I’m starting to have more sympathy for Elmer Keith.

Not that he needs my sympathy or anything. But Keith was old-school, for all that he was also a great innovator, and one thing about him that always got on my nerves is that he saw absolutely nothing wrong with shooting everything that moved. When he was evaluating a gun or a cartridge or a bullet design, he tested it on jackrabbits, deer, cougars, hawks, coyotes, tourists, Jehovah’s Witnesses…

I always wondered why he was so damned sentimental about paper targets. Look, I’m no frickin’ vegan. I kill my own meat, and have no problem with others doing the same. And I’ve killed to protect my food. I’ve killed animals just because they pissed me off. But I don’t shoot animals for fun, or for target practice. That’s what targets are for.

Only this summer, I’m starting to see things more his way. At least on the matter of jackrabbits. Geez, we’re up to our asses in them. They’re driving the dogs batshit. Yesterday I saw a jack at Landlady’s house so big at first I mistook it for a small fawn. This morning on the way to boot hill we must have flushed half a dozen, with the boys bruising their noses on the glass.

I’m really, seriously tempted to put some of the things Keith wrote about .44 Special and jackrabbits to a serious test. I have the wherewithal, if not the skill.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to I’m starting to have more sympathy for Elmer Keith.

  1. jc2k says:

    For the sake of your wallet (do you own a wallet?) I’d suggest plugging them with a .22.

  2. MamaLiberty says:

    I kill lots of rabbits with my .22lr guns, both the rifle and pistol. Great moving target practice. I just am careful not to get carried away with it these days. Darn near didn’t have any rabbits for a year or two. Seems to me that using the .44 is overkill, and expensive to boot… but then, I’m not buying your ammo. :) Rabbits are great target practice… and after you see the damage to your baby trees, it’s darn satisfying as well.

    If you don’t have a .22 pistol or rifle, Joel, sounds like a good thing to put on your wish list. :)

  3. I don’t kill anything for fun or “sport.” I lost my taste for that kind of thing a long time ago.

  4. Joel says:

    I have one of each, but damn little ammo. Nobody around here sells it.

    Nobody around here sells .44, either, but I can at least load for it.

  5. Wolfman says:

    Using a gun that’s cheap in theory but unobtainable in practice is pretty much my definition of false economy. On the upside, handloaded .44 is easier to replace, and skill, in my experience, is greatly improved by the practical application of wherewithal.

  6. MamaLiberty says:

    Nah, not buying it. If people can send Joel coffee or help fix his eyeballs, some .22lr for rabbits should be no problem. Face it gentlemen, you just ENJOY shooting a .44 more than a .22. LOL No problem, guys. I can dig it. I feel the same way about my .45, just am too scotch to feed it much for that purpose.

  7. Robert Evans says:

    I like big bores and I cannot lie…


  8. PJ says:

    I have a continual war going with red squirrels because they live in my pole building and trash everything in there. Also got into the house, in the walls, for a while. I finally got a scope for my air rifle, what a difference! My old eyes are no good for iron sights any more.

  9. Kentucky says:

    Gotta remember that Keith was, first and foremost, a hunter. For him, guns were the tools of his trade as a big game guide/hunter for many years, and he figured that he should test his developments in what, for him, was the “real world”. In that regard it wasn’t enough to just hit your target, you had to do terminal damage immediately.

    And we’re all the better for it.


  10. Jack Rabbits are Hares .. big rabbits! And when they run, they bounce.

    As such, they make wonderful targets. (In Umatilla county, Oregon, they’re a menace to potato-growers as they eat the green tops of the potato crops).

    My father use to take me jack-hunting on alternate Saturday mornings. Lord, I hated that 5am wake-up call, but what was worse? The Jacks would sit under a sage-brush until you walked up on them, then they would run like a … well, like a rabbit, with that weird every-third-step-is-a HOP gait.

    Good sport, good for the sportsman, good for the potato growers … and often not that bad or the Jacks, ’cause they were hard to hit.

    Since this exercise was (ostensibly) practice for Deer Hunting, we used over-powered deer rifles. i had a .30-06 loaded with 110 grain hollow-point bullets; when i got a (rare) hit on a Jack, he would EXPLODE!

    Well, Pop was a great fan of wildcat cartridges, and this must have been a P.O. Ackley thing, but when I finally got to deer season that year, I nailed my deer on a left-to-right running shot right in the brisket.

    The deer exploded, almost like a jack. The entry wound (just behind the foreleg) was a small hole .. the exit wound would have swallowed my 13-year-old fist up to the elbow!

    We lost a lot of meat on that deer, but the shot was perfectly placed and the Mule Buck dropped like a dump-truck. You would have thought it was a spine-shot, except that we lost half the brisket and it was a bloody mess to field-dress the poor bugger of a 3-year-old buck.

    It cost the lives of a hundred jack rabbits to make that shot, but it was worth it.

    Oh, I shot the .30-06 for a couple more seasons, but we decided that the 110-grain hollow-point bullet in that caliber wasn’t the best choice for a meat-hunt.

    But DAMN! Nothing was better for a DRT one-shot kill.

    Well, except for perhaps the 7mm Remington Magnum which Pop carried on a prong-horn Antelope hunt a few years later.

    But that’s another story.

  11. jon spencer says:

    What is wrong with eating them?
    I have never had Jackrabbit, but snowshoes and cottontails are pretty good.
    If they are anything like snowshoes or cottontails you just have to watch for the bad stuff and discard the whole animal if any is found.
    If not you, then the dogs could have a treat.

  12. Joel says:

    Personally I don’t care for any wild rabbit. It’s tough and tasteless and you really work for what little meat you get. But between cottontail and jack, the only rabbit worth even trying to eat is cottontail.

    Of course that would change if I were hungry enough. Have pressure cooker, will stew like hell.

To the stake with the heretic!