We have all heard the sayings, “Bigger is better” and “Go big or go home.” But often times we forget the equally important one; “Good things come in small packages.” The same holds true for hunting; sometimes going small can pay off big. Below are 5 ways where small game hunting can help in a “big” way.
Finding food sources
We have all experienced it. Sitting quietly in a tree stand and we hear the rustle of leaves. Our heart races as we dream of that big buck quickly coming our way. In the end our dreams are dashed by the sight of a bushy tail squirrel bounding about in the leaves looking for food. Why does this always seem to happen?
It happens because both deer and squirrel have an affinity for acorns. Find the food and you will find both. Take advantage of your states early squirrel season. Time spent in the woods hunting squirrels will help you discover the “perfect” spot for a tree stand later in the season.
Closing the gap
One of the toughest things to do while deer hunting is stalking. Often hunters can sneak within 100 yards of a deer without alerting the animal to their presence. Those last few yards are always the most difficult part. Stealth is critical the closer you approach to the animal.
One of the best ways to practice your stalking skills is on your “tree stand nemesis”, Mr. Bushy Tail. Squirrels have excellent eyesight and hearing so you will want to be on your toes as you walk through the woods in search of them. Once you spot a squirrel, try and relax your body, control your breathing, and slowly sneak towards them. The more you do this while small game hunting the better you will be at stalking larger game.
Let’s face it, at times deer hunting can get pretty boring. Sitting in a tree stand or ground blind waiting for the deer to show up can take its toll on even the most patient among us. When the deer finally shows up is usually when we make that critical mistake. Either we decide to pull out the cell phone, move around in our seat or get up and go to the bathroom. The end result is we are caught with our pants down, sometimes literally.
Generally speaking most small game hunting requires covering a lot of ground. In the case of squirrel hunting this holds true most of the time, the exception is when you have spooked a squirrel. Unlike larger game, which run away when spooked, squirrels hide. Instead of moving on, stay put, after a short wait you should be rewarded with a second chance at that squirrel. Hopefully the next time you get that restless feeling you’ll remember that sometimes patience pays off.
On the run
One of the things we strive for as hunters is a clean kill, it is the most important part of making sure the animal doesn’t suffer. This is especially true for deer hunting. The margin of error for large game is so small that being off a degree or two can result in a wounded animal that will trail a long ways before succumbing. That’s why most hunters NEVER shoot at a running deer. It is just too risky. But having confidence in taking a shot at a moving deer can greatly increase your chances of a successful hunt.
It doesn’t require joining a gun club to get practice hitting moving targets. Consider honing your skills on rabbits, upland birds, and waterfowl. Pursuing these small game animals is a great way to learn how to properly lead a shot. With small game, if your aim is off you will miss completely and not wound the animal.
A family affair
The popularity of small game hunting has been on a decline for quite some time and it is a reflection of how our society has changed over the years. Hunting, camping, and fishing are only a few of the activities that used to be far more popular. Slowly the emphasis has shifted to individual time; soccer practice, baseball practice, piano lessons, yoga, and the myriad of other activities we over schedule our lives with. Then there is the excess of screen time that we allow in our lives, time sitting at the computer, staring at a phone or tablet, and watching TV.
The abundance of competing priorities are not going away anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. Now is the perfect time to introduce your wife, daughter, son, and all your friends to hunting. One of the easiest ways to introduce them is to take them small game hunting. Pursuing squirrel, rabbit and upland birds as a group is a ton of fun and quite effective. Not to mention the hunts are typically fast paced and shorter than big game hunts. This ensures that new hunters will be engaged while out on the hunt instead of constantly checking their cell phone. Hopefully, by starting out small, the next time you want to go out deer hunting your family and friends will want to tag along!
By Shawn McCardall
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