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  Small Game Hunting

If your looking for a exciting time in the woods that brings hours of enjoyment...why not try some small game hunting. New York State has a lot to offer its sportsmen with a large number of species available to hunt. This is also a great way to introduce youngsters into the sport of where they can build on the skills to become a proficient hunter.

I can remember as a boy being taught safe gun handling from my grandfather as he started me out with a BB gun. At the time, I really didn't understand why he was being so strict of where I pointed the BB gun, what was beyond my target and if BB gun was cocked and loaded. I now know he was teaching me the basic fundamentals of safe gun handling that has stayed with me to this day.

I wrote the above to send a message to you parents that this is an important time in a child's life to take an interest in them. You will also be able to enjoy quality time together and and teach another lesson in life (parents never stop teaching their children) that they will use the rest of their lives.

So where would we start if we wanted to do some small game hunting here in New York? I guess I would start on the DEC website to see what game was protected, what the seasons are and the basic rules set-up by the state to insure a good all around hunt. The few unprotected species include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet. All of these may be taken at any time without limit, but a hunting license is required to hunt unprotected wildlife with a bow or firearm.

I know when I think small game, what comes to mind are rabbits, squirrels and ruffed grouse. With rabbits there are two kinds to choose from and that being the cottontail and snowshoe (varying hare). So lets start there...

Types

There are two basic ways to hunt these critters, one is still hunting and stalking and the other is with dogs. Still hunting requires patients of moving slow through thick areas looking for sign (tracks) that there are indeed rabbits in the area. Keep in mind that there is a difference in how the two kinds of rabbits live and that will effect how you hunt them. The varying hair can also change the color of its hair to avoid being seen. It normally is a brown/gray color and when the snow hit the ground it turns white.

How to Find Them

Some places, naturally, are better than others for rabbit hunting, and it's not hard to locate the hotspots. Cottontails usually are found in areas with good cover adjacent to their favorite foods -- grasses, clover, broadleaf weeds, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, garden crops and the buds, twigs and bark of small saplings and bushes.

Look for cottontails around small fields bordered by woods, brush and briars; along drainages and fencerows where vegetation has grown up, in recently cleaned timber clear cuts, in brush piles on freshly cleared land sites, in densely covered power line and railroad right-of-ways and other places providing hideouts and nearby forage. Favorite cover includes blackberry patches, briars, honeysuckle, thick grass and weeds and even rolled hay bales, abandoned farm machinery, irrigation pipes and culverts.

The cottontail tends to live, eat and stay pretty close to a den usually dug into the ground. When they sense danger, they run back into their den. The varying hair or snowshoe rabbit tends to make use of its surroundings finding brush piles, fallen logs and thickets to live in. They tend to travel a bit further and if threatened will take off doing a wide circle that can be almost a mile in distance.

If you are after the snowshoe rabbit and hunting with dogs, you simply have to place yourself somewhere in that circle of where the rabbit will run past. If your after the cottontail, its a bit harder in that the cottontail will den up in a hurry and end the hunt. That's why if I plan on hunting cottontails, I tend to do it without the use of dogs and try to sneak into areas that have a good population of rabbits.

If you are going to hunt the snowshoe rabbit and their are two of you with snow on the ground ...simply leave one where the rabbit was first seen and the other start tracking it pushing it out ahead of you.

When doing this remember safety at all times of where each other are. The best plan is to have the stalker make hoots and hollers as he or she walks. This way the other person can pretty much locate them by the sound.

What type of gun should you use? I think a good all around gun to start off with is the .410 shotgun using 6 or 7 1/2 shot. It's plenty big enough to take down a rabbit yet not have that much of a kick when fired to discourage a younger hunter. If your by yourself and know what is behind your target...a .22 or .17 can also be a great small game firearm. More can needs to be taken in that these guns can fire a bullet that can travel for miles.

Here are the seasons on Cottontail and Varying Hare


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In the fast paced world we live in its even more important now than ever to take the time to get out into the woods for some quality downtime. Take a youngster hunting and continue the family traditions and values, you won't regret it

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