This snowshoe – photographed in November 2000 before winter hit hard – is in the process of having its coat transform from brown to white. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Winter in Maine brings an end to most, but not all, hunting seasons. It’s prime time for hunting predators, and snowshoe hare hunting only gets better over the next two months, offering a great way to keep the hunting momentum up before spring turkey season comes around again.

If you own them, or have a hunting buddy who does, dogs add an extra element to the hunt. Once they pick up the scent of a hastily departing hare, the music and entertainment begin. The quarry can easily outrun their short-legged pursuers, especially in deep powder where their namesake feet give them a decided advantage. But, those feet have an Achilles’ heel.

Snowshoe hare have a home range that they become familiar and comfortable with over time. As their flight approaches the boundary, they circle back toward home base, a path that may lead them past well-positioned hunters. It may take several loops to find the right ambush point, and even then they manage to get away more often than not. But even when it doesn’t work, it’s fun for hound and handler alike.

However, you don’t need a dog. Slipping through the softwoods is a bit more serendipitous, but there are a few steps that can point you in the right direction. One is hunting the right habitat. Hare prefer early successional cover, the type you find in an area that was cut over several years prior. They’ll use a mix of hardwoods and softwoods but prefer the latter, probably for greater concealment.

Another thing to look for are signs. They make trails in the snow that become deeper, wider and more packed down over time. Then, of course, there’s those tell-tale round pellets. If snow is sparse, you might still see the pellets, and you can look for twigs that have been nipped at or near ground level, indicating feeding.

There are a couple of ways to go about hunting hare without a dog. One is to move slowly and stealthily, much as you would while still-hunting for deer. A white hare against a snowy background can be hard to pick out but take your time and look for a beady black eye, especially under a spruce or fir.


Snowshoe hare have adapted to their northern climes by changing their pelage (fur) color from brown to white in winter, but sometimes mother nature plays a nasty trick. With a lack of snow they’ll stand out starkly, and are easier to spot. They don’t seem to know the difference and may still hold tight, waiting for an unwitting predator to pass by.

Sometimes they flush instead, especially if you’re at a quicker, less stealthy pace. This tactic also allows you to cover more ground, but you’ve got to be quick on the draw. That’s why the .22 is a good option for plinking stationary hares, but a small-gauge shotgun is better for running game. As it’s always more fun to hunt with a companion, you might try mixing it up, one hunter with a shotgun for the flushes, the other with a rifle.

Snowshoe hare hunting is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise during the winter months while honing your hunting skills and marksmanship. Perhaps the best benefit is in the pot. Snowshoe in the slow cooker with some vegetables and gravy provides a savory serving on a cold winter’s eve.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

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