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February means small game hunting

By By Mikes Giles/outdoor columnist
Feb. 1, 2002
While many outdoorsmen have put away their rifles and shotguns, there is a contingent of diehard hunters who are just now heading to the woods. Now that Mississippi has extended the squirrel season through the month of February, squirrel hunters will join rabbit hunters in the woods.
Although many hunters grew up hunting squirrels and rabbits during November and December, things have changed. With the ever-increasing popularity of deer hunting, small game hunting has often taken a back seat.
Almost every available acre of land is now utilized for deer hunting. Since this is the case, many deer hunters don't want small game hunters with dogs in the woods spooking deer. Once the deer season is over however, most clubs and landowners will allow and even encourage rabbit and squirrel hunting.
During the early season the best method of hunting squirrels is still-hunting around food sources. Since squirrels are hard to spot through fall foliage, hunters must sit still around feed trees or silently stalk through the woods. Sometimes it's almost impossible to spot the sneaky critters.
By late January and February the leaves are long since gone, making it almost impossible to stalk hunt. By this time of the year the squirrels are very wary and can spot a hunter from a great distance with their keen eyesight.
Squirrel dogs
During my childhood many country boys had their own squirrel dogs. Almost every fall afternoon was spent in the woods near our house chasing the bushy tails. Every school morning was spent discussing how many squirrels we had taken the afternoon before. There was always a lot of talk about who was the best hunter. Young boys seem to have a way of turning everything into a competition.
When a couple of brothers moved into the community one year, it seemed we fought almost every day during the summer – and I had never had a fight before. I don't know why they wanted to pick fights with me but they did. Once I got strong enough to hold my own with them, things took a turn for the better and when fall rolled around, we spent many afternoons in the woods with their blue tick hound and cur dog. Hunting was the expression of our truce.
There weren't too many deer around these parts then so we didn't worry about losing the dogs on a deer. The old blue tick and cur would tree squirrels all afternoon, until they came across fresh rabbit scent. Then it was "Katy bar the door" and off they would go on a rabbit hunt.
Bonus bunny
Soon they would bring the rabbit back around in a circle and we would try to head them off in the excitement. Many times we added a hefty swamp rabbit to our bag of squirrels. If we didn't get him the first time around the old dogs would tire and come back to us.
Shortly they were back treeing squirrels and we were in business again. You never knew for sure if they would tree a coon, squirrel or start up a rabbit. One thing was for sure however; there was always excitement and fun to be had.
If you're not quite ready to hang up the gun, you might head to the woods for a little late season squirrel or rabbit hunting. In addition to enjoying spirited hunts, some sportsmen may also want to do some scouting. Hunters report finding a lot of big buck sign when hunting small game in February. But don't wait too long, or you might miss out on the late season excitement!

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