When searching seasons come to a detailed, many sportsmen pivot to the water, exchanging their firearms and archery deal with for fishing rods and reels. However for those who stay within the West, there’s no want for a searching break—there’s a tasty small sport species you have to be chasing. That’s the long-slandered, hoppy critter generally known as the jackrabbit.
In most western states, jacks will be hunted year-round with out bag limits. The Forest Service and BLM lands present ample searching alternatives.
Now, I notice you’re most likely pondering, “You’re mistaken, Chris. My [insert wise old hunting buddy here] advised me jackrabbits style like shoe leather-based. Why on earth would I hunt them?”
As a result of your buddy is flawed. Jacks make for an extremely enjoyable and difficult hunt and make for unbelievable desk fare.
What precisely is a jackrabbit?
Jackrabbits are literally hares, that means they’re born with fur and open eyes. They’re giants compared to the dainty cottontail, as they’ll formally weigh as much as round 10 kilos (I’d argue bigger) and develop to 2 toes in size relying on the precise subspecies. On a day once I take residence each species, I discover one jack equates to a few or 4 cottontails when it comes to meat.
The place to search out them?
Jackrabbits have a spread that just about varieties a big sq. throughout the western and central United States—from Oregon right down to Southern California, then east via Texas and north once more till North Dakota and again to Oregon. The northern half of this zone is usually residence to white-tailed jackrabbits, whereas the black-tailed and antelope subspecies hail from the southern portion.
Inside this space, jackrabbits are typically discovered year-round in desert scrubland, plains, farmland, and dunes. However that doesn’t imply it’s best to look for a similar low brush the place’d you bounce cottontails. Jacks evade predators with their lightning-fast pace in order that they want extra room to run.
Search for areas the place 25- to 50-percent of the land is roofed by scrub brush and chaparral at the very least 3 toes excessive. The flora must be tall sufficient for the massive rabbits to cover beneath whereas additionally containing sufficient open house between bushes for the animal to dash away when in peril. I discover most of my success in a number of sorts of spots.
- Rollings plains marked with chaparral: Drive the plains, in search of pockets of chaparral. Jacks will virtually at all times reside within the space. This terrain is usually the best to hunt them. The rabbits right here are usually just like the rolling plains — extra relaxed and forgiving.
- Open valleys containing scrub brush: Discover valleys bordered by steep cliffs. If the valley ground is marked with scrub brush tall sufficient for jacks to cover, they’ll be feeding between bushes at first and final gentle.
- Valley hillsides and slim washes: Later within the mornings, jacks will transfer from the valley ground and mattress beneath bushes on surrounding hillsides. They appear to love having the ability to bust up over the hill or down into the valley at any signal of bother. Sometimes, I additionally discover them bedded mid-day in craggy nooks on the backside of washes.
What do I must hunt jackrabbits?
- A sport vest. Hopefully an excellent one at that. You’ll probably be climbing out with 20-30 kilos of bunny on you.
- A number of water. Searching them typically requires an excellent little bit of climbing. Studying find out how to hunt jackrabbits typically begins with studying find out how to push your self.
- Your weapon of selection and loads of ammo.
A 12-gauge is perfect, however a 20-gauge is a lot when first studying find out how to hunt jackrabbits. Whereas delicate cottontails are liable to die for those who yelled at them, jackrabbits take hits like Floyd Mayweather. I favor bigger shot sizes for extra knockdown energy—principally No. 4 metal shot with 3-inch shells. Smaller sizes typically require a follow-up shot which suggests bloodshot, BB-filled meat. I virtually at all times use a modified choke.
A .22 LR or .17 HMR is loads of gun to make an moral kill inside 100 yards. Any load in both caliber will do.
Escape the bow for those who actually need a problem. I’ve tried it unsuccessfully, but it surely was wildly enjoyable. Judo suggestions or retired broadheads inside 40 yards ought to do the trick for those who handle to attach.
How you can hunt jackrabbits
- Hillside sharpshooting within the morning and night: Like most animals, jackrabbits are principally crepuscular, that means they’re most lively at night time. That stated, you possibly can catch them feeding within the early morning hours for those who sneak onto the hillside quietly sufficient. Discover a good glassing spot over a valley and look ahead to motion. Then put your sniping to the check.
- Stalk them within the morning and night: Commerce out the rifle for a shotgun (or bow), and spot and stalk jacks within the mornings and evenings once they’re shifting. That is my favourite solution to pursue them. Be sure that to stroll slowly and quietly. You’ll solely get one freebie. If a jack hears you, it’ll pop its ears up like a Hershey Easter Bunny. And for those who make one other sound earlier than it relaxes, you’ll see a colossal rabbit’s ass burning your gun’s efficient vary. It’s like watching a furry stone skip throughout a chaparral pond.
- Bounce them noon: As soon as the solar is excessive overhead, jacks will mattress down beneath the chaparral. Seize your shotgun, and take a stroll via their habitat. Stroll a number of steps, then cease for a pair seconds. Like cottontails, jacks are likely to bust on the pause. Be able to get a fast shot off.
How you can cook dinner jackrabbits
There’s no denying that jackrabbit meat catches a foul rap amongst hunters. I’ve come to comprehend many hunters are most likely simply dangerous cooks.
Not like the white-meat cottontail, jacks have darkish crimson flesh nearer to venison. To cook dinner a jackrabbit, merely braise it with garlic, onions, broth, salt, and pepper till the meat pulls other than the bone. When deciding what to make, I’ve one rule to bear in mind: If it tastes good with beef, it should style good with hare.
I’ve made jackrabbits into gumbo, barbecue beef, ragu, barbacoa, stew, and sausages. I’ve a good friend who makes smoked jackrabbit ravioli with a mustard cream sauce. One other buddy makes them into pot pies and stroganoff.
“Don’t be afraid,” says Chef David Codney, director of culinary on the Los Angeles-based restaurant group Belmore. “Jacks style nice.”
Lingering Ideas on How you can Hunt Jackrabbits
- Not all jackrabbits behave the identical. I’ve hunted some which are so anxious and jumpy they appear almost unattainable to catch. I’ve additionally seen others that refuse to bust despite the fact that I’m taking a look at them within the sagebrush 3 yards away.
- Jackrabbits don’t burrow. They relaxation in shallow dugouts referred to as “varieties.” So, for those who see one take shelter within the chaparral, don’t surrender pondering it’s gone subterranean like a cottontail. It’s nonetheless there.
- Jacks comply with one another’s lead. If one busts, one other typically runs concurrently—generally nearer to you than the primary. Be able to shift targets.
- Jacks don’t circle round like spooked cottontails—at the very least not instantly. Whereas they might ultimately return to their start line, these athletic critters can run for miles.
- Jacks can clock speeds as much as 45 miles per hour. If one takes off over a hill, don’t hassle going after it until you simply need train. It’ll maintain burning you. In case you noticed one, there are extra round.