Latest Issue

Plenty of Opportunities for Small Game Hunting

I know right now, a lot of us, myself included, are thinking about where and how we will set up for our archery buck, and when that season is over, it’s time for the various gun seasons that we have available for tagging a deer. It’s easy to get caught up in all the big game seasons, but we also have a lot of great opportunities for some pretty good small game hunting.

What I like about the small game opportunities is it is also a great chance to get a youngster or someone new involved in hunting. As a young person, my interest in hunting started with some squirrel hunting, which spread to other small game and eventually to deer hunting.

I can’t think of a much better way to get in some serious practice with a shotgun than an afternoon of dove hunting. That season is well underway and trust me — it’s not hard to go through a box of shot shells on any given outing. Doves are fast, and their flight can be very erratic, and they are small, and connecting with that number six or eight shot can be a real challenge.

Another great opportunity to get that shotgun into action is a rabbit hunt. Rabbit season opens on the 15th of Oct., and there are rabbit hunting opportunities into December and February. Rabbit hunting may test your shotgun hunting skills even more than dove hunting since you have a lot of different obstacles that often show up between you and your target, not to mention the erratic movement of a running rabbit.

A pheasant hunt might be in order if you like those flying targets. I know it’s not like it used to be when pheasants were pretty abundant and bagging a limit was fairly common, but the excitement of dropping a squawking pheasant as it bolts up from the brush ten yards in front of you is hard to beat. Pheasant season opens statewide on Oct. 22, and there are also some hunting opportunities in December and February. Most of our pheasant hunting opportunities should probably focus on where the Game Commission is stocking them since other areas may not offer much chance for success.

I mentioned squirrel hunting at the beginning of this piece but what I like about this hunting is it’s a chance to get a new young recruit out with a rifle in their hands; I’m talking about a .22 rifle, of course. A .22 equipped with a scope is a great chance for someone new to the sport of hunting to get used to holding a rifle steady and learning where to place those crosshairs for a good shot.

With the exception of dove hunting, the beauty of all of the small game hunts that I just mentioned is that they all have a special time set aside for a junior hunt. The Junior Hunt for squirrel season is Sept. 10-24; for pheasant, it’s Oct. 8-15, and for rabbits, it’s Oct. 1-15. This is a great time to get a youngster in the field without concern for a lot of other hunters crowding your hunt. Of course, we also have grouse hunting and bobwhite quail hunting, but that action can be a little sparse these days, especially with the fewer grouse in recent years.

I might add that in addition to the enjoyable activity of small game hunting, the game you take also makes some of the best wild game meals you can make. I look forward to the meal about as much as the hunt.