View Full Version : Head or body for rabbits?

February 29, 2012, 03:50 PM
I'm practicing up to get in on next rabbit season, and I have seen different opinions on how best to take them (all I have is a .22, by the way, so please focus the suggestions with that in mind). Some say head shot, others say lung/heart. Which do you say is best? Also, to make sure I am practicing the right way, what is an appropriate kill zone on a cottontail? I have been assuming about 2 inches for target practice.

February 29, 2012, 04:58 PM
Head if possible but I've killed plenty with body shots. Just don't use hollow points for body shots. I use subsonics for all my rabbit and squirrel hunting.

February 29, 2012, 05:14 PM
He's right. If you want to eat it shoot all head shots or bodyshots with only subsonic ammo. Even solid CCI Mini Mags will tear a rabbit up.

February 29, 2012, 05:43 PM
After 45 years of hunting I can say with certainty the head shot is the most inhumane shot on any animal that can be taken. I have seen so many animals with their eyes shot out, jaw blow off, nose shot off and the top of the skull torn up and still live long enough to starve to death. Even a cottontail can survive a tremendous head shot. I watched a friend head shoot a cottontail rabbit with a 7mm Rem Mag. The rabbits face entirely dissapeared, from the eyes forward. He didnt even appear to flinch. He just sat there quivering in pain. After a mad scramble for another cartridge, the rabbit was finally dispatched. Even saw a blue grouse fly off to be unrecovered with half of its head shot off. NO animal deserves this.

February 29, 2012, 05:53 PM
If you are good enough to do so and have the opportunity, head shots is the way to go. just focus on the eye and if in doubt, go for the neck. Again, you are talking about hunting with a .22LR. .... ;)

The only hunter out there that tries to keep his kills quick and humane, is man. ... ;)

Be Safe !!!

February 29, 2012, 06:05 PM
The head gets the lead....

phil mcwilliam
February 29, 2012, 06:18 PM
I go for head shots on rabbits up to 50 yards or so, then chest shots for those that are further out.

February 29, 2012, 06:29 PM
Head shots at 50yds or less. Body beyond that.

Head shots are humane. What movement that is left is just nervous reactions to the sudden loss of the brain. Muscles twitch, quiver and tremble. Some animals can even run (and yes birds fly) without brain control for short periods.

I've shot a duck in the head at close range with a 12ga. and watched as the head exploded only to watch in amazement as it the duck continued to fly for 25 or more yards before folding.

I've seen pheasants head shot and fly for 100 yds before folding too. Both those birds were recovered - its good to have a well trained dog for that.

February 29, 2012, 07:38 PM
Somewhere in my photos stash I have photos of big game with their jaws shot off. The HUMANE head shot left them to starve to death. A client against my stern advice head shot a cow elk cause he was an expert shot in his words. I watched as the elk had both of its eyes shot out. Just a nervious twitch, lead to an elk with a gastly wound. It instantly ran into heavy brush, and escaped. Just runs 25 yards and dies? I know better as I found the elk weeks later nearly dead from hunger. I also have a photo from a local newspaper of a nice buck with an arrow in its head. The caption reads "so much for humane hunters". A friend last year found a 5 point bull elk that had been shot staight on with an arrow. The feathers were just below the eyes, the remainder of the arrow was in the elks throat. The elk died of starvation as the arrow point wouldnt let any food to pass. Time line for starvation was 4 to 6 weeks as archery season had started six weeks before rifle season and ended 4 weeks before season. It had died only days before as 3 days before rifle season started it had snowed and the dead elk was on top of the snow. I dont just see how this is humane. Instant death? Not the small deer I shot with a 12 guage slug at 3 feet. The deer had been hit by a car and had to be dispatched. The slug simply put a 3/4" hole in the deer head and it started to screem and bleet till I was able to put another slug into it. Hit the brain and it is instant death. Miss that small patch of grey matter and you risk a gastly death.

February 29, 2012, 08:15 PM
I'm ten years shy of being 45 so I can't say I've hunted for 45 yrs or even had close to that amount of time in the woods. All I can say is I hunt every weekend unless something comes up and I spend a couple hours on the range three nights a week. Again not close to 45 yrs of hunting but I'm no novice.

That said your posts make you sound like a guide of some sort. That being the case, with all respect, I have to question your choice of clients and their actions... and your choice of friends as a hunter and a guide.

You see I'm an ethical and conscientious hunter. I've never lost an animal I've shot yet and I've invested a lot of money (in my mind and budget) to ensure that. I agree that not all head shots result in an instant kill but mine have thus far. I work hard and spend a lot of money at the range to ensure that. If they don't drop and die where they were shot I make every possible effort to find and retrieve the wounded quarry. THAT would be the humane thing to do. I have dogs that I've trained to track and hunt birds, small game and even deer. Why? Because I hate losing a wounded animal and letting it die slowly. Now in my state its illegal to hunt deer with dogs but once you've shot the deer and put your main hunting weapon away it IS legal to track a wounded deer with dogs.

As such having a dog is an amazing tool that has resulted in the recovery of many a deer that would have otherwise been lost. I recall one particularly difficult one to find - my friend had gut shot a deer and it ran into swamps. We tracked it for an hour to no avail so I went to get my dog. He found the trail and tracked it for over a mile (judging by the fact we had to call and get permission from the owners of land two tracts down from where we were hunting I'd say about 1.5 miles) before it went down in yet more swamp. The carcass was laying in 18" of water and we wouldn't have found it had my dog not stopped to sniff at the one antler that was sticking out of the water in some brush. By the time we found it it was 2000hrs and pitch black. Luckily GPS showed we were close to a road and we were able to drag the deer to the road and get picked up by other members of our party.

What you've described sir is in my mind unacceptable hunting and as a guide you are allowing it to happen. So your client wasn't as good a shot as he thought he was or maybe he was a crack shot but didn't know where the brain was... in either case you let the elk get away. I'd have tracked that thing till I found it. "You shot it now you have to find it no matter what." That's what my dad told me on my first hunting trip and I shot my first deer. I've held to that ever since. Perhaps you should hold your clients and friends to that too. Oh and speaking of friends if any of my friends decided to take a shot at a rabbit with a 7mm mag I'd have to question their judgement and their aim.

Your last two posts make it seem as though CO were filled with a lot of unethical hunters. What you and other hunters/guides are doing isn't illegal but in my opinion it is unethical and definitely inhumane. Perhaps if a more ethical view of hunting were practiced your views on head shots wouldn't be so adverse?

February 29, 2012, 08:34 PM
I'd agree with that. The subsonics really keep the damage down. I tend to have a 12 gauge with me, so I shoot all of the above, but the .22 with subsonics, especially from a pistol, tends to go in and out. I've killed plenty of little reds with federal automatch, and they poke a little hole in and out. However, the .22 CCI Minimags on the same sized squirrel is a recipe for guts poking out the other side, fragged meat, etc.

February 29, 2012, 08:52 PM
After 45 years of hunting I can say with certainty the head shot is the most inhumane shot on any animal that can be taken.
You know better than that as there are worse areas to shoot an animal. When hunting, there are no guarantees on quick and painless shots. My uncle use to work in a slaughter house and he once showed me the kill floor where the kills were fast and "perhaps" painless. All were killed by driving a pneumatic driven bolt into the brain. (head shots). .... ;)

When you have hunted as long as you have, you have seen your share of bad shots. I have hunted longer than you and I too have seen and caused unnecessary suffering. We all have stories to tell but those instances are rare and not the norm. We never plan on these things happening but they happen to all of us. As I often say; I am not out there to hurt animals, just kill as efficiently as I can. I really question you logic and/or agenda. .... :confused:

Be Safe !!!

February 29, 2012, 09:20 PM
Head or neck shots on rabbits.

Neck shots on everything else.

Bad hunters make bad shots. And when good shots are made, the animal isn't left out in the woods to suffer and be seen by others.

Don't waste good.

February 29, 2012, 09:23 PM
How about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch? I hear it works pretty well, even on the most ferocious bunnies, especially the ones with the big teeth!:D

In all seriousness, I agree with the majority. Head shots are preferred to preserve meat.

February 29, 2012, 10:48 PM
HANSAM, you make some valid armchair quarterback comments. As a guide you have adult clients. As Americans you can not make someone do something they dont want to, unless you are a government bureucrat. Tacking them till you find them is a great idea, however many make it to private land. It is illegal to trespass while following a wounded animal. All you can do is refuse to book the client again. Since my earlier post I recalled 3 more failed head shots on deer, one I commited myself as a youth. I fire @3000 rounds a year in practice but I have no idea how much my clients practice. From the sounds of your experence and your place of residence I would assume you hunt from tree stands. Here in the west no such things exist.Elk run in herds so a wounded animal would not be able to be followed by a dog, which is illegal here. Elk seldom leave much blood especialyl from a jaw shot. Hunting is afoot. No sitting in a stand. When you encounter an animal you are often out of breath, distances vary from muzzle to hundreds of yards. High winds, heavy snow or rain, bad footing, shooting offhand or from makeshift rests, dont lead to accurate shooting. Why aim at something the size of a small fist when such a large target is available. And I am not 45 years old, I have been shooting big game for 45 years. You sound like a client I would have liked to have booked, too bad my guiding days are over. The rabbit incadent happened years ago, weather was @20 below, light wind, range 100 yards, using a piece of sagebrush as a rest. The hunter only missed the brain by an 1/2". Pretty good shooting I would say. You sound like you have some great ethics but many times real world hunting seldom follow the script.

February 29, 2012, 11:25 PM
I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I never said you were 45. I said I wasn't 45 so I couldn't claim to even have close to your level of hunting experience. That clarified I'd like to make a few points:

From the sounds of your experence and your place of residence I would assume you hunt from tree stands.

You assume wrong sir. I don't like tree stands (purely because I have the tendency to fall asleep in them). I still hunt - stalk for a bit, stand still and observe, stalk more, stand still and observe. Repeat till I find my quarry and take it. The last time I shot a deer from a stand was when I was 18. I am now 35. So while I may not be in the west I do hunt afoot.

Elk run in herds so a wounded animal would not be able to be followed by a dog, which is illegal here. Elk seldom leave much blood especialyl from a jaw shot.

I've never hunted elk but deer run in herds too. A wounded animal does have a different scent than a healthy one and a good dog can pick up on that even if there is no visible blood trail. Hunting deer with a dog is illegal here too but tracking an animal that you have shot and wounded with the aid of a dog is NOT illegal so long as you're not carrying your primary hunting weapon. Your DNR's rules on that read similar to WI DNR's rules on use of a dog. I'd place a call to your DNR for verification but I'd wager its about the same.

Tacking them till you find them is a great idea, however many make it to private land. It is illegal to trespass while following a wounded animal.

That is also true here however sending someone from your party or going yourself to ask the landowner's permission isn't too much trouble is it? Most land owners will not begrudge you their permission to go onto their land in search of wounded game... especially deer sized or larger. If they say no at least you can say you've done all you could but to just give up because they crossed property lines isn't doing all you could.

When you encounter an animal you are often out of breath, distances vary from muzzle to hundreds of yards. High winds, heavy snow or rain, bad footing, shooting offhand or from makeshift rests, dont lead to accurate shooting.

I agree with you on this. I've hunted in all of these conditions. That's why I practice often shooting offhand, on makeshift rests and off shooting sticks. I practice shooting in mud, snow, pouring rain and high wind conditions. Basically regardless of weather conditions I'm out there practicing 2-3 times a week. Shooting offhand I can trust that even after having stalked through heavy brush and woods up hills and through swamps I can make a shot to the vitals on deer size game with my rifle out to 300yds. Most of my shots don't occur at that distance since in the swamps and woods that I hunt I primarily shoot between 40 to 75 yds. I have taken game out to 400 yds though so its not impossible. There are deer that I've head shot though and they've either dropped where they were hit or ran at most 25 yds and died. Typically those deer were does that I had tags for. I neck shoot bucks to save meat. I've not had a neck shot deer move more than 20-25 yds before dying either.

I fire @3000 rounds a year in practice

I send on average 1000 rounds a week down range in practice. Some weeks more depending on what I'm doing that week. Granted its not all with rifles, about 1/4 of that is handguns, another 1/4 of that is shotguns (trap and skeet) but nonetheless I do practice. I can only hope other hunters practice too.

Why aim at something the size of a small fist when such a large target is available.

I agree with you on this too if you don't know for sure you can make the shot. I've made the shot, multiple times, and know I could make it again. That comes from knowing your weapon and knowing your skills and limitations. Would I take a head shot out beyond 100 yds? Definitely not. Within 100yds though I know I can take a head shot on a deer consistently shooting offhand with my LR-308. If I'm shooting off a set of sticks I can extend that range to about 150yds. Oh and something I like to practice - I do quickly 100 jumping jacks before I start shooting. When my heart rate and breathing start to return to normal I do more jumping jacks. I look like an idiot on the range but it helps you learn how to shoot when you're tired, excited or just out of breath. I don't do this all the time at the range but I usually put at least 90 rounds down range doing this between mags.

Anyway again - head shots are not inhumane. Leaving a wounded animal to die slowly however is.

February 29, 2012, 11:34 PM
Head shots on rabbits and squirrels with .22. Heart/lung shots on "big game" animals.

March 1, 2012, 08:13 AM
I thought the question was about rabbits? I'm hearing replies about elk..deer..etc....

March 1, 2012, 10:25 AM
I thought the question was about rabbits? I'm hearing replies about elk..deer..etc....
Thanks for bringing us back on point as what you hunt dictates how you hunt. .. ;)
In the past, there have been posts about taking head, neck and rack shots at whitetails. That is someones personal choice and they have to be accountable for that. Personally I never take those kind of shots on larger game even when that is the only choice presented. However, we are talking rabbits and lets go ahead and throw squirrels into the mix. .... ;)

Be Safe !!!

March 1, 2012, 12:56 PM
Wow! No Monty Python fans in the crowd. I guess I am getting old!

March 1, 2012, 04:55 PM
Chest shot for me. I have never seen a hollowpoint .22 tear up a rabbit ever. Solids or HP work fine. I've done head shots and still feel the chest gives the most humane kills. Most chest shots the rabbits don't move at all. The kill zone on a head shot is small on a cottontail, these aren't huge southern jackrabbits.

March 1, 2012, 06:10 PM
I can't shoot rabbits in my neck of the woods with a .22. My little .410 H&R Topper does the trick nicely. Also makes it challenging because you have to get within about 30 yards. Hardly ever gets any shot in the meat like using my 12 gauge when out hunting for dove and quail.

March 1, 2012, 06:35 PM
How about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch?

This one is the winner!!

Thanks for all the info guys. I will keep it in mind as I choose my gear and practice my shooting.

March 2, 2012, 10:53 AM
We're talking rabbits here not Elk and deer. OP, don't put so much thought in it. I've shot plenty in both areas to know that both work fine and a .22lr, even and HVHP, does not blow a rabbit to the point of being inedible.

As for humane vs. inhumane: Take the best shot you can and let the chips fall where they may. No one is a perfect shot and crap happens, not every animal dies the perfect death, so be it. Don't like it? Hang up your guns.


March 2, 2012, 01:06 PM
Wild bunnies are already always skinny enough from a hard life in the wild. We don't get to hunt those fat city cottontails that you feed in your yard. Every little bit helps when you're trying to make a meal.:D

March 4, 2012, 10:52 AM
As I stated in the second post of this thread, solid subsonics, in the head if possible, body otherwise. I limit my head shots to a calm animal, unaware of my presence to 25 yards or less usually, with a scoped .22. Any farther and I consider the head shot (not possible) and go for the lung shot. I've never shot a rabbits jaw off sticking to these limitations.

March 4, 2012, 11:01 AM
Rabbits and Squirrels = head shots. Larger game = heart/Lung shots.

I have seen quite a few deer that had poorly placed head shots, jaws, eyes etc. Thats from poor judgement to shoot at their heads, or from roadhunting poachers around here, they want them to drop. The old instant kill or complete miss, unfortunately a percentage of those "misses" are just bad hits.

March 4, 2012, 02:50 PM
He uses a blunder buss looking thing on Bugs and that seems to have failed him miserably. Bugs has taken numerous body shots in the cartoons and still lived to make another few million so I would go with a head shot! :D

March 4, 2012, 09:11 PM
I see your point, Vermonter, but I also recall Elmer having some dead on head shots on Daffy, and all it did was push his bill onto the back of his head... seems cruel to me. That was on a duck, though, so the comparison is a little off:rolleyes:

March 4, 2012, 09:23 PM
Head any chance you get. Body works but makes a mess sometimes.

March 4, 2012, 10:08 PM
I don't know how many can remember the first Bugs Bunny / Elmer Fudd cartoon but Elmer didn't have a gun on his first trip to the woods, he had a camera, and was interested in taking pictures of wildlife.

Bugs started being a rascal to Elmer, and harassing him and interfering with his picture taking. He wouldn't leave Elmer alone and Elmer got so mad that he ran home to get his gun and returned...

...and the rabbit head shot was born ;)

So don't go thinking that the rabbit is innocent because they started it.

March 4, 2012, 10:20 PM
Bunnies' brains are very small, and a shot with a "solid subsonic" that does not actually hit that pea-sized target might result in a lost animal ..... fatal yes, but the coyotes or a possum will fidd him before you if he gets into some brush......

....for that matter, their heart/lung area is smaller han it looks, and further forward....... aim center mass, and you've gut shot Bugs.......

I use bulk hollow points (Dynapoint, Golden Bullet , etc). Works much more reliably than solids. Head or chest, either works.

March 5, 2012, 07:35 AM
I spent a lot of years in the Sacramento valley. No rabbit season or limit on take with the exception of cottontail. The "Sacramento Jack" is actually a hare. It can also get well over 10 pounds. Head shots are best, but chest shots work good too. My favorite ammo for them is CCI Mini Mag. Most shots are taken between 50 and 100 yards.

Usually it isnt difficult to get a farmer to let you hunt their land for them because they are considered pests. BTW......unless you get an old one, they are great when cooked like fried chicken. If you have an old one, then its time for the old stew pot.

March 9, 2012, 08:47 PM
I don't think I've ever tried to hit a cotton tail in the head. Chest only, right behind the front leg w/ my trusty Remmy Nylon 66 -- first firearm I ever bought. Still have it.

I think I tried for neck shots on occasion on Jackrabbits with my 22-250, but again, most of my shots were chest shots.

More margin for error in the chest. As mentioned above, there are places in the head, even bunnies, that can be mortal wounds, but not a quick kill. Hit'em in the chest and you have a dead bunny waiting for you where you shot it.

Old Grump
March 9, 2012, 10:24 PM
I stopped using hollow points for rabbits in 72 and have been using standard velocity 40 LRN bullets through the heart ever since. I nail them quick, less chance of missing and there is very little meat lost from that area. The fact that I use a pistol for 90% of my small game hunting influenced my body shot decision but their small head and their constantly moving it around as they eat and look around them influenced it even more.

March 9, 2012, 10:44 PM
I use both, usually they run in thick brush before I spot them and I take a foreward body shot which I usually leave to my wingman who is on shotgun, if their sitting still sideways I take a lung heart shot which dosnt damage anything but the ribcage which I dont eat anyhow, If their faceing me I shoot the lower head/ neck at the medula for a clean lights-out and no damaged meat. Plus if you aim low on facing headshots and you miss high you still get a textbook headshot, low you get a neckshot or bodyshot and either side you graze the neck instead of an eye or jaw. For a different experience try a .410 with a full choke and take clean headshots all day.

March 9, 2012, 10:45 PM
Old Grump..I figure your a dead-eye shot....22 pistol on rabbits....;)

Old Grump
March 10, 2012, 11:47 AM
Old Grump..I figure your a dead-eye shot....22 pistol on rabbits....Was, key word is was. Thousands of jack rabbits to my credit and hundreds of squirrels and pigeons, The rabbits were easier. They didn't hide in the rafters of the barn or up in tree's but were right down there at ground level like I was. Since then I have gone to rifle for the rabbits and shotgun for the squirrels and pigeons. Now that I'm back in Wisconsin the rabbits are even easier, they are smaller but a lot slower, Kind of like me except I got bigger and a lot slower.