The 4th of July has traditionally been as hot as a firecracker. The whole month is a sweltering powder keg of heat and humidity. Who in their right mind would be thinking about hunting now?

Actually there are a number of opportunities for hunting during the summer months. Maybe it is time to consider some summertime shooting fun with a number of targets of opportunity.


Open season on nuisance animals

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks defines nuisance animals as beaver, coyotes, nutria, fox, skunk and wild hogs, and they can be taken year round by licensed hunters subject to applicable regulations. This generally means landowners, agricultural leaseholders and their designated agents may take nuisance animals year-round on lands owned or leased by them. Check the state wildlife web site for open hunting on public lands:

Of this list of animals, there are several that stick out as summer hunting options. Many deer hunters this past season reported increased sightings of both coyotes and fox. These are certainly viable summer season targets.

Wild hogs would be, too, but be forewarned that taking on hogs in the heat would require hunters to dig pretty deep into their reserves of determination. The only reason I throw this caution out is that hogs tend to hold up in really, really nasty places, and most folks don't want to wade into snake- and mosquito-infested thickets just to pop a hog.


Targeted varmint hunting

Of course coyotes or fox being considered varmints makes them fall into a category of hunting pursuits in a class all their own. Growing numbers of hunters are dedicated purely to hunting the varmint species. Add to these two animals hunting crows. Blasting crows can be great fun and helpful to pecan and grain farmers.

I have also known of South Mississippi hunters who stalk and shoot armadillos, especially with handguns. They walk hay fields, pastures, forest trails or log roads searching out the hard-shelled targets. Right after a rain is best.

There is a whole science behind varmint hunting with special equipment, guns, optics, camouflage, all kinds of calls along with endless catalogs of accessories. Countless books and web sites are focused just on instructing hunters on all the nuances of varmint hunting. Hunters may want to look into this varmint hunting thing to carry them through the long summer months.


Equipment and tactics

Hunting coyotes and fox does not really require a special firearm. A lot of hunting rifles can certainly be pressed into varmint hunting. Of course, there are specific calibers geared particularly toward hunting these animals including the 22-250, 222, 223, 243, 6mm, 25-06, 257 Roberts and even the old 250 Savage. This does not preclude using deer rifles in the 30-30, 270 or 30-06 class, though one might argue these could be considered overkill.

Very popular these days are AR-15 rifles and clones for varmint shooting. Shoot whatever you shoot best as the ranges could be long and the targets are not all that big.

Quality optics are extremely important for varmint hunting. Rifles need exceptional scopes with adequate magnification and optical clarity. A 3-9x50 ought to be a minimum. This goes even more so for binoculars and spotting scopes, though the later optic often does not have the wide-open field of view needed to track a running yote or fox.

"In varmint hunting, it becomes critical to be able to spot these targets, which can be pretty tough business in the bush," said Jim Bailey of Brandon, a fervent deer hunter who has taken up varmint hunting in the offseason. "They are masters of hiding and creeping, and are naturally suspicious of everything in their environment. Varmints are crafty, and any one taken is a trophy."

Hunting varmints also means learning two things. First it is the craft of varmint calling using a variety of animal distress calls like the sounds of a hurt rabbit crying. The trick is to fool the varmint into thinking a free lunch might be out there. Just walk the aisles of a well-stocked hunting supply store to look at all the different calls available. Buy a couple, and practice.

Next on the list comes your own concealment in the field. Many varmint hunters today don the leafy bush outfits and set up against a tree or bushy backdrop using a shooting stick for a steady shot. This does work, but movement has to be kept to a minimum. Any twitch will be noticed by the keen eyes of a varmint surveying the area in response to a distress call.

"I prefer a set up typical to turkey hunting," Bailey said. "I use a pop-up screen blind I can see over while sitting on the ground or in a special low hunting chair. I wear a facemask and camo gloves. I use a Primos Trigger Stick to steady my aim. I call, then put the call down to scan the area for any signs that a varmint has responded to my ploy. It works often enough to make it lots of fun."

Too hot to hunt? Sure it is if you wait until mid-morning. The best time to go varminting when a sweat breaks at just walking into the woods is early in the morning or the last couple hours of the day. Its cooler, and these nuisance animals are a lot more prone to move then, too.

Sure it's July and it's hot, but the fall hunting seasons are too far off to think about. If you have an itch to do some shooting now, gear up and try a round of varmint hunting. I guarantee you'll get hooked if you do.