The black-tailed jackrabbit is a member of the hare family. Its fur is a dark buff color that is peppered with black. It has distinctive long ears tipped with black and a prominent black stripe that runs from its rump to the top of its tail.
The black-tailed jackrabbit spends most of its day resting in a scratched-out hollow in the ground. They are generally most active at dusk and throughout the night. Under the cover of darkness, they can forage with relative security. Jackrabbits are strict vegetarians. During the spring and summer, they feed on grasses, shrubs, clover, alfalfa and other abundant greens. During the lean fall and winter months, they subsist on mesquite and other woody and dried vegetation. During especially dry years they will also eat cactus.
Jackrabbits always seem to be on their guard. They are very alert to their surroundings and watchful of potential threats. They rely on their speed to elude predators and, if they are lucky enough to escape, they will flash the white underside of their tail to alert other jackrabbits in the area.
Black-tailed jackrabbits mate year around. They have one to four litters per year with one to eight young per litter. Young jackrabbits are born bright-eyed and active, and after only one month they can fend for themselves. Jackrabbits may live up to eight years in the wild but, like many other animals, they must contend with predators. Hawks, coyotes and badgers are among the predators that regularly hunt jackrabbits. However, their main predator is by far the coyote, and these jackrabbits are able to out-run a coyote. They can run thirty-five miles an hour, and can jump over any obstacles.
Habitat and Distribution
The black-tailed jackrabbit can be found on brush lands, prairies, deserts, and meadows throughout much of the western United States. This type of terrain is either open or semi-open. Jackrabbits are common throughout Southern and Central California, Nevada, Arizona, Southeast Idaho, and most of Texas except for the far eastern portions.
Jackrabbits often are associated with pastures that have been grazed by livestock. Unlike other animals that need dense brush cover, jackrabbits use the high visibility of pasturelands to spot predators before they spot them.
Black-tailed Jackrabbit Hunting
I live and therefore hunt black-tailed jackrabbits quite often in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, but I also hunt them in many of the other states throughout the southwest US. I must say that few things are as exciting as a pack of Beagles running a large, black-tailed jackrabbit at full speed. For more information on rabbit hunting with Beagles read the article "Rabbit Hunting with Beagles: A Circular Pursuit". Black-tailed jackrabbits are great hunting because they never go down a hole and will keep running until either you shoot them, your Beagles catch them, or your Beagles lose the scent trail.
Below are some photos from a black-tailed jackrabbit hunting trip on September 1, 1999 in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. During this particular trip I hunted by myself and brought along six gundog Beagles. During a time frame of six hours I bagged a total of twelve black-tailed jackrabbits. Two of the rabbits weighed over 10 pounds each and the other ten jacks weighed between 6-10 pounds each. Here in the state of California, jackrabbits are considered a nuisance animal because of all the agriculture; therefore, the California Department of Fish and Game has set the hunting season for these animals as year round with no daily bag limit and no possession limit. The only requirement is that you possess a current California hunting license which is sold each year starting on July 1st and the license is good for twelve (12) months. The cost for a year 1999-2000 resident hunting license is $28.10.
Below you will also see the 30 pounds of dressed out meat from the twelve big, black-tailed jackrabbits. Those are one gallon size freezer bags that hold two jackrabbits each. Many folks out west are bird hunters rather than rabbit hunters. They will spend all day shooting 10 doves or 10 quail that barely dress out to be 1-2 pounds of meat. Many times these bird hunters will shoot jackrabbits for fun while bird hunting, and then leave the meat rotting away in the sun as if it were some type of non-eatable animal. Folks, let me tell you that I love a good upland game bird hunt as well as anyone, but I would rather harvest and eat one black-tailed jackrabbit instead of 10 dove or quail. According to the World Health Organization, rabbit meat is the leanest and one of the healthiest meats in the world. I will also tell you that it is very tasty too. Furthermore, if your local grocery store even sells dressed out rabbits, they will charge you $6-$8 per rabbit. Please read the webpage titled "Hare and Rabbit Recipes" that list the many different great tasting recipes that you can use for preparing rabbits and hares.
The key to having a great tasting jackrabbit is to: (1) Clean the meat while trying not to puncture the intestines and thus getting their contents all over the meat, (2) Once the meat is cut into six pieces (two front legs, two back legs, upper back w/ribs, and lower back) you should sprinkle salt on the meat and then soak it for 4-6 hours in cold water with a cup of vinegar added, (3) Next rinse the meat thoroughly and take off all visible fat, fur, and shotgun pellets, (4) mark the contents and date of freezing on the outside of the bag, and freeze the meat in reclosable, freezer bags, and lastly, (5) parboil the meat for several minutes in water with a couple tablespoons of vinegar added and then cook it with your favorite rabbit or even chicken recipes. The reason for using a little vinegar during both the soaking and parboiling process is to rid the meat of any wild taste that is absorbed from the type of vegetation the jack was eating prior to being harvested. Now you have a lean and tender meat that will absorb the spices of any recipe you use to cook it.