Hunting Hares

It was a typical summer’s morning, it hadn’t rained for goodness knows how long and the dust I raised when I drove in was still hanging heavily in the air. The sun was just starting to rise above the horizon and I was already starting to feel it, ‘it’s going to be a quick hunt today,’ I thought to myself. I quietly walked up the dam bank and as I got to the top the roos that were drinking from the dam eyed me warily before hopping off. “You are lucky today,” I said to them, “my licence has run out.”

Settling down a few metres below the top of the dam bank I rummaged in my day back and pulled my Scotch predator call out. The dry swamp that faced me had always been good to me in the past and I was hoping it would be again today. The Scotch predator call has been deadly on foxes in the past, especially at this time of year, but possibly unknown to the younger hunter is that it can be devastating on hares as well and they were what I was after today. I have had the pleasure of converting more than one disbeliever to the deadliness of the Scotch predator call on hares. I don’t know what it is but it certainly stirs them up.

Quietly working the bolt I loaded a Winchester Power Point into my old Brno Model 2 rim-fire and then laid it across my knees. The wail of the predator call carried way out over the now dry swamp and it wasn’t long before I spotted movement about 50 metres away. A couple of soft wails on the predator call had the desired effect and a big buck hare came loping into open, heading my way. As always it was in an agitated state, so I didn’t waste any time in taking a shot as soon as it sat still long enough.

Although a fully grown hare can be at least twice the size of a rabbit it is relatively easy to kill with a .22 rim-fire and this one fell to a chest shot. I immediately field dressed it as I didn’t want it spoiling in the hot weather but also to drain all of the blood out of it. Field dressing hares can be quiet messy at times and if hunting on foot I like to hang the dressed hare in a tree to allow it to drain completely while I continue hunting whenever possible. Weight can also become a bit of a problem; the carrying of half a dozen hares will quickly become tiring.

I have heard quite a few disparaging remarks about the hunting of hares but I have quite a deal of respect for them. Unlike rabbits they don’t have burrows to retreat to in the face of danger; they simply have to outrun it. They depend on the brilliant camouflage to protect and their flecked fur is perfect for doing just that. There would be more than one quail hunter that has had the life scared out of him from a hidden hare that finally burst from stubble at his feet.

When the countryside was less settled the wide open paddocks were perfect for hares and they surprisingly bred up in large numbers. This can be verified by the old photos available showing hare hunts. Quite often hare-drives were held with large numbers falling to the shot-gunners. Sadly those days are gone now, what with human encroachment and the hares low breeding rate the numbers soon dwindled.

It is fairly rare for a hare to have more than a single leveret (baby hare) at a time and seeing that they have no burrows to raise their young, they have to depend on concealment in a seat. With the young hare being an easy and tasty meal for a host of birds and animals it can be a precarious existence for a young hare. It soon learns to sit still and not move a muscle, a technique often adopted by adult hares as well when facing danger.

For instance I have always wondered how young hares managed to survive and grow into adulthood. Remember, hares don’t live underground, so they have to hide their young. I wondered how they could avoid being detected when every meat eater in the bush was after them. Birds of prey, foxes and cats are hunting night and day. Obviously their excellent camouflage helps tremendously but how do they beat the excellent nose of numerous foxes. This chap discovered that after the baby hare is born it is hidden away in a squat and each day the parent hare returns to the squat and cleans up all the urine and faeces, then licks the young hare completely clean, thereby eliminating any odour generated by the young hare, pretty impressive stuff.

Unlike rabbits, hares are not an environmental nightmare but they are the bane of vineyard growers and farmers planting tree plantations with their ringbarking habits. Hares much prefer the wide open plains but are often encountered in irrigated areas and vineyards. We often get requests from vineyard growers to help eradicate their hare problem. This often just requires us frequenting the vineyards early morning, late afternoon and into the night when the hares are most active.

As far as table fare goes, the hare is very popular, especially with those of European heritage. Another thing that the hare has in its favour is that it is disease free from all the nasties that rabbits get. Of all the hares I have taken I have never noticed any with myxo or hydatis and while out hunting I have never come across any that have fallen victim to baits laced with 1080, nor are they victims of the calici virus. A lot of people I know were turned off eating hares after the introduction of the calici virus. I have never shot a hare that looked even slightly unwell, they have all been healthy specimens.

There are numerous ways to hunt hares and I have tried all of them. Most people hunt them when they are most active and, that is during the night, with a spotlight, either on foot or from a vehicle. When hunting them during the night you will soon notice that they have the particularly annoying habit of feeding on the move. While they may be encountered at close range at first they soon get out of range of the .22 rim-fire with this simple action. That nice and easy shot at 30 metres soon reaches out to a barrel stretching shot, requiring a flat shooting centre-fire rifle. It is for this reason I like using the Scotch predator call. I can’t see the sense in trying to pull off a long distance shot across a stubble paddock when I can take a shot under 50 metres after a couple of minutes working the predator call.

I have to admit that I haven’t eaten many hares, those that I have I have minced the meat, mixed it with diced onions, various herbs and made rissoles out of the mix. They were quite tasty, even my wife and kids enjoyed them. However I am very fortunate to have a son-in-law who is a chef, and a very good one at that. He now has the honour of cooking all the game meat I take. His numerous recipes for cooking wild ducks have passed with flying colours, as did the venison dishes he prepared. For a person who has shied away from eating rabbits after a lifetime of doing just that, I am preparing myself to having another go at them and hares with recipes that he promises will change my mind.

SUITABLE CALIBRES: the mind boggles at the array of calibres suitable for shooting hares. If you are an ardent hunter of hares it’s best to match the calibre to the conditions you will encounter whilst out hunting. The hare is extremely easy to kill and will succumb to any properly placed shot. I have taken them at close range with an air rifle after calling them in with a predator call. While not a great fan of the 17 HMR it can’t be denied that it is just about perfect for shooting hares, especially in relatively settled areas and particularly around grape-vines.

I have taken hares with just about every firearm in my gun safe and many more as well. Any flat shooting .22 centre-fire used for spotlighting foxes will suffice. Whilst away for a few night’s spotlighting foxes for a relative hares were also on the hit list. We took numerous foxes with a flat shooting .223 we also took a good 30 hares as well. But I have to admit that my favourite firearm for taking hares is with my Brno Model 2 .22 rim-fire after calling them into range with a Scotch predator call.

Contrary to some I consider hunting hares an excellent way to spend a few hours in the field.

This article was first published in Sporting Shooter Magazine May 2013




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