High Desert Hares

It was one of those mid-January days where the wind dies off and the tempurature rises to about 50 degrees and something inside me snaps and I need to get out of the house and spend some time outdoors. A perfect opportunity to go after a rabbit.
It is about 12:00 by the time I get everything done at home so I can get away and have some fun.
I will be using my Hatsan AT44-10 long, today in .25 caliper. I don’t always use a PCP when going for jack rabbit, but as this rifle is still in it’s break in / honeymoon phase I wanted to put some rounds through it. Normally I would use my Gamo spring piston .22 Big Cat, but today the Gamo will ride along as a backup.
I head out of my little central Oregon town and into the junipers and sage of the BLM land just out of town. It doesn’t take long to find a likely place to walk and stalk, I pull off the beaten path and lockup my truck. I am very fortunate that the city of Madras is bordered by BLM land. The Crooked River National Grassland starts on the edge of town and provides a buffer of public land that extends for miles in almost any direction.




I am near one of the many small canyons in the area and there is a small but reliable creek running in the bottom of the canyon. The rabbits tend to be along the waterways even though they don’t really need the water. There are Cottontail rabbits in the rocky areas along the canyon and Jacks along the flats a little farther off from the rim.

Jacks seem to like a little more open ground although they do not pass up a good tree to sit under and bask in the winter sun. The terrain here is mostly sage interspersed with juniper and rock. Perfect habitat for a wide range of wildlife from Antelope to Mountain lion, and rabbits and hares are abundant here.

I walk slowly through the sage stopping frequently to look under the junipers and large sage. I make it about 50 yards before I see a nice jack sitting next to the base of a juniper, I know he sees me but I am still far enough away the it has not panicked and run. I line up the shot from a standing freehand position and squeeze off a shot. The jack is taken out instantly by a clean headshot that takes him completely off his feet.



I am constantly impressed by the power of the Hatsan AT44. I have the long version and the extra little bit of power you get by having the additional length on the barrel is noticeably worth it. This thing is truly impressive when it comes to small game. It is louder that my spring piston Gamo, but in the areas I hunt this is not really an issue.

I complete my circuit in this area and load up my gear in the truck to head off to the next spot.

I don’t have to go far and I see another jack within a mile of the first spot. I stop and walk down a dry draw with large sage and few trees of any type. This is typical habitat for black tailed jack rabbits though I usually do better in the trees in this area. I walk and stalk as usual and as happens all too often I walk to within 10 feet of a nice jack without even seeing it, and when I do see it he is already running. I watch him until he is out of range and out of sight about 150 yards away. Well sometimes the rabbit wins. Maybe I will see this one again, hopefully before he sees me.

I circle towards a rocky outcrop just above the draw I am in and I spy a cottontail hiding near a crevice in the rock. A 40 yard headshot and this one is headed for the stewpot.

By now the light is getting lower in the sky and I jump a few mule deer does making their way to the creek, but no more bunnies.

I am blessed to live in a state that had no season or limits on rabbit hunting and more importantly no restrictions on what weapons can be used to take them. Central Oregon is literally crawling with rabbits and there is ample public land on which to pursue them.

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