, too.


September 6, 2006, 07:39 PM
Damn that sounds good ArmedandSafe.;)

September 6, 2006, 07:42 PM
I don't think the warbles will hurt you but they are pretty disgusting.Do a search on Rabbit Fever.There are several articles on it.One says only 150 to 300 cases per year in the entire country.Pretty rare.

September 6, 2006, 08:13 PM
Bots ==> Extra protein. Just a bonus! :) Thx for the recipe, armednsafe.

September 7, 2006, 11:32 AM
Just a note on fleas. I once snared a beaver in the spring. He had been under the ice about four months. I had to spray it with Raid and bag it. It was full of fleas and ticks. The Game Warden told me that is a big reason some beavers abandon a pond, too many bugs.

I envy anyone that lives where the cottontail hunting is good.

Dave Haven
September 7, 2006, 10:09 PM
Cottontails are delicious. MMMMMMM.:)
The "safe" rule I've heard is "any month with an 'r' in it." That precludes May, June, July, and August.

September 7, 2006, 10:32 PM
Just cook 'em a good while longer than you think is needed and there is no danger of critters infecting you. Extra-long cooking time in a flavorful liquid makes them more tender as well.

I always heard the reason to wait untill after the first cold week was that the cold will kill off the animals that are badly infested with vermin. If they are really crawling with nasties, they will be too weak to survive in the cold.

That's the old farmer's answer, anyway.

September 8, 2006, 10:45 AM
When I was little we ate fried cottontail or squirrel 2 or 3 times a week...

We would get fried chicken occasionally for a change in the menu...

We preferred hazelnut and corn fed, cottontail and squirrel... ;) :)

We never had to eat 'coon or possum but we had many a neighbor who did...

September 8, 2006, 10:50 AM
Just cook 'em a good while longer than you think is needed and there is no danger of critters infecting you.
Thats good enough for me. ;)