Today is a sad day for many Mississippians, it being the final day of February and the statewide close of the small game hunting season.

But, for many, it is also a time to celebrate what was a great squirrel, rabbit and raccoon season.

“We had a great squirrel season at our club in Rankin County,” said Johnny McKinion of Pelahatchie. “I can’t tell you how much fun we had after deer season when we put out the squirrel dogs and took our boys to the creek.”

McKinion gives the final Saturday (Feb. 22) as an example.

“We had eight hunters and three dogs and we killed 23 squirrels in two hours,” he said. “It got to the point where we were killing two or three squirrels out of every tree when the dogs treed. It was incredible.

“But, to be honest with you, it was like that about every time we went hunting. We are lucky at our hunting club. We are mostly a CRP pine place, but there is a creek bottom and we left the hardwoods standing on both sides of it, and what we do is we hunt up one side of the creek, cross it, and then our way back down the other side.”

Hunters statewide were reporting equal success. Over on the Mississippi River from Greenville down to Woodville, it was an excellent season for squirrels, rabbits and raccoons.

“Any fears we had that the floods of 2011 had hurt our small game hunting are gone, at least for me,” said Chip Thomas of Vicksburg. “We had plenty of tree action for squirrel and coon, but the amazing thing and the most encouraging thing for me was the rabbits. Boy, we wore them out the last four weekends in the Delta and I’m talking about ground that was 3 to 4 feet underwater in the flood.

“We had one hunt around Rolling Fork on two neighboring farms where we had several miles of turn rows and ditch banks to hunt that was as good as I’ve ever seen it. We had over 20 hunters and we had nearly that many dogs, so we broke into two groups and that one day, we killed 107 rabbits.”

The seasons on crow, snipe and trapping also end today, leaving only two open seasons. One of those — bobwhite quail — closes on Saturday (March 1). The other is the conservation order on light geese and it is open through March 31 or until the geese migrate north out of gun range in the Delta.

However, it’s not like sportsmen, sportswomen and especially sportskids face serious withdrawal problems.

Mississippi’s spring turkey season opens for children on March 8 and for everybody on March 15. Until hunters can chase gobblers, they have plenty of time for gobbling up squirrel and dumplings, rabbit sauce piquant or baked coon and sweet taters.

Yum.