COBWEB CORNERS: Early sport: Jackrabbit hunting
By Mel McFarland
One of the most exhilarating sports known in the west a hundred years ago was hunting jackrabbits! Such was the tale told in an 1897 newspaper I recently read.
It told the tale of Easterners who had come to Colorado for a hunt. By that time the buffalo was virtually gone, and I suppose this was seen as a likely sport. Imagine a set of racing greyhounds held on a leash, followed by a dozen or so hunters on horseback, starting out on a freezing winter morning when there is at least an inch of snow on the ground. The jackrabbit is unknown in the East, but many early settlers, as well as Indians, hunted this larger relative of the English hare for food.
It is a long-legged runner. The hunters watch the snow for a fresh track. When the rabbit is spotted, the dogs are let loose. Everyone follows after, whooping and yelling, urging their horses to top speed. The dogs let the rabbit run until it tires. The little creature is an expert at dodging and sharp turns.
On the prairies of the West, with their arroyos, rocks and rolling hills, the rabbit often has the advantage. Here are the words of one of these hunters. "We were riding along the dry bed of an arroyo, and were just coming around a mass of rocks. There, not twenty feet ahead was a big Jack, sitting up in front of a niche in the rocks. He saw us and was off like a white streak over the rocks." Off go the hunters!
"The country was hilly, and one minute we were galloping over a bluff and down a steep hill. Ahead, another hill would hide the rabbit from view of the dogs for an instant. Up the hill we would rush and get a good view of the chase. The rabbit was a large one, tough and strong. He led the dogs on a merry chase." This time the rabbit escaped, but they usually did not.
I recently heard that in England they have outlawed the fox hunts you see in many old movies. Hard to imagine children were not so long ago taught the safe use of weapons at our schools, with programs such as the Division of Wildlife's Hunter Safety class. Times certainly change. Oh, the area now known for Garden of the Gods Road was a popular rabbit hunting site, as were others!