Everyone knows about jackrabbits—those nasty vermin out there in the West Desert, right? Actually, most Utahns know very little about either of the two largest rabbit species in North America.
The largest rabbit is the white-tailed jackrabbit found throughout the mid-elevation expanses of Utah’s sagebrush, while the slightly smaller black-tailed “jack” is found throughout our lower-elevation deserts.
Most are taught the old wives’ tales by their older family members—that jackrabbits are disease-ridden and no good to eat. Because of this, many are simply shot and left to rot in a field. For me, that is an irresponsible and inhumane waste of a great, renewable resource!
Some of my in-the-know, small game hunting buddies even prefer to trade their smaller cottontail rabbits for jacks shot by those who do not know, because they know that they can end up with tastier meat.
My wife and I like harvesting and eating all rabbits, but because there are few if any hunting regulations relative to jackrabbits, we have enjoyed eating more of them over the decades.
Rabbits of all kinds are typically hunted during the daylight hours with either a shotgun or 22-caliber rifle; however, most rabbits are nocturnal, so I often hunt them at night, using a quieter pellet gun.
Check local hunting restrictions, however, because BB or pellet guns are not considered “firearms,” and there are generally few local laws controlling their use.
Plus, there are no current restrictions on the harvest of jackrabbits like there are for other related “game animals,” such as cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares, where hunting permits and proof of having taken a Utah gun safety course are both required.
Spotlighting is typically illegal almost anywhere, but I’m able to hunt on clearer, mostly full moon nights, or in well-lit areas away from people.
I prefer to merely drive around good areas looking for opportunities, but remember that shooting from or across a road is illegal.
Preparation of jackrabbits is easy. The eggs of a nasty protozoan found on all rabbits can be ingested to cause “rabbit disease” (tularemia), so anyone handling rabbits should clean their hands before consuming any food. Of course, cooking rabbits eliminates all disease concerns.
We like to entirely part jacks into front shoulders, hind quarters, and the back.
Our two favorite dishes are either to make a classic stew in a pressure, or slow cooker, or to merely fry the parts in light vegetable oil over high heat.
The trick in preparing any wild game so that it is tender and juicy is to lock the moisture inside by flash-cooking, and making an effort to not overcook the meat. You can always return meat to the pan to cook it a bit more.
Of course, younger bunnies are always more tender and yummy, but older ones can make some great stew that anyone will surely enjoy!