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How to Hunt the Alaskan Hare in the southcentral region.

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  • How to Hunt the Alaskan Hare in the southcentral region.

    That wascally wabbit the Snowshoe Hare!

    For being one of the most widespread small game animals present in southcentral Alaska the Snowshoe Hare can be one hard critter to find!

    The mystery decreases however once you learn WHERE, HOW and WHEN to look for them.

    We will start with the Where. Naturally the hares will be where the food is. What do they eat? Good question! Hares eat small willows, aspen, rosehip bushes, alders and even spruce needles in the winter time. Summer time forage is predominatley fresh greens.

    Now just like you would not get good nutrition from eating the same thing all the time, neither does a Hare. So you want to focus on Forests with a good mix of the woody browse they prefer for food. The younger and more tender forage the better. One good hint is if you see moose sign in the area, a hare should be close by as these two animal share the same taste in winter food.

    Generally you will find these places along river banks, valleys, swamps, burned out areas and subalpine areas.

    Not only do these areas provide food but they provide cover and protection from the elements and more importantly Predators. So look for very thick stands of tangled young brush. You will not find Hares in an old open large forest even though it contains spruce, aspen or other woody browse because that area does not offer protection.

    Once you find a likely area, look for clues as to wether or not Hares live there, Of course look for tracks in the snow, twigs on the ground with the bark gnawed off and of course the little brown round droppings. Even with no snow these clues should be easy to find other than tracks. If a short search of the area reveals nothing, move on.

    Okay, you found Sign! They should stand right in front of the gun right? Well you know that isnt true. Finding a Hare requires skill and patience. As a general rule if you are moving slowly and deliberatly through the woods a Hare will hold still relying on his camoflauge to avoid you. He wont be out in the open either, he will be under a spruce tree, a log covered in snow, a thick tangle of alder ect.

    You need to train yourself to look for a part of a hare, not the whole thing! Believe it or not the easiest part of a hare to spot is his eye. Its the only object on his body that sticks out among the snow. The second best is his ears wich often are speckled grey with black tips. Keep your foucus about 30 yards out. Try to look to far ahead and a hare being so small you wont see it, look to close and you will have invaded his confort zone and he will be long gone.

    Of course sometimes you will see one on the run. Try to keep track as best you can where he goes. Often times they will just run a short distance, reposition themselves (often facing you) and wait you out.

    The good news is once you spot a hare or two, it will become second nature to you.

    Before we move on, lets talk about hunting pressure. These hares will behave much more skittish the more they are shot at. Sometimes, you will find lots of sign but not see a hare. Thats usually because these hares will flee long distances the moment they hear you coming. Or the deeper they will hide in the thick stuff. The farther out you walk and get away from the crowd the better it will be. There will be more game, and as a bonus they will not be as well "trained"

    Now there are times when the hunting is better too. For the most part hares are nocturnal. First light and dusk are the best times to be out looking for them as they are moving about. However unlike a rabbit, Hares do not burrow so you can run into them at all hours.

    Conditions are a HUGE factor as well. Hunting just after a fresh Dumping of snow in not practical. For one, sign will be pretty much nonexistant, the snow on the branches and ground will be high and conceal the rabbits. Even if the rabbits were neon orange they would be hard to see. Also, even though these Hares do not "burrow" they will take advantage of natural tunnels created by snow on fallen trees and can often travel 30 feet or more underground to escape you. Also dont go on a windy day, the constant swaying of branches can be a huge distraction.

    My favorite and most productive times to hunt are overcast, calm winds and right at 33 degrees and above with the snow dense, moist and settled.

    Hares begin to breed around march. They are highly active at this time and are a bit easier to come across. Also the temps are milder and the snow is just right. Hunting from March to may is tops. Late september through november is good too. December through Febuary are the hardest months. Now once in awhile, we get those warm chinook winter winds that really melt everything away. Get your self out in the woods when that happens as the hunting can be fantastic!

    For the beginner Hare hunter I highly reccomend a shotgun in the 12-20 guage persuation with 6 or 7 shot. The thick cover and often suprise encounters virtually demand this firearm for the novice.

    Well I hope you enjoyed my Hare hunting primer. As I get out some more I will take pictures of the habitat, sign and conditions that I have described and post them. Good Luck!

  • #2
    Excellent post, Matt. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.


    • #3
      Great post! Very helpfull, thanks for taking the time to write it up

      Nurse by night, Alaska adventurer by day!


      • #4
        Matt, Fantastic thread!
        I still like to point out that despite the liberal season shooting hares in the summer is pretty counter productive. Come late Sep-Oct the hares have stopped breeding for the year and it is prime time to blast them through about April. During the summer months the female Hare will be carrying leverets constantly. They actually have 2 uterus's (uteri <sp?>) and will actually be carrying 2 litters at any given time which is why they reproduce so fast! If you really want to get into some bunnies in the fall when they are less likely to have parasites and not be pregnant then let em grow in the summer.
        A slick trick for getting rabbits with a .22 is to whistle at em when they break cover. Very often they will stop and look back at the sound, which opens them up for a head shot! Of course for the heavily pressured bunnies the only thing that is going to stop em is a good dose of #6 shot!

        Excellent suggestion on the Shotgun for those new to bunnies. I would also recommend for people to SHOOT! You are using a shotgun! If you wanted precision you would be carrying a .22. I have killed numerous bunnies by shooting right through grass and brush. I use #6 shot and recommend it, it seems to be more apt to pass clean through than 7 1/2 which leaves fewer BB's in your meat.

        Great post Matt--Rep added!


        • #5
          Thanks guys! Ive been wanting to write this for some time. Its been in my head, just needed to sit down for a bit and get it out.

          Rabbit hunting is a great start into the hunting lifestyle and figured there were probably some people out there that were putting the time in, but not seeing much results.

          Hopefully by next weekend or so well be littered with rabbit hunting pics on here!


          • #6
            My struggle so far has been finding places where my nephew can be successful with a .22. I don't think he's ready for a shotgun yet, as shooting the .22 forces him to be methodical and patient. That being said, finding a hare within range that will sit still for a few moments isn't the easiest thing. We'll get one with time, but it hasn't happened yet. We were supposed to be going out tomorrow, but that just got cancelled.


            • #7
              Brian, some of the best success I have had with folks new to hare hunting is to find willow thickets on hill sides....Position the hunter at the outlet of a narrow ravine, you go wide and to the top and walk down through the ravine...It flushes the bunnies down and out and if the shooter is quiet and patient he will be able to "ambush" the hares that are focused on you above and behind them....Seems to work 90% of the time....And the guy flushing can tote a shotgun and keeping his background in mind, will be able to clean up the ones that stop short....

              AWESOME post Matt...If I hadn't already reached my quota of handed out karma I'd hit ya with one......
              “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
              "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."


              • #8
                Matt nice post - I'll add...

                Get a beagle. Nothing sweeter than the sound of an old hound bringing the rabbit past you. Watching it hop toward you checking it's backtrail is priceless. Having grown up with beagles I had to get one here when I moved up. I currently own one of nothern Michigan's finest 'Redneck Beagles' (part walker - mostly beagle) which creates a long legged beagle built for deep snow. Got him as a wedding gift (seriously) and he is curled up next to me on the sofa as I write. Having a beagle increases success and adds excitement IMO. Last trip, 11 in two hours on the flats for the group.

                It may seem weird but if you hunt with a couple folks when you bump one it does work to follow the tracks and leave a person where you bumped it. It it knows it's being followed it'll circle back to where you kicked it up. Make sure the guy following makes some noise so the stander knows where you're at. Same principle as a dog and it's pretty cool if you can get your beginner buddy to actually howl while he follows the rabbit.

                Get a beagle, good loving pet and rabbit chasing machines.

                Prince of Wales Island


                • #9
                  HEHE Gooch,

                  Yeah I got me one of them beagles. I had to dig deep in the memory banks to write about hare hunting WITHOUT a beagle!

                  I Think in the last 5 years Ive only rabbit hunted once without him.

                  They are great rabbit hunters, but they are a living creature that need care, attention, money ect.

                  My only gripe with him is that rabbit hunting is about all you can do with him. You cant take him for a walk anywhere without it turning into a hunt!

                  Check out my hunting album in my profile if you want to see some beagle/rabbit pics


                  • #10
                    Thanks matt
                    I have been doing my research, and footwork as everyone on this forum suggested and my two boys, and I got a glimpse of a hare yesterday, but no shot.
                    I will bet with the info you provided they will bag their first hare, and a fond memory.
                    thanks again


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rimfirematt View Post
                      Thanks guys! Ive been wanting to write this for some time. Its been in my head, just needed to sit down for a bit and get it out.

                      Rabbit hunting is a great start into the hunting lifestyle and figured there were probably some people out there that were putting the time in, but not seeing much results.

                      Hopefully by next weekend or so well be littered with rabbit hunting pics on here!
                      I am one of the ones "Putting the time in and not seeing much results"
                      But a day in the woods is still better than a day on the couch.
                      Thanks for the write up.


                      • #12
                        Great Informatiom

                        I am a beginner and always wondered on what to do when hunting. This gives me alot of insight and a place to start as i am trying to teach myself. Thanks for the tips, I need them.


                        • #13
                          Great write up!


                          Excellent. We're heading out this weekend for a test run at filming one. Hopefully we'll see something. I haven't chased rabbits in a zillioin years:cool:

                          Alaska Outdoors Television ~ Outdoor Channel


                          • #14
                            Great post...

                            Good job educating us, esp beginners! Thanks.
                            No habitat, no hunter.


                            • #15
                              WOW Thanks for all the comments guys/gals!

                              Im really glad you all enjoyed reading this. I had fun typing it up!

                              Again thanks and Good Luck!


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