Bowhunting Small Game: The Ultimate Learning Experience
When I was young and still earning my bowhunting stripes, we pursued rabbits, squirrels and prairie dogs to hone shooting skills and gain confidence before graduating to bigger game. There's no better way to become a more proficient bowhunter than to bowhunt. Better yet, small-game seasons are normally open well after big-game seasons close; sometimes year-round (check regulations carefully).
And unlike more prestigious big game, gaining permission to bowhunt small game on private lands is usually easy. Landowners normally consider small game pests; often opening doors to latter big-game hunting after landowners get to know you better and see you're unlikely to abuse your privileges.
Bowhunting small game is carefree and easy. Pick a target species, check regulations for season dates and bag limits and go for it. Targets such as rabbits and squirrels are an obvious choice, but keep your mind open to other off-season possibilities, like bullfrogs, woodchucks, ground squirrels, barn pigeons, or even dump rats.
Still-hunting is typically the most productive mode of operation for small game, slipping through obvious habitat -- a patch of hardwoods, broken desert, near piles of defunct farm equipment or slash -- silently and slowly. The bowhunter seeks any hint of game; the white puffball of rabbit tail, the bushy tail of a squirrel, the freshly pushed soil of a woodchuck burrow, a soft patch of fur, or especially movement. With time you'll find your predator's eye sharpened and better tuned to see detail.
In still other areas, binoculars become important, revealing shaded-up bunnies or squatted bullfrogs across a farm pond. This evokes your best stalking skills, using available cover, soft steps and patience to close the gap.
I especially enjoy unlimbering my traditional bows while stalking small game, adding a measure of challenge, but also the best tool for the job on running targets.
Special points also make small-game hunting more enjoyable. In areas with abundant vegetation, losing burrowing arrows wastes a lot of time. Points combining blunt tips with spring-wire arms -- Zwickey's Judo Point, for instance -- are excellent choices. G5 Outdoors' S.G.H. (Small Game Head) offers another option for weedy terrain, holding one-piece-molded "hooks" that also do a job on small-game.
In rocky areas, steel points like Precision Designed Products' (PDP) Game Nabber are tops, including sharp tip flairing quickly into a blunted face to impart shock and resist sticking in trees or slipping under grass, plus rear-cutting edges. Add-A-Points, from E.W. Bateman & Company, are stamped-steel "stars" secured behind field tips or steel blunts, proving devistating on small game. Ace Archery Tackle's Hex Blunt, an all-steel, dish-faced blunt with four sharp corners, is hard-hitting and resists burrowing.
Rubber blunts are a long-time favorite for rocky ground or when shooting squirrels from treetops, preventing arrows from lodging in wood and out of reach. They also save shafts from shattering, following punishing rock or tree-trunk impacts by absorbing excessive shock. They also knock small-game for a loop. They're available from a wide variety of sources.
Don't Miss: Bowhunting Small Game
Editor's Note: This was originally published on December 29, 2012.
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