Hunting the Texas Jack Rabbit
The cottontail rabbit is small and lives mainly in wooded areas and among the briar
patches. The Jack Rabbit, or hare, is larger, faster, and likes the open country.
There was a time before the race tracks became mechanized that the greyhound tracks
purchased Jack Rabbits for the greyhounds to chase. My mothers cousin supplied Jack
Rabbits to a track in Florida.
To capture the rabbits alive they would “spotlight” them at night. This would consist of
three people going out in a pick-up, one driving and the other two riding on the running
boards, one on each side of the truck. (The older model pick-ups had outside running
boards you could stand on to ride.) The ones riding on the side of the truck are each
carrying a long pole with a net on the end of it, similar to a butterfly net but stronger.
Whenever the driver sees a rabbit he stops and shines a spotlight on it. This momentarily
blinds the rabbit and he just sits there for a few seconds, giving the person on the running
board on the side nearest the rabbit time to run over and throw the net over the rabbit.
The person from the other side of the truck gets there in time to take the rabbit out of the
net and put it in a burlap bag, later to be put in a coop to be shipped to Florida.
The Jack Rabbit will do a lot of his foraging at night. He apparently has good night
vision. This night vision however is messed up when the headlights of any vehicle is
added to the equation. It seems that when the rabbit gets in the light from the vehicle he
loses his night vision capabilities and can only see what is in the area lit up by the
vehicles headlights. In trying to escape from the noise of the vehicle and the bright light,
the rabbit will ususlly run straight ahead, staying within the headlights beam. This is
especially true on a moonless night.
A friend once told about chasing rabbits at night in a ‘strip down.’ What they would do
is go to a wrecking yard and find a car that had been rolled and the body pretty well
totaled out that they could purchase cheap. They would take the body off the frame,
leaving just the frame, motor, seat, gas tank and lights mounted on the bumper. This is
what they would use to hunt rabbits on the ranches in West Texas.
When they spotted a rabbit they would chase the rabbit until it began to tire, then they
would run up to the rabbit and make it do a ‘suicide leap.’ That is when the rabbit is
more afraid of being run over than he is of what he cannot see out of the line of light and
makes a leap into the darkness. There was never really anything there to harm the rabbit
and he would just run off and find a bush to hide underneath.
It could be great fun just watching a rabbit run with those long ears laid back against its
body and every now and then making a high leap, those ears popping up at the same time,
I guess just to get a better view of what was around him. This could sometimes be
more fun than watching a horse race.
One day the boys made arrangements to go on a ranch they had never been on before to
hunt rabbits. That night they drove onto the property and it wasn’t long before they
spotted their first Jack Rabbit. The chase had just started good when the rabbit suddenly
disappeared. Before they had time to realize what had happened they found themselves
flying off a 6 foot cliff. Boy, what a landing that was. After that, before they would go
onto a new piece of property to hunt, they would go and look it over in the daytime to
locate any ravines, bluffs etc.
We grow them big in Texas.