Small game hunting, big rewards

Mississippi’s statewide rabbit season begins Oct. 12, giving beagles around the Magnolia State a reason to celebrate.

Terrance Johnson of Jackson makes no bones about it, literally, when it comes to comparing deer hunting to his favorite pursuits — stalking squirrels and running rabbits.

“You can put a lot of meat in the freezer when you kill a deer, but you can put better eating on the table when you get a sack of squirrels or a pile of rabbits,” Johnson said. “There is no comparison to the deliciousness of tree rats and bunnies and that of deer, none whatsoever.

“Squirrel and dumplings. Rabbit and dumplings. Jambalaya. Mulligan stew. Sauce piquant. Either one in gravy over biscuits. Man, I’m getting hungry talking about it. I can’t wait to get them smothered down.”

That’s why Johnson works hard conditioning himself for the work ahead, starting Oct. 1 when squirrel season opens statewide — the youth season was Sept. 24-30 — and then picking up speed Oct. 12 when rabbit season begins.

“I’m a hard worker, so I stay in pretty good shape anyway, but every Sept. 1, I start getting serious on the treadmill at the gym,” he said. “I’ve got to get ready to walk and walk and walk and then some. You can’t get after the small game unless you got some good wheels under you, and it helps to lose a few pounds before eating all those great dishes.

“I will hunt two or three days a week from October through February (both rabbit and squirrel seasons end Feb. 28). Once it gets cool, we’ll run our rabbit dogs, my buddies and I, every Saturday from daylight to about 2, and I’m the briar buster. I’m in there right with the beagles, dang near every step.”

How many miles is that?

“You know, I’ve never thought about it, but that’s an interesting question,” Johnson said. “It’s gotta be well over 100, and probably 200. But it’s worth it, that’s for sure. The toughest thing is cleaning the squirrels, but again, that’s sure worth every second.”

The limit in Mississippi for both squirrel and rabbit is 8 per hunter per day. 

“A limit of squirrels is pretty easy, if you have enough places to hunt,” Johnson said. “That’s the key. You need to have different areas so you don’t put too much pressure on the same trees. Rabbits, well that’s more difficult because there’s five or six of you out there, maybe 10 or 12, and it’s kind of up to the rabbit as to who’s going to get the shot, but being the briar buster I do get more chances.”

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1278 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.