Land of the Sage
By Matt Dworak
The truck started to drift again. Not exactly what you want when you’re traveling down I-80 doing 55 mph. Black ice is a scary thing and we had run into our fair share that morning. Luckily, easing up on the gas solved the problem and the tires were able to grab hold, but the recovery time was just long enough to make sure all the guys in the truck we’re wide-awake. Why would we subject ourselves to this type of nerve-racking madness? Had I cashed in my preference points for a coveted Colorado premier elk unit, a high county mule deer hunt or maybe a late-plains whitetail hunt? Or was this the 2nd Annual Craig rabbit hunt?
It was our second pilgrimage to “the land of the sage” and it was awesome. It seems many guys are not interested in this type of hunt, if they’re not chasing big bulls or rutted out bucks they dismiss it as not worthy but in my mind this trip is tough to beat. With non-stop action all day, this is a perfect trip for those younger hunters (or the older ones) who don’t have the patience to sit in a tree stand all day or hikes miles and miles chasing elk or deer.
By now I’ve been around long enough that I’m no longer surprised when people stare at me with that blank look asking, “you’re going where, for what” whether it’s splashing in the mud for spawning carp or tromping through 18” of snow chasing the wily wabbit. I’ve pretty much gotten use to it. Rabbit hunting with a bow and arrow is just plan fun. Now, I’m not going to say that it quite compares to a bull elk screaming in your face but it’s hard to beat shooting all day ‘till you can’t pull your bow anymore and/or you’ve ran out of arrows.
The trip started as the five of us piled into my truck at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, thermoses filled, ready for the long drive up to Craig, CO. I gambled by taking us up through Laramie to I-80, instead of negotiating Cameron and Rabbit Ears passes. That decision may not have been the best, as a thin layer of black ice covered the interstate. Although I managed to keep us on the pavement, I don’t think anyone needed any coffee that morning with a fresh shot of adrenaline every time the truck started to swing sideways.
We arrived in rabbit country around 11:00 am and picked our first likely looking sage filled draw. After a couple hours and a few rabbits in the bag we decided to head down the road to some known “hot spots”. After arriving at the sacred hillside (thanks to Dennis Hansen) we discovered the population wasn’t what it was last year, I think Dennis may be too generous with his information but after knocking on a few doors we realized that gaining permission to hunt rabbits with archery gear was pretty simple. But once again we got that same look, “You fellas drove from where, for what”? By sundown on Saturday we had our limit, 50 rabbits, actually I think it was 49 but it was close enough.
This year I was smart enough to book a room with a full kitchen. So after a good supper at a local diner we headed back to the hotel room to finish taking care of our rabbits.
We got an early start Sunday morning, by rabbit hunting standards, which is about 8:00 o’clock and had another great day of hunting. I think we ended up with about 46 rabbits the second day but we also cut ourselves off by about 12:30. We had the entire pile of rabbit’s field dressed, ate a quick lunch and we were on the road home by 2:00 pm.
The whole time we were up there I was having a blast but it really wasn’t until returning to work Monday morning that it really sank in what a great trip it had been. I had to put forth some serious effort to remember where I’d left things on Friday. Anytime it’s that tough reentering the “real world”, you know you’re doing something right.