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The Sportsman's Corner

Small Game Seasons Coming Up


October 17, 2019

This Saturday (Oct. 19) ushers in the statewide small game season for squirrels, rabbits, and ruffed grouse. The following Saturday, Oct. 26, is the opening day for pheasants. For those "in the know," junior hunts for squirrels, rabbits, and grouse began on Oct. 5. The junior hunt for pheasants began on Oct. 12. Sadly, these junior seasons were virtually ignored.

Over the past several years, I have noticed that there are shrinking numbers of hunters pursuing small game. I think the reason is obvious: Many sportsmen would rather hunt deer during the extensive autumn archery season, and many who might have enjoyed small-game hunting at one time are now equipped with compound bows or crossbows. Their small game firearms sit gathering dust in gun cabinets or obscure closets.

This is great for the game commission, of course. Today, the commission sells upwards of 300,000 archery hunting licenses at $16.90 apiece (the commission gets $15 of this), which brings in more than $4.5 million for the commission without the commission's raising the fee for a regular license. This total jumped dramatically when crossbows were permitted for everyone for archery hunting.

Another conflict with small-game hunting is the week-long antlerless deer season for muzzleloader hunters, which also begins this Saturday and attracts hunters who might have sought small game in the past. The three-day special firearms hunt from October 24 through the 26th will also distract some junior and senior license holders, mentored youth, active-duty military members, and certain disabled hunters from hunting small game.

Having said all of this, I realize that a fair number of sportsmen out there are still enthusiastic about hunting small game. Many will be in the woods Saturday.

Of these, squirrel hunters will probably be the most numerous. Some of these will be equipped with scoped .22 rifles, and they will test their shooting skills by trying to make challenging shots with these small-caliber firearms. These hunters sometimes prefer squirrel hunting to any other type of hunting. Others will shoot running squirrels with shotguns, ranging from 12 gauges to 20 gauges. When my dad and I, and later my son and I, hunted squirrels, we each carried one of the firearms. Of course, when I was young and later my son was, the older hunter mainly served as a "gun bearer" for the younger hunter.

A few sportsmen still hunt rabbits and even the disappearing grouse, but those who maintain kennels of dogs have shrunk dramatically.

I hope the small-game season is enjoyable for the hunters who participate in it.


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