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Discussion Starter #1
This grouse season, I was hunting with my dad and our buddy and we normally talk about all kinds of things while hunting. We see a lot of hare tracks normally when we are out in some of our covers so we started talking about rabbit hunting. My dad and his buddy (who are now each 69 years old), had beagles growing up in the 50's and 60's. My dad hunted in Cambria County and our buddy grew up in Tennessee. My dad said that every once in a while they would kill what they called "woods" rabbits and his buddy said they would shoot a rabbit they called "blue bellies" which were smaller than a cottontail and always around swamps. I think that what my dad thought were woods rabbits were actually snowshoe hares but am not sure what our buddy was shooting in Tennessee. My question is, what so you guys think they thought were "wood rabbits" and "blue bellies"?
 

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"blue bellies" are what guys down south call a marsh rabbit. It's just a smaller sub-species of a cottontail, found in swampy areas.

What most guys call "woods rabbits" are just a big cottontail that lives in more open wooded areas. It may be a different sub-species (I don't know). I don't think they were killing hare by mistake.
 

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There is an Appalachian Cottontail that is smaller, he's got shorter ears than a "regular" cottontail. They do not have the red behind the ears or the clean white belly/tails it's more gray. We call them bluebellies. They run like hare, and live in grouse country.
 

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My dad is 74 and grew up Ehrenfeld in Cambria County. Or as they called it, Scooptown. He always talked about hunting woods rabbits with his beagles. He said they were bigger than regular rabbits. I asked him if they were snowshoes and he said no, these rabbits don't turn white.

With all of the logging taking place in the Gallitzin State Forest now and the deer fencing they have been installing, I've noticed rabbit tracks inside the fence during muzzleloader season. There is some excellent habitat inside those fences for rabbits.
 

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My dad and uncles talk about woods rabbits. They are just a cottontail, usually they are big however I'm not sure they have to be. They just live in "non brushy areas", and when the dogs jumped them, they run in open woods, so they just called them woods rabbits. Definitely not mistaking hares.
 

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I've always heard the term "woods rabbit" and understood it to refer to a larger sub-species of the eastern cottontail.

I did some quick searching and found two recognized sub-species of the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), the New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) and the Appalachian Cottontail (Sylvilagus obscurus). Both are commonly referred to as "wood rabbits" but both are said to be generally smaller than the eastern cottontail.

It wasn't I until started hunting in northern Potter County about fifteen years ago that I saw what might be considered a PA woods rabbit. A buddy and I hunt grouse up there quite a bit and occasionally kill rabbits. A few of those have been huge, identical to cottontails but much larger than any others I've seen. We both agreed that those rabbits were what our fathers would have referred to as woods rabbits.

An interesting side note; unlike other rabbits which I generally consider excellent table fare, these cooked up tougher than boot leather.
 

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I see what I believe are Appalachians quite a bit as it's wooded for miles and miles, woods that have never been reclaimed from a plow etc. Usually somewhat startling- like grouse to a bowhunter. Walking along, listening to the dog bells when one explodes from your feet without the wingbeats. Being rattler country I usually audible when it happens... even if it's only 10 degrees out. Almost all get a free pass, they give the bobcats something that hopefully keeps us from competing for birds.
 

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I'm Going to echo Andy P on the bluebellies. Thay make for some long distance runs for a tiny rabbit.
On the topic of woods rabits I just think they are good old cotton tails that live in the woods and tend to be larger than most common cottons that live in the brush. My brother who is 74 likes to look for them a few times a year. He said it brings back memories of hunting the big woods for small game. I just think some are older than the ones that live in the more common rabbit habitat and we are not use to seeing full growen rabbits. The one thing that stands out on what we call woods rabbbits is the length of the wiskers. It may be age or just the open areas to run but these guys have long wiskers. Waugh!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the replies...I was not aware of different subspecies of cottontails in PA but it makes sense. I also thought that I read about the Appalachian or new England cottontail used to be in PA in small pockets in NC PA but now they are believed to be gone from PA.

My dad talks a lot about rabbit hunting when he was younger. He said his neighbor, who raised chickens for a living, used to always have beagles that my dad hunted over. He said that he would let the beagles out right before he got home from school and many times as my dad was running home to grab his shotgun, he would hear the beagles up on the hill already chasing. That would have been neat.
 

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Barberry said:
My dad talks a lot about rabbit hunting when he was younger. He said his neighbor, who raised chickens for a living, used to always have beagles that my dad hunted over. He said that he would let the beagles out right before he got home from school and many times as my dad was running home to grab his shotgun, he would hear the beagles up on the hill already chasing. That would have been neat.
My dad would occasionally turn dogs loose in the afternoon near our school and my Brother and I would meet him and run until dark...thanks for that memory.
 
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