By Josh Boyd
Archery deer hunting seasons have now begun to open across several states. For hunters who reside in these states, it is time to get down to business as usual. However, for those who live in states where archery season has not yet opened, the wait can be almost too much to bear.
While it is true that one cannot simply wish opening day into existence, most hunters do indeed have an alternative means of exercising their passion for bowhunting, available to them in the meantime. In the vast majority of states, various small game seasons are already in full swing, and there are few better ways to enjoy such outings than with a bow in hand.
The Benefits of Bowhunting Small Game
There are numerous reasons to pack a bow and quiver full of arrows into the woods, when in pursuit of any number of small game species. One of the most pertinent is that there is perhaps no better way to warm up for upcoming big game archery seasons than to hunt wary critters that are much smaller than your anticipated quarry.
Small game animals, such as squirrels, present miniaturized targets that can be quite challenging to hit, and seldom hold still for more than a moment. In order to find success when bowhunting for these pint-sized critters, you have to be on your game.
This form of bowhunting also forces a hunter to get in the habit of drawing their bow under the watchful eye of the game that they pursue. Squirrels seldom wait around to smell the roses, while you draw and anchor your bow, therefore stealth is a must.
Another benefit of bowhunting small game is that the end result of a successful hunt equates to some of the finest tableware imaginable. A productive afternoon spent slinging arrows has the potential to render a dinner that is worth writing home about.
Types of Small Game to Bowhunt
Generally speaking, virtually any small game animal to which an open season pertains, can be hunted with the use of archery equipment. However, it is imperative to check any applicable game laws related to such a practice in the particular state where you reside, or plan to hunt.
Though other possibilities certainly do exist, rabbits and squirrels tend to be the most highly sought after of all small game species by bowhunters. Both of these two species present their own inherent challenges when hunted, especially with archery tackle.
Bowhunting for squirrels can be quite enjoyable, yet equally challenging. Squirrels tend to perch themselves on limbs, and in the forks of trees, making it quite difficult to get a clean shot without encountering arrow-deflecting obstacles. While squirrels can be shot when in a tree with the use of specialty arrows, it is often easier to wait for opportunity to present itself when an unsuspecting bushytail hits the forest floor in search of fallen acorns.
Likewise, bowhunting for rabbits can also prove to be equally challenging. In many cases, a hunter only spots a rabbit when it is already in mid-dash, heading for the closest form of cover. This presents a moving target that is far more difficult to hit with a bow, than with a shotgun. To find success, one can comb field edges, looking for rabbits that have yet to flee, or have only traveled a short distance before stopping.
Before your first outing in pursuit of small game with a bow in hand, there are some gear related considerations that must first be made. While one can certainly hunt for squirrels and rabbits with the same gear as is used when deer hunting, doing so might not provide the best possible outcome.
The first such consideration is whether or not to use flu-flu arrows when bowhunting for squirrels. A flu-flu arrow is a typical arrow shaft that features prominent, oversized fletchings. These fletchings create sufficient enough wind drag to substantially slow an arrow’s flight, causing it to only travel short distances.
It is always advisable to use a flu-flu style arrow when shooting at treebound squirrels. This is not just a matter of practicality, but a safety-related issue as well. A standard arrow that is shot skyward can easily sail off to points unknown, creating a hazard for anyone in the immediate area.
Alternatively, a flu-flu arrow falls back to the ground within yards of its point of origin, even if fired at an upward angle. If you choose to bowhunt for squirrels with standard arrows, shots should be limited to only those that are aimed toward the ground.
Many small game bowhunters also opt to tip their arrows with specialty, purpose-built heads. Unlike standard broadheads, small game heads are not intended to slice their way to a pass-through, but rather transfer sufficient kinetic energy for a clean kill without creating an exit wound. This saves meat that would otherwise be too damaged for consumption and makes arrow retrieval infinitely less difficult.
The most popular of these small game heads include, but are not limited to, blunt tips, judo tips, and bludgeons. Any of these heads can typically be purchased from your local outdoor retailer, or alternatively, can be ordered through the internet.
A Small Game Bonanza
If you find yourself fraught with anticipation, sitting idly by as hunters from various other states head to their stands in search of early bow season success, consider brushing up on your woodsmanship while bowhunting for small game. While you might not be quite as excited about a fox squirrel as you are a buck, pursuing pint-sized critters with your bow is sure to pass the time, and provide tasty table fare to boot.