Mississippi hunters thrilled with opening of small-game seasons

Anna Raines, 11, shows off her first squirrel. It was taken with a .22 rifle on Feb. 16, 2020, in Hinds County.

While they may be considered small game, squirrels and rabbits take a backseat to no other animals when it comes to the fun they provide.

“Which would I rather do, sit in a shooting house or up in a tree scared I’m going to fall out, waiting on a deer to walk out, or follow around a pack of beagles chasing rabbits or a feist dog treeing squirrels? It ain’t even close,” said Terry Joe Roberts of Brandon. “My first choice would be rabbits. My second would be squirrels. A distant third would be deer, and I don’t care if every deer I saw was a 150-inch, 8-, 9-, 10- or 14-point buck.

“To me, a day with kids and a dog or five, enjoying the sounds of the hounds and the thrill of the hunt, the walk through the woods or fields with all the majesty of Mississippi around us, well, it’s just too much to beat. There’s a lot of us like that, but deer hunting and, to a degree, duck and turkey hunting, get more attention.”

Asked to sum up his love of small game in a word, Roberts thought a second before asking if he could invent a word.

“Soul-soothing,” he said.

Opening dates

Mississippi’s 2020-21 squirrel season opens Oct. 1 statewide, and rabbit season begins Oct. 17, also statewide. They both end on Feb. 28, 2021. The limit for both is eight per hunter per day.

“I’ve already started working my beagles to get them ready,” Roberts said. “I’ve got 12 back from last year — some I’ve had for five or six seasons — and I added four more from two litters from the pack. By season’s end, they’ll be worn out from chasing a mix of swamp rabbits and hillbillies.

“Two of the guys who hunt with me pretty regular have treeing feist dogs, and we trade out hunts all the time. One thing’s for sure; from the start of October to the end of February, we will be out there every weekend day, some weekdays and just about every holiday, chasing one or the other. Our freezers will be filled, because we can’t eat them as fast as we can kill them.”

If you’re wondering how Roberts likes his small game cooked, it’s pretty simple: fry the squirrels and use the rabbits to make dumplings or in Cajun dishes like jambalaya or sauce picante.

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1298 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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