If the turnout at my first bunny hunt is any indicator, Spokane Police Chief Terry Mangan and his trusty scattergun have charged up this bizarre sport more than a six-pack of Energizer batteries.
Twenty-three cars and about 50 people gathered for this electronic version of hide-and-seek. In this game, however, the hunters use CB radios to track down someone who hides (the bunny) and then continually broadcasts from the unknown location.
Mangan is the Elmer Fudd to these wascawy wabbits.
“The chief is lucky,” grumbles Mark Smith, who answers to the radio handle Crackerbox. “Can you imagine this group coming down the road to help a friend with a shotgun stuck in his face?”
That would be quite a convoy, good buddy.
This hunt took place exactly one week after shotgun-toting Chief Fudd rousted three men who were playing the game.
As the designated bunny, the trio got the customary 10-minute head start from the pack. It was their misfortune to find a hiding spot on the road near the front of Mangan’s rural Spokane Valley home.
That these citizens would dare mind their own business on a public street apparently made the chief nervous enough to grab old Betsy and go on a hunt of his own. The incident is under investigation, but all the hubbub made me want to give bunny hunting a whirl.
Discovering that there is a subculture of folks who prowl around at night playing weird games came as a surprise.
“Oh, this has been going on since there were radios,” says Rich Royer, a 17-year-old Shadle Park High School student whose radio alias is Instigator. “Mainly, it gives us something to do. It gets us out of the house on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Royer invited me to tag along with him and his best buddy, Derek Hartle, 18. The pair assured me they are wizards at the dubious art of honing in on radio frequencies.
After the bunny took off and hid, we headed out in Hartle’s father’s truck, a giant, rumbling 1988 Ford diesel with 208,000 miles on it.
The trick to bunny hunting is being able to read the CB radio meter. The closer you get to the broadcast source, the higher the meter needle climbs.
Sure enough, after a 10-minute search, we were about the fourth or fifth group of hunters to locate the bunny car, parked in a friend’s North Side driveway.
All these people gave up a Friday night for this, their bunny hunt enthusiasm jazzed by the Mangan incident. The hunt, says Bob “Sidewinder” Jans, is just three cars shy of an all-time record.
There was a Baptist preacher who calls himself Boogey Man and a farmer known as Flat Frog. There was Rocker and Shadow and Silver Hawk.
Ages range from 73-year-old “Grandma Bingo,” to 2-year-old Loren “Sparrow Hawk” Tilton. The lad’s job is to mainly snooze in a car seat while mom, Tina, and dad, James, operate the radio and their Ford sedan. “It’s a cheap way to get out as a family and have a little fun,” says Tina, 27. “I love it.”
“This is just a big happy family,” adds Flat Frog. “That’s what this is all about.”
Bunny hunting is a harmless, albeit inane, activity. According to the official Spokane Hare Seeker’s rule book, traffic laws must be obeyed. No drinking and driving. No trespassing.
But my first night of bunny hunting left me bored and wondering what the appeal is. Doesn’t this city have enough bowling alleys?
There are no bunny hunt trophies to win. No bunny hunt league championship to pursue. Each search is monotonously similar to the previous one.
And, please, tell me what it is about CB radios that make everyone sound like a gibbering goober?
No doubt about it, Mangan did these wabbits a favor. They need ol’ Elmer Fudd with his shotgun to spice up every bunny hunt.
That’s all, folks.