With little more than two weeks left in March, now is the ideal time to take advantage of the sun sitting high in the sky, with the warmer weather making amends for the Arctic-like February we’d like to forget.

Late March is a wonderful time for any outdoor activity, but even more so this year it is a fantastic time to go rabbit hunting. In Maine, that means chasing snowshoe hares.

Snowshoes, as their name implies, are well-equipped to survive Maine winters. Their large furry feet allow them to traverse powdery snow while hardly sinking, and their snow-white fur allows them to blend in with their wintery surroundings.

This cold, snowy winter has given snowshoe hare a leg up on rabbit hunters this season, but the recent warm weather has provided rabbit hunters a chance at their favored prey.

“Rabbit dogs have really had a challenge getting around this year. The deep powdery snow just wears them out,” said Kendall Marden, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and an avid rabbit hunter. “With the conditions we’ve had this year, the dogs that normally can’t wait to get out and run – the dogs that don’t want to be left behind – immediately get stuck in the snowbank, look at you, and then jump right back in the truck.”

Fortunately, the warmer weather has hardened the snow, allowing dogs to stay on top of the snow as they catch scent of their quarry.

“March really has the weather that is conducive to running dogs,” Marden said. “If there is powder on the crust of the snow and it’s around 30 degrees, it’s near perfect.”

If you’re looking for an area to hunt rabbits, finding the right habitat is key. Regenerating forest, whether a recent logging operation or a reverting field, is best.

“Anything that looks like a younger-looking forest with a mix of cover is good. Ninety-nine percent of the time the best mix is going to have a large portion of softwood, with a lot of small hardwood stems mixed in,” said Marden, who added the hardwoods should be taller than an adult. Once you find that, take a look for rabbit trails and droppings.

“If I see that right off and I see heavily used trails, actual troughs going across openings, that tells me that it is probably a pretty high density area for rabbits,” Marden said.

March is also the beginning of the breeding season for snowshoe hare, and that means that the males, not surprisingly, act a bit differently.

“It makes it more interesting at times,” Marden said. “March is breeding season, males can get crazy and run wild and go across multiple home ranges. A male can run a mile in a straight line, make a few circles and come right back a mile in the other direction.”

Fortunately, males will come back to their home range, which in Maine encompasses about two acres.

Marden said that depending on the quality of habitat, that home range can support just a couple snowshoes, or at times 15 to 20.

And not having a dog is no excuse not to go rabbit hunting.

“You can go out with a couple of buddies, thrash the bushes, do what I would call pretending to be a beagle,” Marden said. Typically, one hunter pushes through the bushes while another is on the side, waiting for a rabbit to jump out.

“It works because they usually don’t run that far when they are jumped.”

Another successful tactic for hunters is heading out after a fresh snow in good covers and tracking them down. Keep in mind that snowshoe hare are nocturnal, and that if it is snowing right through morning, there will be few tracks.

“The hardest part about that is you really have to look for movement because they blend in so well, and look for those beady black eyes looking back at you,” Marden said. “They’ll hold. Even when they are flushed, they go a little ways, stop again, and hold tight.”

Maine’s snowshoe hare season runs through March 31, so grab your snowshoes and get after some snowshoes before it’s too late.

Mark Latti is a registered Maine guide and the landowner relations/recreational access coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.