As January rolls around deer and other large game hunts come to an end, most hunters begin dusting off the turkey calls and dreaming of March. We relegate ourselves to some necessary gear repair and inventory, but it never seems to fill the void left by the ending of our favorite hunting seasons.
There are still awesome hunting opportunities to be had when the itch becomes unbearable. It’s important to check your states hunting regulations, but most states have hunting seasons for our listed animals through February and in some cases the seasons are year round.
In our list of “offseason hunts”, we will outline the basic outfitting and some basic tactics to hunt these animals.
Coyotes are not an easy prey and are one of the wariest animals that you have the opportunity to hunt. Don’t let that dissuade you from going after these animals, if you can put down several coyotes in between deer and turkey season you can honestly call yourself an expert hunter.
Here are some basic tips to help you bag a few coyotes. In doing so, you also greatly help the population of another animal we have coming up on our list. Also, don’t forget to check out Roy Ayers articles on the subject for a more in-depth look at preparing and hunting coyotes.
Be mindful or your set up
As we discussed, coyotes have keen eyesight, sense of smell, and hearing. These three senses make coyotes extremely aware of hunters in undesirable setups. Like deer, you need to be placed downwind of where you expect the coyotes to be.
You want to place yourself so that you have a good range of site and a low profile.
Use a good call and decoy
Distressed rabbit calls are one of the most popular coyote calls, but there are several effective calls available.
If you have an idea of a what the wildlife population is like in the hunting area, you can match your call with what the coyotes feed on most of the time. Calling might bring the coyotes to the edges of a field, but the decoy is what brings the coyote into your shooting lanes.
There has been a boom in electronic coyote distress calls that mimic distress calls of a variety of different animals and are excellent for not only the novice hunters but the more experienced as well.
The ICOtec GC300 is one of these devices and can mimic a wide range of animals and allow you to control the calls with a remote up to 300 yards away.
Hunt coyotes at the correct time of day
These animals hunt and are most active at night. Trying to draw coyotes into open areas in the middle of the day is a fool’s errand and will not yield much success.
Hunting at dawn and dusk are great times to get a shot on coyotes as they leave and return to their dens. A lot of states also allow coyote hunting at night. This brings with it some specialized gear that you will need but does present some unique and exhilarating hunting opportunities.
One excellent piece of equipment is the Orion H30 Predator hunting light. This light is available in red or green illumination and is great for spotlighting coyotes in the dark without spooking them. This light can be mounted to a scope or barrel and provides illumination up to 273 yards.
Hunting coyotes can be done with both rifles and shotguns
Both types of weapons are best served depending on where you are trying to hunt coyotes. For open fields, a smaller caliber deer rifle will suffice such as a .243. You will need some good optics as some shots are taken a few hundred yards away.
If you are hunting in thicker brush, a shotgun is a great option when paired with buckshot or a slug.
2. Cottontail RabbitFor whatever reason, rabbit hunting doesn’t seem to discussed as much as it has in the past few decades.
Rabbit hunting, like dove hunting, is best practiced with several hunters. Rabbit not only provides excellent sport, but also great tasting meals.
Late season Rabbit hunting
Most rabbits late in the season are going to be found in pretty thick cover if you are out away from a lot of human activity. Thorn or honeysuckle brush is a good bet to be holding rabbits. Heavy grasses and thickets along fencerows are also good places to try to kick up cottontails.
Rabbits move to this type of cover due to increased predation from coyotes and other predators such as hawks. It can also be found in less cover such as small shrubs or natural grass fields if these areas are located closer to human activity such as a farm.
Rabbits late in the season often hold very tight to their cover and will require you nearly stepping on top of them to jump them. This is not always the case but happens more often with the cold temperatures and especially if the rabbits have often been hunted in this area, humans and other predators alike.
Hunt With Dogs
If possible hunt with dogs. A good pair of rabbit hunting dogs will not only jump up rabbits in deep cover that you would not be able to reach, but they will also run the rabbits in circles back to their initial jump point. This gives you several chances for a shot a rabbit.
If you do not have access to good hunting dogs that doesn’t mean you can’t have good rabbit hunting. Stick to clear-cut areas in farm areas where coyotes might not wander too close to as we discussed in the previous tip.
If you still want to hit some spots where you will have to play the role of rabbit dog for your hunting party be sure to invest in a good pair of briar pants such as Under Armour Men’s Prey Brush Pants. Having a good pair of brush pants will make your life a lot easier when hunting the type of terrain rabbits will most often be found.
Shotguns are the go to firearm for rabbit hunting. Both the 20 gauge and 12 gauge with an improved cylinder choke are the best combo for bagging rabbits. As far as shotshells go #6 lead shot will get the job done consistently.
3. SquirrelFellow writer Roy Ayers has covered a lot of information for squirrel hunting in other articles for this site. Here are some basic tips of how to hunt squirrels.
Sit and Stalk
When hunting squirrel, it can be easy to forget you are hunting and end up just taking a stroll through the woods. This is not going to result in you bagging a squirrel. Some hunters like to sit and try squirrel calls, but a lot of hunters have the most luck with walking and stopping. Walk several yards and then come to a stop and scan the treelines. This late in the season it is a much easier to spot a squirrel racing along in the upper branches.
A lot of time you run into several squirrels at once. Once you take the first shot a lot of them will be in their trees by the time you have your kill. It’s best to move on to other areas and return to the spot later in the hunt once the squirrels have their nerve back again.
Not only is it important to stop to listen and look for signs of squirrel it is important to be quite while walking. It’s not an afternoon stroll, you are still hunting wild animals, and they will be alert to a clumsy human thrashing around their home. Watch your steps and keep talking to a whispered minimum.
Besides the walk and stop method you can also set up and call to squirrels. This is particularly effective if you can get in before daybreak and have a good setup. If you do not have any luck move to a new area and give 30-45minutes before attempting to call again.
A well-used call will bring curious squirrels into your sights. Primos Hunting Squirrel Buster call is one of the best on the market and can imitate a wide range of squirrel calls. The best vocalization for bringing in curious squirrels is the chatter call. A squirrel distress call is also perfect if you were interested in our coyote section.
Squirrel Hunting Rifle
There are two routes you can take for the type of firearm you can use when hunting squirrel. The first is a small caliber .22 rifle. This gives you a little more range and if you are planning on making a meal out of them saves a lot of meat with a more precise shot.
A lot of squirrel hunters also use a 20 or 12 gauge shotgun. Your range is a little more limited, but you have a better chance of hitting a squirrel on the run. Like rabbit, a #6 lead shot is perfect for clean kills.
During this time of the season, a lot of the normal mast that squirrels feed on will be gone from the woods. If you can find leavings of beechnuts or acorns from the previous feeding you can bet that squirrels will still be in the vicinity. Also look for squirrel nest that has been built with leaves and small sticks high up in the tree. Squirrels also nest in large tree cavities. If you can find these nests, there is a good chance some adult squirrels are nearby.
4. Wild Boar
Feral hog season normally has no type of season and the availability of these animals for an off-season hunter is nearly limitless. They are also a nuisance to farmers and landowners as a sounder of swine can destroy a patch of land in no time at all.
Wild hogs are not as widespread as the previous three options and are mostly limited to the southeastern US, Texas, and California. If you’re looking to take a trip to warmer areas you might also be able to sneak in a hog hunt.
Guns for Hog hunting
If you look up the weapons used to hunt hogs you might be surprised at what you will find. Some people hunt with dogs and make the kill with knives or spears. Some hog hunters like to use bows while the most prevalent methods use rifles. Your standard calibers used for deer or coyote are enough to bring down a wild boar.
Because there are not a lot of regulations on wild hogs, semi-automatic rifles are a popular choice as hogs usually travel and bed in larger groups and you are not limited to one hog in most states.
As is with most hunts, your first step is to locate areas where hogs might be. Wild hogs feed on just about all types of mast and roots. If you come across areas where a wide track of rooting, uprooted vegetation and soil, you can be certain it was the work of wild hogs.
Another telltale sign of hogs in the area is wallow rubs. Hogs like areas that contain water and dense cover. To help cool off and remove insects off of them, they will roll and wade in muddy areas. They will then rub against small shrubs and trees leaving a characteristic wallow rub caking dried mud against the sides of the vegetation.
Time to Shoot
During the day hogs will normally hole up near food sources. If there is a storm front moving in it will drive hogs to feed in the open throughout the day. This is an awesome opportunity to catch hogs out in the open and during daylight hours.
A lot of hunters also prefer hunting boar during night hours. A lot of hog feeding and other activities occur during this time so being equipped to hunt at night is essential.
Hogs are also very territorial and will respond aggressively to predator and other hog calls in their area. It is important to have a good range of vision when using these calls as you don’t want one to burst on to you only a few yards away. The Primos Hog Grunter Call is an excellent and easy to use call for those getting started in the hog hunting game.
While most hunters spend the remaining winter by the fire waiting for the spring gobbles, you have the opportunity to stalk some wary and sometimes difficult animals such as the coyote.
Are you looking to add some fresh pork to the freezer? A wild boar is a great option.
If you just want to spend some time in the field with family and friends hunting for the small game both squirrel and rabbit season usually runs through February for most states.
If sitting in front of the TV or behind a book for the next two and a half months doesn’t appeal to you, you now know there are still some fun and unique hunting opportunities that are available for you.
A few more weeks in the woods stalking these game will keep your hunting skills sharp, help out your neighbors, and keep the freezer stocked until you can sneak into the spring turkey woods.