Getting back to basics: Small game season starts Thursday

In the Open Jim FreemanOhio’s small game hunting season begins Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, with the advent of squirrel and mourning dove seasons, and this should be the year that you check it out or reconnect with your hunting roots.

Don’t overlook small game hunting. Deer and turkey hunting is a multi-million dollar industry in this country, with entire industries and organizations geared towards separating avid hunters from their hard-earned paychecks, and encouraging the pursuit of animals like white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and elk.

Don’t over look small game hunting. Photo from ODNR.

These pastimes have put millions and millions of dollars into conservation funds and through the Pittman-Robertson Act, have funded numerous state wildlife agencies allowing the purchase of land and education programs that benefit all wildlife species. That’s a great thing.

With all of that going on though, it might be easy to forget what it was that attracted you to the outdoors in the first place, and I am willing to bet it had a lot more to do with crisp autumn air and crunching leaves beneath your feet than it did with hunting leases and deer herd management.

In the spirit of helping people reconnect with their roots, I have compiled a top-10 list of reasons that hunters should get into, or back into, small game season.

One: if you are more concerned about deer season, small game hunting is a great way to do some pre-season scouting for the upcoming deer seasons.

Two: small game hunting is relatively inexpensive compared to big game or waterfowl hunting. No special permits are required, and there is very little in the way of special equipment; you don’t need a stand, special clothing, trail cameras, scents or feeders. Utility grade shotguns and rimfire rifles are cheaper than their big-game counterparts, and cartridges and shells are relatively affordable.

Three: higher success rates – it’s not very often you come out of the woods without at least an opportunity for success.

Four: you don’t need to check in your game afterwards – and you don’t need a four-wheeler or UTV to haul it out of the woods. For that matter there is no deer processor to pay, or hours to spend cutting, grinding and packaging.

Five: small game hunting helps hone the woodcraft you’ve lost over the past nine months. Everything you learn in the woods hunting small game can be applied to other types of hunting, from moving quietly and learning to pay attention to your surroundings.

Six: the exercise you get cruising through the woods and fields, it just does a body good.

Seven: the weather in September or October is usually pretty awesome, a little cool in the mornings and pleasant during the day, with plenty of daylight for afternoon hunts.

Eight: Rediscover some of your old wild game recipes, or consult the internet for something new.

Nine: with all of the different small game seasons going on, small game hunting can literally add months to your hunting season.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, small game hunting is a great way to introduce a youngster or a new hunter to the outdoors, to teach them the basics and to hunt safely.

I’m not knocking big game hunting, but between new guns and bows, deer stands, trail cameras, hunting leases, permits and months and months of preparation, feeders and food plots, UTVs and pickup trucks, utility tractors and planters, not to mention all of the paraphernalia that goes along with it – bow and gun accessories, ammunition, etc. – all for the chance, just a chance, of harvesting that one special buck, it is easy to lose sight of what you really love about the outdoors.

So leave all of those thoughts and distractions at home, leave the four-wheeler in the barn, grab some old clothes and fill the pockets with shells and hit the woods. Take along a youngster or a new hunter.

I promise you won’t regret it.

Jim Freeman is the wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at