How to Build and Trap Cottontail Rabbits with a Box Trap

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The rabbit box trap has been used throughout history as a way to catch wild cottontail rabbits as a means of supplementing the dinner table.

It has been around much longer but the first instance, that I could find, of a rabbit box trap being mentioned in writing is Oct 8, 1857. Early settlers of this country depended heavily on wild game as a means to feed their families and a box trap was an easy to make and very efficient way to capture game. The settlers most likely learned to make and use the box trap from Native Americans.

When I was a boy, growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was common for the people of my small town to hunt and fish to help feed their families. The woods and fields around my hometown were filled with a wide variety of game animals. There were deer, bear and grouse in the mountains. The woods down lower also had deer, wild turkey and squirrel and the fields teemed with quail and rabbit.

Among all the wild animals that inhabited the wild areas around town the most common and abundant was the cottontail rabbit. The cottontail is a small stocky animal with large hind feet, big ears and a fluffy white tail that looks like a cotton ball. Thus the name "cottontail". It weighs from 1 to 3 pounds, brownish gray in color and reproduces like, well, rabbits. It has multiple litters a season and if unchecked can become a serious threat to crops in a very short time.

One of the things that has helped to keep the wild cottontail in check is that they're pretty darn tasty. My grand parents served wild rabbit regularly and I enjoyed it immensely. Much better than chicken. My grand father, like every other rural family back then, used a rabbit box trap to catch rabbits for the dinner table.

When I was around 12 years old the duties of catching rabbits were passed down to me. The duties consisted of building the box trap, finding a good place and setting the trap, checking the trap, which I did every morning before school, and dressing the catch. The first thing that I had to learn was how to build a rabbit box trap. The box trap is simple in design and easy to build. I have made a drawing that shows what a box trap looks like and it's components. The box is 24" long, 8" high and 6" wide. It can be built of any kind of raw unpainted lumber and the more weathered the better. The more you can get the box to look like an old hollow log the more productive it will be.

A hollow log is one of the Cottontails favorite hiding places. Rabbits are active at night. When the sun goes down the rabbits come out of their day beds (hiding places) and begin to feed and do other cottontail rabbit activities. When the sun starts to come up again they seek out a nice, safe place to hide from preditors and spend the day. An old hollow log serves the purpose perfectly.

The box trap should be taken out and set only after the first real good frost. By this time any parasites such as fleas or ticks have long disappeared and the rabbit is as healthy as it will be all season. You must check your box every day and be prepared to have rabbits. I don't remember the time that I didn't have a rabbit in at least one of my boxes. I also caught foxes, opossum and the occasional skunk which I released with great care,

By the end of February the boxes should be taken up or rendered ineffective. You can do this by taking off the door, arm and trigger and sliding it up into the box and leave the box for next season. It's okay to leave it and let it weather. Next year all you need to do is reset the box trap and you're ready to go. The rabbit seasons vary from state to state so be sure and check with your local wildlife department.

Things have changed since I was a kid. Much of the wild land and habitat is gone or privately owned and posted. Farms and fields are disappearing from the landscape to make room for new homes and urban sprawl. Life for me was good as a kid. I could leave in the morning and walk all day and never leave the woods or see another soul. Those days are gone but the rabbits aren't. As I said earlier, they're extremely prolific and can survive anywhere theirs a blade of grass or a backyard garden. So, if you've got a backyard why not just try it for fun. The box trap doesn't harm them and you can release them with no trouble. Besides, they will probably enjoy the apple.

As I said earlier, rabbit has been on the dinner table since the first Europeans reached this country. Rabbit is also popular in many other countries and considered a delicacy by many restaurants. Don't believe me, just look up Hossenfeffer. If you would like to try it here is a great rabbit recipe passed down through my family.


* 1 medium rabbit, cut in pieces

* 1/2 cup flour

* salt and pepper

* 3 tablespoons margarine

* 1 cup minced onions

* 2 cups sour cream


In a paper or plastic bag combine one cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add your rabbit pieces and shake them together to coat them with flour mixture.

Heat your oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the margarine in a cast iron skillet or frying pan and brown the rabbit until it's browned on all sides. Pour off the excess fat.

Add your onions and sour cream, cover and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

enjoy your baked rabbit !

1 comment

lucia anna
Posted on Jan 26, 2011