Archive for the 'Hunting' Category

Cooking up Cottontail Carnitas

Thursday, February 16th, 2017
Cottontail carnitas a la Evin Cooper

Cottontail carnitas a la Evin Cooper

This is Passport to Texas

I think the late chef and cookbook author, Julia Child coined the expression: Easter Bunny Syndrome. It’s when we decide which animals not to eat based on their perceived cuteness. Rabbits fall into that category.

As Central Texas writer, cook and mom, Evin Cooper tells us, rabbits are as delicious as they are cute, and even better than pork in carnitas. She says her first attempt using cottontails was a success, and began with two rabbits in a slow cooker.

And, I stewed them all day with some beer and some homemade salsa, and let them cook and cook and cook. And then, let them cool—and then I deboned the meat. Then, I let the meat sit in the fridge overnight, and the next day I seasoned it up a little bit more with chili powder and cumin and all those wonderful Mexican spices. And I fried them in some hot oil—just the shredded meat—almost like hash browns. It got really crispy on the bottom, and I flipped it over and got it crispy on the other side—almost to the point of burnt. Then, I put it in warm corn tortillas with avocado slices and lime juice. It was so good. I mean, I’ve given up pork for my carnitas. And I want to use almost entirely cottontail now. It’s just delicious.

Find Evin Cooper’s Cottontail Carnitas recipe at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Rabbit Carnitas
Evin Cooper says to make this flavorful dish is a two-day process, and well worth the effort.

Day One
• 2-3* good size jackrabbits/cottontails, skinned and cleaned
• 1 cup salsa
• 1 beer
Day Two
• Corn or canola oil
• taco seasoning**
• prepared rabbit meat
• corn tortillas
• cilantro
• diced onion
• avocado
• lime

For the meat:
The day before you want to serve the tacos, wash the rabbits and pat dry. In a crockpot or a large stock pot, add the rabbits, salsa and beer. Use both your favorite salsa and beer. (Stick with a lighter beer. Dark beers will overpower the flavor of the meat.) Cook the rabbits until they are fall-off-the-bone tender (3-4 hours on the stove, 4-6 hours in a crockpot) and allow to cool a bit. When you can handle the rabbits, pull the meat off the bone and discard the bones. Add the juices from the pot to the shredded meat and refrigerate overnight.
To prepare the tacos:
Heat about ½ inch of oil in a shallow, wide skillet. Toss the cold meat with the taco seasoning and the reserved juices until well combined – use your hands for even distribution. When the oil shimmers, grab a handful of the shredded rabbit and squeeze out most of the juice and put it into the hot oil. Repeat the squeezing process until there is an even layer of meat in the pan, and press down with a spatula once, then leave it alone. Let the bottom get crispy, then toss the meat and press the non-crispy side into the pan to crisp. When crispy, remove from the pan and drain, and repeat with the rest of the meat until all the rabbit has had a turn in the hot oil.
Meanwhile warm corn tortillas on a comal (or in a heavy skillet), dice red onions, chop cilantro, slice limes and cube some avocado, crumble some cotija cheese (optional)
Top a warm corn tortilla with about ¼ cup of the crispy meat, and the toppings of your choice.

*I got about 8 tacos per rabbit, but it really depends on the size of your kill and how stuffed you like your tacos!
**Please don’t use a packet from the grocery store! If you don’t already have a taco mix recipe that you love, find one! Or, you can just season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, Mexican oregano and chile.

Safe, Successful Rabbit Hunting

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
Hunting rabbits and hares can be a rewarding challenge.

Hunting rabbits and hares can be a rewarding challenge.

This is Passport to Texas

Deer hunters are used to sitting quietly in a blind for—sometimes—hours before a buck or doe saunters into view. If they ever do. Increase your odds of harvesting game by hunting rabbits.

I mean, there is an abundance of rabbits across Texas.

Rabbit hunting is year-round and statewide. Heidi Rao, a hunter education specialist says rabbits don’t often stray into the wide open spaces, and suggests hunting the edges of their territory, such as fence lines or tree lines.

 A lot of people use .22 rifles, .22 pistols. Some people use 410 shotgun or 20-guage.

Rao recommends sticking with the .22s; shotguns are loud and can cause other rabbits to run erratically, reducing your odds of taking a safe shot.

The do zigzag. We always recommend making sure you have a safe background and that you can identify your target. So, we always want to make sure that you have a good still shot. So, make sure that they stop. Because it’s always difficult to hit a moving target if you don’t have a spray of pellets like a shotgun.

Besides, it was that shotgun blast that made the rabbits zigzag in the first place. Plus, a single shot from a .22 will go further to preserve the integrity of the meat.

Tomorrow—a recipe for making cottontail carnitas.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series and works to promote shooting sports and hunting in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Hunting Rabbits and Hares in Texas

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
Jackrabbit hiding behind prickly pear cactus.

Jackrabbit hiding behind prickly pear cactus.

This is Passport to Texas

People who hunt rabbits say they find it more engaging than waiting hours in a blind for a deer to visit a feeder.

Sometimes when you’re deer hunting, you might be sitting in a blind just being quiet and waiting and not see anything.

You don’t have to “bait and wait” with rabbits; they’re everywhere. Heidi Rao, a hunter education specialist, says rabbits and hares may be hunted year round, statewide.

In West Texas, you do have the larger jackrabbits. We do have some larger rabbits and hares down in South Texas. There is an abundance of rabbits across Texas.

A hunting license is still necessary. Rao says you can use a shotgun when rabbit hunting, but they tend to be loud.

If you plan on doing a day of rabbit hunting, and you’re using a shotgun, you could scare away some of the other rabbits in the area. They could hunker down and hide because of the noise. A .22 rifle or pistol is a lot quieter.

Heidi Rao offers tips on hunting rabbits.

The best way to hunt rabbits—they love cover. They hide near their food source. So that’s a great way to hunt rabbit, along what we call edge. Which is the edge of their habitat versus the open area.

Find hunting information by species on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series and works to promote shooting sports and hunting in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Rabbits Versus Hares — Some Differences

Monday, February 13th, 2017
Side-by-side comparison of a cottontail (left) and hare (right).

Side-by-side comparison of a cottontail (left) and hare (right).

This is Passport to Texas

A cottontail is a rabbit and a jackrabbit is a hare. And although they’re in the same family, they’re different species. Hares have longer ears and back legs than rabbits—and the differences don’t stop there.

One of the differences between hares and rabbits are the types of nests they build. And this is determined by the condition of their young at birth.

Heidi Rao is a hunter education specialist. She says true rabbits are born hairless, blind, and dependent on their mother’s care.

A young jackrabbit is actually born with his eyes open, and his body fully furred, and with the ability to hop around only moments after birth. It doesn’t need an elaborate nest to be reared.

Hares are less social, and they give birth and raise their young in above ground nests. Rabbits live in groups, and give birth and raise their young in underground burrows or warrens. There is one exception. The cottontail.

The eastern cottontail’s nest is a saucer-like depression three or four inches deep and about eight inches across. And they line it with mouthfuls of soft, dead grass mixes, and hair from the mother’s body.

Hares are more skittish than rabbits and do not make good pets. But they both are good eating. Hunting rabbits and hares…that’s tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

A New Hunter Gets a Shot at Success

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
Hunting for white-tailed deer.

Hunters attempting to attract deer to a clearing for a good shot.

This is Passport to Texas

Adults with little exposure to hunting are expressing interest in the activity. So, in December, Texas Parks and Wildlife offered a mentored deer hunt for adult novices at Inks Lake State Park. Chris Hall was hunt coordinator.

[We did it] to give a total turn-key experience—start to finish—of ethics, proper care and maintenance. As well as the hunting experience, itself.

Barham Richard, an environmental attorney from Austin, was among the group participating in the mentored hunt. He’d been squirrel hunting as a kid, but that was years ago. He sought guidance for big game, and found it.

From the first day, everybody’s been so helpful, and they’ve taken a lot of time to figure out what they wanted to do here. You can tell they took a lot of pride in putting this all together. So, I can’t tell them how much I appreciate all of it.

Barham and his cohorts spent the first morning of the 3-day mentored hunt in the classroom, and that afternoon at a shooting range. On day two, it was off to the blinds. Preparation paid off for Barham.

Got my first doe. You say this is your first doe. First deer? Yes. First deer ever. We got it late at night. We were about to pack up, and there it was. So, we took it, and I’m really happy. So, how did you feel as you were pulling that trigger? I tried to stay calm. Well, I had a misfire. So, we had to
unload it [the rifle], reload it. By that point it was pretty easy to stay calm. [laughter]

More adult novice mentored hunts are being developed.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.