Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Shirley Basin Hunt
We pulled into Medicine Bow, Wyoming about 9:00 pm, Friday evening. We had driven about 4 hours north of our home outside of Denver, Colorado to this little historic town of 300 full time residents. The Virginian Hotel. Lots of colorful Old West characters came to mind that had stayed in this very place from Buffalo Bill Cody and the likes. Hunters and trappers from over a hundred years of history. The people checking you in were very friendly. Had the restaurant and bar open nearly all night. We were tired and decided to check in and call it a night as we were getting up early the next morning.
5:30 Saturday morning. After listening to the trains coming through every 15 minutes. ( I forgot about the damn trains ), all night long, blasting their airhorns to let people know to get off the tracks, I was a bit groggy. Was up and showered and walked the Staghounds. Gave them some breakfast and then headed to the restaurant to get some coffee poured into my system to get it started. I was meeting several friends for the hunt. Karen, who has a formidable pack of Irish Wolfhounds, and Frank who is more of an acquaintance that runs a fine pack of Salukis. They were both there and I had my very reasonable breakfast of ham and eggs with a couple of hotcakes that were larger than my extra plate. I could barely finish this up but Karen said I better, as I would need the energy before the end of the day. We finished up, loaded the hounds and drove about 20 minutes north of town into the Shirley Basin area.
Early Fall. It was chilly out, probably in the mid to high 30’s. Off on the distant hills, you could see some remains of a recent snow. This land is desolate. You could see for 15 miles in any direction, and not a sign of anything but sagebrush. No fences or ranch houses was what I liked. We unloaded the hounds. Karen’s Wolfhounds were out and very excited. I unloaded one of my Staghounds maybe a bit early as her Wolfhounds promptly rolled him much to his displeasure. Frank had his Salukis out and we were in for a day of free coursing. After every bush within a hundred yards of us had been peed on we were off and walking the sage. Marked our starting point with the GPS, grabbed some water to take, a pair of binoculars and we were going.
About 10 minutes into the hike, Frank screams RABBIT, Tally Ho!
His Salukis, who are quite seasoned hunters were all over this hare. My Staghounds had never seen a Jack Rabbit up to now seemed a bit confused. Scorch spotted this Mach 2 hare and was off to the races after it. She passed the Salukis and forced a turn on the hare. The Salukis knowing what was about to happen hedged this move because of their experience and managed to make a grab on the quarry right off. It was very exciting to watch this take place. My Staghound came back to me panting hard and wondering what had just happened. Karen’s Wolfhounds all came back. We made a head count and were off again. We were walking along the side of a hill and looking for miles up ahead of us. I was amazed at the number of badger holes we walked by. I am sure that these animals have been excavating rodents from the ground there for hundreds of years. The Jack Rabbits probably know the location of every one of them to help escape the coyotes that hunt them most of the time. It was not very long when another hare jumped up in front of one of the Wolfhounds. The same cry of RABBIT! Tally Ho! Was heard. Once again Scorch spotted this hare right away. The athletic ability of these hares is something to behold. This animal kept a 5 meter lead on my Staghound for the full time they were visible.
The Salukis and Wolfhounds were after it as well and they went off over a hilltop some mile and a half in the distance. I stood there watching through the field glasses waiting to see some sign of their return. About 5 minutes later, here they all come. A good loud whistle came in handy and all the hounds returned. Not sure if this one was bagged or not, but it was a very exciting course. That Jack gave my hound a real run for the money and would have been good to keep in the gene pool. For the remainder of the morning, we bolted about 8 of the White Tailed Jack Rabbits. They proved to be a very impressive opponent. We did not see any coyotes on this trip but they were there as we saw their signs everywhere. We got to see a herd of Pronghorn Antelope and I managed to discourage my hounds from giving chase. They would likely have run them for 10 miles only to look over their shoulders to see my Staghounds dropping dead from exhaustion. We hiked along for a few miles following the direction of the GPS. Thank God I remembered to bring it along as once we were over a hill or two, I had no idea of which direction the trucks were. On the walk as I watched a pair of Golden Eagles soaring above a small bluff, I envisioned some of the old famous pioneers trying to avoid the Sioux Indians that were native to this area. This is an area that is still very wild and relatively unspoiled by mankind. The hounds had a good workout. The hares filed a little more experience in their book of escape tactics and I was tired. Needed to stop by the Virginian for some lunch before hitting the road back home. I was already thinking about the next trip up here to watch these remarkable running sight hounds and their extremely capable quarry. We all said our goodbyes and agreed to meet again in a few weeks weather permitting. It was a nice drive home, reminiscing about the days chase.
Posted by Mike Bilbo at 5:32 PM