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BACK COUNTRY AIRGUN HUNT

On Friday November 4th Marley and I left the house at 3:00am to make our way North where we would be spending the next three days. We ventured down the long dirt road that seems to head into nowhere for miles. As we arrived to the area in darkness I parked on top of a mountain where I planned to hunt for several hours while waiting for the other members of our group.

The sun was slowly coming up as Marley and I hiked our way high up onto a mountain hoping to have some good views of the fields below. The area was quite dry with very little green vegetation to be seen, yet still very sustainable to Jackrabbit populations. We sat for awhile and didn’t see any movement besides a few birds and the occasional chatter of a ground squirrel. As it was becoming lighter out I could see a dust cloud from a vehicle moving down the road from miles away, It was SteveO making his way right on time. We got up and made our way down the mountain to join him and too ended up making a failed shot on a Jackrabbit on the way down. As soon as SteveO arrived Terry was soon behind with us deciding to move down into an occupied camping area to relax for a bit and also get our gear ready for the few days of hunting.

After several minutes of setting up camp and getting our guns aired up we set out on foot back up into a nearby canyon that is usually loaded with Jackrabbits. We all went off to separate areas throughout the valley with my preferred area working the brush filled hillsides.

As I’m looking down the hill I can see Terry stalking a Jackrabbit just over the other side of the hill from me, I see him waiving me over as I think he thought the Jackrabbit may come my direction. He ended up tagging the Jackrabbit while making full sprint up the hill, not sure of the yardage but still a great shot.

After another hour of marching around I was able to spot two Jackrabbits moving through the brush, the larger one made a much better target and was taken down at 60 yards with Marley making a swift retrieval. I was using the new American Air Arms EVOL .30 carbine tuned to 85 fpe and too the perfect tool for Jackrabbit hunting. The gun is regulated, lightweight and has a shot-count capable of keeping me in the field all day long. This is my dream gun and one I have been waiting for Tom to build for over two years, I’m in LOVE. ;D

After a few more minutes of hiking back to camp we took a much needed break and to have some lunch before heading back out into the remote hills. After lunch SteveO and I headed back out several miles working the rocky hillsides with Marley finding several Jacks and even a Cottontail that was hidden in the dense brush.

The Cottontails out in this area are quite large and unlike in other areas don’t stop at all once flushed. I think this is because of all the pressure they have due to predators such as birds of prey, Coyotes and Foxes. As we were hiking we spotted quite a few small Ground Squirrels that proved to be very difficult targets as they don’t stay still for very long. SteveO spotted a few and was able to take several of them moving around the rocky hillsides at around 45 yards with his .25 Marauder.

We had made several more attempts at finding some Jackrabbits before heading back to camp before dark. The Jackrabbits I think were feeling the pressure of Marley being able to find them even in the most secluded hiding spots. Watching that little dog work is purely magical as she really is amazing at what she does, sometimes its a little unfair.

As the evening met darkness it became quite chilly out with the distant chatter of Coyotes echoing through the canyon. Marley and I slept soundly in the Jeep and awoke early to greet Tom and his son Nicholas to our camp where they would spend the next two days. Tom and Nicholas had hunted here before so they both were very familiar with the area and too the potentially huge Jackrabbits that find home here. After getting they’re gear ready and guns filled with air we set out again, this time 6 of us.

Tom had brought the New EVOL TAC .30 model rifle to test out, what a sharp looking gun it is. Nicholas was using a regulated bottle fed 22xx platform that was shooting at 30 fpe and has enough air for all day hunting. We ended up all meeting in this canyon where we were shooting at 100+ yards at this white rock, amazing what these modern PCPs are capable of.

After some playing around with the guns we headed back to camp where Terry was sighting in his old .20 Sheridan that he just had steroided. He had mounted a scout scope and planned to do some hunting with it that rest of the day. What a workout it was pumping that old fashioned vintage gun, 6 pumps was giving him 630 fps I believe.

Tom had made his way several miles from camp in a close direction from where I was hunting, I had mentioned I had taken 10 ground Squirrels so he made his way to find a few. Tom had managed to find quite a few of them along with bringing back several wild gourds that later would prove good targets.

Very old tree, one of the only ones seen for many miles.

That afternoon Terry left and the rest of us continued on into the evening by ourselves, I think we were all petty beat from the miles of hiking we all had done. I know Marley was very tired as those little legs had gotten quite the workout mashing through brush and rocky hillsides all day. Poor little thing was pooped ;D

That next morning SteveO had to leave us to get back home before traffic got to bad, was great to have him join us even though it was a quick two days. This morning was quite foggy and really didn’t seem like a very good morning for Jackrabbits, figured we would give it a try before heading out ourselves. Tom,Nicholas and myself headed out for a short hunt, several mile loop that would bring us back just in time for breakfast.

I headed us up into an area I suspected may be full of Jacks and too as a last resort had hoped Tom and Nicholas would have some luck. Here is Tom behind me and Nicholas way in back as we ventured up the steep hillsides.

Many of the times when working areas like this you can spot them moving through the brush in the lower areas, I have good success in hunting this way. I would rather shoot down on them than up as usually they make it over a hill leaving them lost from sight. It didn’t take long for all of us to get some shots on running Jacks, Nicholas came very close to hitting one on the run.

Tom was higher up the side of the mountain and Nicholas and I were lower, we were watching Tom shoot at several of them with Marley hot on the trail. For a few minutes we were all shooting as they were getting sprung from all directions. I’m really glad we checked out this area as I will definitely be back in Springtime when the population is higher and they are more active. We went back to camp and did a little bit of shooting with the EVOLs and even brought out the .357 Slayer for some fun.

This sport has given me so much joy over the years, Its great to see young men like Nicholas getting involved early. These kids are the future of our sport, setting examples and passing it on is the most important thing we can do.

Hope you all can enjoy until our next adventure.

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Jackrabbit Hunting Guide

Hello all, I decided to write this guide hoping to encourage other airgunners to get out and try hunting these amazingly elusive animals. Jackrabbit hunting in the open desert with an airgun requires careful stalking (inside of 40-50 yards) and demands precise shot placement. It requires a good amount of skill and patience but can be very exciting.Jackrabbits can be found throughout the United States but my focus is the Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) that is found throughout most inland parts of california.

jackrabbit

The habitat I’m most familiar with hunting them is the high desert and wooded forested areas in the 3000/4000ft elevation range. Black-tailed jackrabbits occupy mixed shrub-grassland terrains. Their breeding depends on the location; it typically peaks in spring.Young are born fully furred with eyes open; they are well camouflaged and are mobile within minutes of birth, thus females do not protect or even stay with the young except during nursing. They do not migrate or hibernate during winter and use the same habitat of 0.4 to 1.2 miles year-round.Where you find one I can guarantee many as the average litter size is around four, but as high as seven.They have many predators such as raptors and carnivorous mammals, such as hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, and wild cats.On several occasions I have spotted a coyote stalking them. Black-tailed jackrabbit populations are common in sagebrush, creosote-bush and other desert shrub-lands: palouse, shortgrass, and mixed-grass prairies; desert grassland; open-canopy chaparral; oak and pinyon-juniper woodlands; and early seral (succeeding each other), low- to mid-elevation coniferous forests.

jackrabbit hunting

Jackrabbits prefer open areas where they can see predators coming, they are active primarily at night. During the day they lie crouched in a “form” a small indentation they make in the dirt.(below)

jackrabbit form

When they are in the form they usually have ears back and are fairly flat against the ground making them very difficult to see. Active areas will usually always have “forms”and usually always will have droppings and sometimes signs of fresh urine.

Now that we have learned a bit about Jackrabbits lets take some time to discuss gear needed to head out and find them.
Enclosed is just a basic list of items I usually carry that can change with the area, time of year and the amount of time I will be in the field.

-Backpack capable of carrying items(camo prefered)
-A good accurate gun,not recommending under 24 fpe
-More water than you think you need
-Food/snacks
-Knife
-Lighter/matches
-Plastic bag
-Rangfinder/binoculars
-Multitool
-Spare magazines
-Pellets
-Sun hat
-Camera
-Longer hunts may require buddy bottle if using PCP gun
-Shooting sticks although I rarely use them
-Cooler & ice for the meat
*(NOTE)Always let someone know where you are on a
map and when you will return.

I also use a good amount of camo, sometimes even covering my face in the colder months. Footwear is critical as I’m usually doing a lot of hiking. For myself It took me a longtime to learn how to walk while hunting, this was my biggest learning curve other than knowing where to look for Jackrabbits. I found myself time and time again going to fast having the Jackrabbits hear or see me well before I could even get a shot. Slow down with light steps and don’t be afraid to stop for a moment to look around, sometimes you can spot them several yards in front of you if your lucky. If you find one they are usually EVERYWHERE but are amazing in they’re ability to blend in. In the morning hours as the sun comes up you can sometimes spot the luminous peachy glow of their ears when they’ve been back-lit by the sun. This in my opinion is the easiest way to hunt them.

amber ears

I usually like to start my hunts 30 minutes before sunrise and have found Jackrabbits to be most active till approx 10:00 am, after that they are usually back in a form against a tree or thicket. Another option for jackrabbit hunting is to find an area they are active and simply still hunt waiting for one to pass in front of your line of sight. When I hunt this way I usually like to try and find high ground if possible. During the middle of the day I find that Jackrabbits all tend to stay in the shade or thick parts of cover, usually always near an open field. Here is just a small example of where I would be looking for them,this is a prime desert habitat.

woodland jackrabbit

desert hunt

Many times when hiking I will spring one from a bush or area they are hiding, usually they will stop to freeze for several seconds allowing just enough time to make a shot.Jackrabbits usually always will run in a circle, eventually always ending back where you saw them. Some say that whistling can get them to stop but I have never had luck the many times I have tried. They run approx 1 to 2 miles so it may take an hour or so for them to return, again this is only my experience and may not always be the case. Most of the time I park and then make a 1 mile wide circle around my truck, ending up back at the truck. You can also walk a long ridge looking downhill and then back on the adjacent ridge to the vehicle. You have to be able to spot them sitting (usually under a tree) at 30-100 yards and set up for a shot. Sometimes you only have seconds to spot and take a shot, with an Airgun it can be frustrating. You can hunt effectively with groups of 1-3 people that walk parallel to each other 50-75 yards apart. Everyone must be in sight of each other at all times and be aware of their safe shooting lanes (no shots at all on the side where the other person is). Walking a large loop around, staying even with each other gives good opportunity to flush more Jackrabbits and can get very exciting. In the event you are able to make a kill its a good idea to dress your jackrabbits at the first opportunity and put them on ice. Even though you cleaned your Jackrabbit in the field, you still need to give the meat a good second cleaning at home to get it ready for the table or the freezer. Use cold water to wash off any blood or dirt from the meat. Trim away any damaged meat & discard all bruised and bloodshot pieces. Trim and discard the major tendons and tough connective tissues. Jackrabbit hunting is very rewarding and some of the most fun I’ve had using an air rifle. Some Jackrabbits can get very large, some resembling small dogs.

Hope the assortment of info provided may give enjoyment and to help someone get started in jackrabbit hunting.

Happy Hunting 8)