Utah Cottontail Rabbit Populations Booming

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If you haven't hunted cottontail rabbits in awhile, this is the year to get out and give it a try.

"The rabbit hunt should be a banner hunt this year," said Dan Barnhurst, a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) conservation officer in northeastern Utah. "Every time I go out into the field, I see cottontails [cottontail rabbits] and jacks [white-tailed and black-tailed jackrabbits]. I've been on patrols from Diamond Mountain and the Book Cliffs to Strawberry Reservoir, and it seems like every place I go, I see rabbits."

Boyde Blackwell, UDWR regional wildlife manager, agrees. "There are rabbits everywhere! I don't think I've ever seen so many rabbits."

Utah's cottontail rabbit season starts Sept. 16, 2006 and runs until Feb. 28, 2007, making it the longest upland game hunt in Utah.

"Rabbit season can be great fun, especially for kids as cottontails are usually fairly easy to find," Barnhurst said. "Most rabbit hunters use a .22 rifle. However the .22 magnum and the new .17 are gaining in popularity. Walking the brushy washes with a light shotgun can also provide fast action for cottontails."

The rabbit season can also be one of the more deadly hunts.

"Unfortunately, rabbit seasons tend to be one of the most accident prone hunts," Barnhurst said. "Often people road hunt, and all too often, they don't bother to get out of their vehicles to shoot. Not only is this illegal, it's dangerous."

"Research proves time and time again that having a loaded firearm in the vehicle is extremely dangerous for both hunters and their non-hunting companions. We greatly encourage hunters to follow the safety procedures they learned in hunter safety: control the muzzle, keep hands and other items away from the trigger until [they're] ready to fire, no loaded firearms in the vehicle and always know what is behind your target."

"And, if you are riding with a hunter, don't get into the vehicle until he proves his gun is unloaded. There's plenty of rabbits and plenty of time to load the gun after you get out of the truck."

For more information about this year's rabbit hunt, call the nearest DWR office.