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  • Small Game Big Gains - #5 “Mobile Origins”

    February 02, 2023 4 min read

    Small Game Big Gains -  #5 “Mobile Origins”

    How Small Game Packs the Freezer, in the Short and Long Term 

    Ok, for most of us the deer seasons have wrapped up. You spent your time in the field chasing bucks and does, setting up taking down, in season scouting, all day sits, short sits, moving cameras and now we rest right? Wrong! Now is the time to continue the chase but do it in the most fun way possible, hunting small game!

     My cousin Brad cashed in on a great buck a few years ago, we found his trails pounding brush chasing rabbits. Brad and I love getting together after deer season and smashing around our whitetail haunts looking for Rabbits and Grouse. There are areas we may only clip the edge of during deer season that we dive into chasing cotton tails, briars, brambles, red rippers, pines and all sorts of other thickets that get our attention when we are in brush pants. We shoot a few bunnies but we also find a lot of signs.

     It’s also a great way to learn a new chunk of land. You’re going in and diving through the thick with little regard for anything. This is an awesome way to boots on the ground in unfamiliar land. Speaking of unfamiliar, it is a lot easier to get permission to hunt small game than deer. A lot of times this is the door you need opened to have new access for whitetails.

    Banging around the thickets for rabbits has led me to find beds and other sign I would have never expected in the places I find it. It also gives me insight into travel patterns during the heavily pressured seasons. Trails in far off places might not get eyes on them during deer season but they likely get boot tracks during rabbit season.

    I use this time of year to pick up some cameras too. I have a lot of cameras out in places that are tough to get to. I don't get them during the season. I let them soak. And a lot of times during rabbit season, I replace batteries and cards or even make some moves to gain more intel for year round. There is a higher likelihood that those deer will be closer to their fall pattern this time of year than in July or August.

     One of my other passions is waterfowl hunting. There is nothing like having birds coming into the X while you call to them. And sneaking in some duck and goose hunts during deer season takes some of the edge off of the grind that is Buck hunting.

     An advantage that comes with waterfowl hunting is finding places where deer are less pressured because you’re accessing the spot via the water. I use my Kayak a lot for waterfowl hunting, and while I’m doing that I’m marking Spartan Forge up with great access spots to get into the woods on whitetails. I never go home empty handed even if I don’t see a bird or shot worth a shit, I get great intel.

     I also take note of where geese and squirrels are congregating this time of year. They both eat roughly the same thing as deer and both need high calorie count to stay in the game. If I can pick up where the geese are chowing down there is a chance I can understand a late season food source for deer.

    Let’s be honest, the hunters of yesterday didn’t have all the technology we have to chase deer. They chased everything, and in doing that they became better woodsmen. The better the woodsman the better the hunter.

    When I was young and just starting to deer hunt with my dad he used to say when you’re looking for deer you should look for rabbits. This came from the fact that often deer are shorter than you perceive, you can also see legs and movement low that you’d otherwise miss and picking out a bedded deer is the same as looking for a bunny.  This was a great lesson and has helped me my whole hunting life.

    As we start to break out of the cold and head into spring turkey season I use that time of year to scout too. You will be in the same general areas as deer, and the cover that was non-existent during rabbit season is now pinching down those trails. You can start to piece together secret spots that you wouldn’t see any time but this transition to green, but not yet full growth.

     At the end of the day I am a deer hunter first and foremost. But I am a hunter overall. I love getting on the ground and bashing around the woods and water looking for other animals. A Regular Nimrod.

    Plus, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, ducks and geese are all so tasty. There is nothing wrong with using your time to fill your freezer with variety. We often focus on using the entire deer which is awesome, but don’t look at that loud squirrel with disdain while waiting on your buck. That squirrel tastes great with buffalo sauce.

    Get out and chase the little things, observe the little things, do the little things, this isn’t the offseason its the 365 season. You just get to carry a gun and chase the other stuff you see while looking for deer. There is something wholesome and American about chasing small game that I just don’t feel while deer hunting. Give it a go and you’ll likely understand what I mean and at the very least you’ll learn your patch of woods just a little better and hopefully bring home a little table fair too.

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