The Simple Joy of Small Game Hunting - Fred Eichlerby Bear Archery
Written by Fred Eichler:
The light lit up the frog’s eyes and an arrow flashed silently through the dark skewering the green bull frog to the bank. A whoop that sounded like an Indian war cry split the nights silence as my boys went splashing through the water to lay claim to the tasty little amphibian. Besides a little squabbling over who got the next shot, we were all having a blast. Armed with longbows and recurves, we scored on frogs from point blank range to twenty five yards. There were plenty of misses and I was getting a kick out of listening to the sounds my crew made. It was like watching fireworks except for ooohs and ahhs there were groans of disappointment or whoops of joy. I don’t think my wife and I or our boys could have had more fun.
I have often been asked what my favorite species to hunt is. My normal response is usually, “Whatever I am hunting at the time”. For example, if I am hunting squirrels then that is my favorite species at that moment. The same holds true for whatever I am pursuing. The beauty of being a small game enthusiast is that there is always something in season! Although big game usually get all the airtime on TV shows and all the print in the magazines, I feel bad for any bowhunters that don’t get to enjoy the experience of hunting small game. Besides being able to extend your season all year, if you really want a challenge bowhunting try shooting a squirrel on a limb with your traditional bow. I have had some of my best times afield chasing small game. I have also turned some hunts that would have been unsuccessful into a fun filled trip where I ran out of arrows long before I ran out of targets. In fact on a Dall Sheep hunt years ago in Alaska, my guide and I were really having poor luck finding any Dall sheep. While hiking up a steep ridge, we flushed a bunch of Ptarmigan. My guide cracked up when I said let’s turn this into an Alaskan Ptarmigan hunt! I had a blast over the last few days of that hunt slipping up and down the mountains chasing those beautiful birds that were all over the mountain. My guide was laughing and actually thanked me for turning a trip he felt bad about into a fun trip where we ate a bunch of those delicious birds.
On a Tule Elk hunt just last year my guide was laughing as I yelled for him to stop the truck when I spotted a long-eared Jack Rabbit. He also chuckled that it took me three shots to get that wascally wabbit.
A few years ago in Arkansas I was trying to shoot a duck in the air. The ducks weren’t really flying and my guide left our blind to answer the call of the wild. When he returned he commented he had seen a swamp bunny on the shore. After I asked if we could go chase a bunny, we took off and left our decoys to go chase Arkansas rabbits. A few minutes later I had two that were skinned and ready to be rolled in egg batter and dropped in some hot grease!
It’s hard to name my favorite small game animal; I would have to say again it is whatever I am hunting at the time. Some of my favorite have been, opossum, raccoon, badgers, prairie dogs, grouse, quail, pheasants, ptarmigan, beaver, muskrat, coyote, fox, bobcat, frogs and of course rabbits and squirrels. Some of the more bizarre include snakes, mice, packrats and even skunks.
For equipment for small game I usually just use the same gear I hunt big game with. I think it makes me a better shot and helps me pick a small spot. Occasionally, I will use flu flu arrows especially if I am shooting up at birds or squirrels so I don’t lose my arrows and for safety reasons as well. I will also occasionally use a blunt, Judo point, Muzzy Grasshopper or field point when I am after a small animal or frogs or birds.The additional challenge of small game besides actually hitting the little rascals is sneaking up on them. I have often been humiliated by animals with a brain the size of a marble. “Insert Joke Here”
To increase my odds on little critters I will usually deck out in full camouflage, often with a head net or face paint as well. Being successful is often a matter of whether you can slip up into your effective range or not.
Since most small game are also prey animals, they are ultra sensitive to movement and noise. Slow and smooth movements are the key. The great thing about being an avid small game hunter is that it makes you a more successful medium and large game hunter. What’s medium game you may ask? To me, medium game includes turkey, javelina and hogs. They aren’t really considered big game but I don’t feel right trying to squeeze them into the small game category either.
Next time you head afield, make sure you have a small game tag in your pocket and test your skills on some tasty, tough targets. Have Fun…. Fred