Thursday, January 06, 2011

Field Of Dreams.

This coursing season started back in October, with a few posts, like this one, about the lack of jackrabbits in all the usual places.  We had days where we'd walk and walk and only scare up one in a couple of hours, and it would usually suffer a quick fate, because it couldn't move any faster than the dogs in the unusually thick and high cover.

Things were looking grim.

Then, towards the end of October, I piled the crew in the Mitsubishi and headed out to explore an area that Margaret and I had found almost by accident last Spring while attempting to take shortcut from the highway by the Aerostat station about 20 miles southwest of Deming, to the Victorio Mountains some 25 miles west of Deming.  As it turned out, it was shorter, but took about 90 minutes longer than if we had just driven around on the normal highways and county roads.

The area is huge, and is about 99% Federal and State land, leased for grazing some pretty large herds of cattle.  The cover is much more reasonable than any of our usual fields this year, and the ground is as walkable as a walk in the park, meaning there's no "bunchgrass", or big holes, or boulders.  It's flat.

That's all well and good, but is meaningless if there are no jacks!  My first exploratory trip was to the area we'd first driven through in the spring.  Jackrabbit "sign" was plentiful, but I saw no jacks.  I did some more exploratory driving and discovered that there were at least a half dozen distinct separate areas where one could hunt, including  a mammoth, flat plain that seemed to stretch out forever in all directions.  It was time to bring in Dutch and his dogs to see if there were, indeed, rabbits in this ideal area.

The first couple of trips were fruitless, and I think Dutch was losing faith as he would prefer to go back to the old places, rather than make the long drive out to this field.  But I kept at it, trying out new, different sections, and finally started getting some races.  Got Dutch back, and for the last two months we've been getting in some really exciting races, with about a 25% catch rate.  In that time we've probably seen and/or run close to 40 jacks, and we're really only scratching the surface.  Dutch is now so confident in the fields that he has decided to run his famous Pack Hunt and Desert Hare Classic on them.

The new fields also came with an unsuspected bonus!  With such a large expanse of flat, open land, the opportunity for great coursing photos was like nothing we've experienced in any of the other fields we hunt in southern New Mexico!  The hounds actually have an opportunity to turn the hare many times, and often back in the direction of where they started.... where I wait with my camera.

The images below, are all from a single run on January 5, 2011.  The dogs weren't lacking for opportunities to catch this jack, first with Willow in the lead, and later with the black and white Saluke, Bisa, who had several opportunities, but as we saw with the  hare in the previous post, this field is starting to establish a reputation for strong jacks that will take anything your pack of hounds can dish out!  This was another 3 minute marathon, that ended when the hare made it to the safety of the creosote bush patch on the north side of the draw, and Willow with a very sore foot.



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