Michigan hunting is symbolized by the images of charismatic megafauna and beautiful waterfowl that we hunt. Whitetail deer, black bears, elk, ducks, and turkey are what people picture when they think about hunting in our state. You can’t blame them either. People have been obsessing about these majestic animals ever since hunting began as sport (and not for necessity). There are, however, many other hunting opportunities in Michigan. Hunting small game provides a great challenge and is a blast (no pun intended). Let’s talk more about small game opportunities and why it’s a good idea.
Location, Location, Location
One of the best things about hunting small game is you can do it pretty much anywhere in the state. Every county in Michigan has at least some public land open to hunting. Squirrels and rabbits can be found throughout the state meaning you don’t have to travel to hunt. Any time you’re up for it a quick trip to your local state land can provide plenty of opportunities to target small animals. While not quite as abundant, pheasants and grouse are also found in Michigan in some areas.
Hunting deer can be pretty expensive when you factor in tags, camouflage, treestands, scent control, and all the other things you may need. However, when hunting squirrels and rabbits you only need a base hunting license, a shotgun or 22 caliber firearm, and an orange hat. I have found that a pair of tin snips or game shears can be handy when gutting or butchering squirrels and rabbits, but that adds maybe $15 to your cost. For an inexpensive way to get into the woods and hunt, small game is the answer.
In Michigan, our small game season typically runs from the middle of September to the end of March. It is by far the longest hunting season we have at almost 6 months. For half the year you can chase squirrels and rabbits.
Hunting for small game is an easy way to brush up on your general hunting skills. If you are a new hunter (or mentoring one) it is a non-threatening way to get into the woods, practice shooting at a live animal, and develop general woodsmanship skills like stalking, remaining still, and being quiet.
Squirrels And Rabbits Taste Great
Squirrels have kind of gotten a bad rap in much of our culture as an ingredient only suited for “hobo stew”, but the reality is far from the misconception. Squirrel meat is very similar to chicken with a bit more complexity. Famous restaurants in London have been serving squirrel for some time. If you have never tasted fried squirrel pieces then you are missing out. There is a whole culture of hunters in the South (and elsewhere) who’s primary source of wild protein is squirrel meat. Rabbits have been used for their meat for some time all around the world, though it is not as common today as it once was. The point is that eating squirrel and or rabbit is not inferior to venison anymore that chicken is inferior to beef. White and dark and red meat are all components of a balanced diet and small game is the best place to get the former.
I’m not advocating people give up deer hunting to chase small game. However, I am suggesting that in the early fall before other seasons open and from January-March that you consider hitting your local game area and chasing squirrels and rabbits. It’s another excuse to get out in the woods, is great practice for large game, it’s inexpensive, you can hunt for half of the year, and the meat is delicious. If you are a novice or serious hunter you need to be hunting small game.