Don’t despair just because the deer-hunting seasons are over (or at least coming to a close). There is still plenty of hunting left to do and, in fact, some of the best family and friend-friendly hunting trips are yet to come our way.
Just get your gang together and start planning a group squirrel or rabbit hunt.
Even if you can only muster up one or two other buddies, it is still a great time of year to get out into the woods to hunt the tops of towering trees or the briar bushes in tight cover for small game opportunities.
One or Both
“Loan me that shotgun you brought, and you got any small game shotgun shells in that bag?” asked Mark Cockrell of North Brandon.
I might have thought as much, having hidden away my favorite Remington 870 pump, 12-gauge under the back seat of my pickup. I should have hidden the box of shells, too, sitting in the open on the front seat: That was a dead giveaway.
Mark was already loading up the magazines for his Ruger 10/22 take-apart rimfire rifle for some squirrel hunting, but he wanted to walk the ATV trails along the forest woods to double-team on both open-season small-game animals.
Rabbit hunting and squirrel hunting are still open until the last day of February, and he was not about to miss out on any possibilities.
Rimfire shooting for tree-perched squirrels and using (my) scattergun with a screwed in modified Rem-Choke for darting bunnies dodging out of the high weeds left as deer cover along the sides of the trails was the makings for a perfect morning stroll while I wrapped up post-deer season clean up duties back in camp.
Bunny-busting partnering strategies
In the Deep South, classic group rabbit hunting strategies are use several good beagle dogs to bust bunnies out of the cover into the open for those not-so-easy blurred hare shots, pun intended. Rabbit hunters have to be fast on the target and be able to swing quickly to put a killing shot on a Mississippi-born and bred rabbit.
It makes for great shooting fun and excellent fun competition for the hunters.
This means having several hunters for the detail work. A few can walk the easy, mowed grounds in between covert cover, while a couple other guys — especially the young studs with nylon brush-busting pants — walk the briars and thickets to entice cottontails or swampers to jet out on the run.
I highly recommend rabbit hunters wear the same hunter orange vest and hat worn during deer season. Walking in high weeds and jungle thickets can make hunters difficult to see clearly. That international orange sure makes a difference to both walkers and shooters in our dense rabbit habitats colloquially known as rabbitats.
Likewise, I urge all rabbit hunters carrying a suitable firearm to be ever mindful of safe shotgun-carry practices with other hunters in the vicinity and also to keep their fingers out of the trigger guards until they know a clear shot is available.
And keep those safeties ON until making the shot.
Watch those shotgun bore muzzles, too, as you swing to make shots.
An ideal way to hunt squirrels is with two hunters, but more can work — or small groups can be dispersed to other areas of the woods.
With or without a squirrel dog, the way to work squirrel woods is to have one shooter and one “tree circler.”
If you have hunted squirrels much at all, then you are aware of the tricks they play. Upon seeing a human threat approaching, they usually do one of two things.
First, they can lay as flat as a pancake against a tree limb or in the crook of a limb and become nearly impossible to spot. So it helps to have a good pair of binoculars along for these hunts.
The other thing they do is circle the tree as you move around to spot them. That “round robin” game gets pretty tiring, so simply post one hunter to one side and let the partner slowly walk around the other side to move the tree hugger into shooting position. This works a lot, but not all the time.
The walk-around person can nearly get dizzy playing this role routine. It is fun, though, when the shots present themselves.
“We don’t have a squirrel dog, so when we go squirrel hunting I can use one or both of my sons to be the squirrel dog,” said Marvin Moak of Raymond. “We trade up, of course, but my young boys are still learning safe gun handling and hunter safety rules, so it gives me a great opportunity to train them while sharing great family guy time in the woods.”
Naturally, either rabbit or squirrel hunting can be done solo, and there is plenty of satisfaction in going that route, but it seems to me that hunting with others to share in the fun is more than half of the memory making.
So, don’t fret that deer season is over for the year — get out there and take part in some excellent small-game hunting opportunities.