This article was originally published by R Ann Parris on www.theprepperjournal.com
Big game and waterfowl gets plenty of attention when it comes to hunting, but there are a lot of reasons to go big on small game, especially for preppers.
Right now, we have to check to see where our regulatory bodies draw the line between small game and fur-bearers, and which small birds are included in small game and which require licenses and tags under migratory or waterfowl regs. Assume I’m including them anytime I say “small game”, because they share a lot of the same benefits.
Those benefits are huge, from why we should focus on those rodents and birds to the hunting gear we need.
Evade (some of) the Hunting-Season Buzzkills
Who in the world decided that football should overlap good hunting seasons? Seriously, we’ve been in pursuit of game through the non-gardening and non-harvest seasons far longer than football even existed. Could football not start in the snow instead of ending up cold and wet?
Holidays, too. I understand how the timing of them started, but still. We have evolved. We have the technology for Turducken and pierogis. Can we not squish other stuff together?
Could we not wear costumes in Spring and trick-or-treat along with hiding eggs, or even just combine the biggies from November-December? How many holiday gatherings, outings, and parades do we really need in a 45-60 day period?
Happily, small game is there to help mitigate some of the painful overlap of hunting and football/holiday seasons.
Small game typically has fewer area restrictions, which increases the odds of sneaking in a hunt.
With the exception of rabbits and wolf worms, most of the reasons for hunting in cool/cold seasons are nullified by small game. (Look up wolf worms – very icky, don’t chance it.) So our seasons typically start ahead of others in autumn and even summer. Some of those small-game seasons then extend right through winter.
While I have taken a tongue-in-cheek look at why, longer and less restrictive season(s) really is one of the benefits to small game. It’s far from the only one.
There are still places where a large-game license and tag more than pays for itself by per-pound comparison, especially for residents. However, even ignoring the “lifetime” investments and man hours as cost, they’re becoming few and far between. Large game is pretty expensive meat in a lot of the U.S. now.
The why of it falls to the upcoming points, but by and large, almost everywhere, a small game and-or fur-bearer’s license will still pay for itself in multiples if not exponential’s due to potential yields from the initial costs.
Small game species need fewer resources to maintain individuals, so they’re adaptable to more and smaller areas, which extends their ranges. Lack of dietary and area restrictions prevents segmentation and genetic bottle necking, which helps them maintain healthy breeding populations.
Having litters vs. single-births and twins, and faster breeding cycles – earlier ages for independence and earlier ages for sexual maturity both leading to more litters per year – also factors.
Some species are dwindling (by area and for numerous reasons). Still, wherever we are, coast to coast, any climate, city to country, small game is going to outnumber the medium and large game. We can estimate the exact ratios by eyeballing the cost and take limits of various animals on state hunting websites. (And tallying the ones we’re allowed to trap/shoot as pests without restriction.)
Accessibility & Transit Time
The population densities and the enormous and diverse ranges means we don’t have to travel far to find small game. Many are right in our backyards and fields, and nearby parks. Small game animals are guaranteed to reside in any WMA that supports unglates, big birds, predators, etc. (check regs!).
Even if we do have to travel to find small game hunting rather than watch our gardens, orchards, and bird feeder, most preppers won’t have to go as far as we would for deer, pig, waterfowl, etc.
That reduces travel time, but it also reduces the “everyday” risks involved with going off beaten paths and away from home, both now and “after”.
Especially “after” – Many disasters will mean more property theft (of and from vehicles, home, and person), increased defensiveness of property owners, and more desperate animals willing to come at us while we’re distracted or overburdened, as already happens along the trash pits and city/village verges in some parts of the world.
The greater populations across more areas compared to large game animals also increases our chances of success. Because many seasons overlap, we can even use small game to prevent a total bust once we start heading home after a waterfowl or big game trip, or add to the meat taken.
It’s mostly competition with other humans in currently limited game areas that requires the “norm” of scent control, boatloads of decoys, blinds, bait stations and feed plots, and turkey-proof camo. That competition isn’t going away (a whole other reason to reconsider large game hunting for filling plates and jars) but it’s the effects of that competition on our gear I most want to poke.
If you want to hunt small game and fur-bearers, you’re almost ready, right now.
However you’re dressed is fine – work uniforms, holiday/football glad-garb, jeans, loungers/sweats. Really. Grab your sneakers or boots, and step off.
That’s a whole other world than prepping for turkey and waterfowl for many people. For some, it’s not even in the realm for deer or pig.
This is just as easy and inexpensive, because you can humanely and responsibly take small game with almost anything.
Slingshots typically fail on “humane” and “responsible”, but there are whiz-bang sizzlers and sling bows. Some of the dart-harpoon mini crossbows hit hard enough for small-small game, too. Our shorty “tactical” shotguns will handle most brush and verge distances, and 10-25 yard #4 shot shells are available for many pistol-caliber firearms.
Our field shotguns, big-game bows and crossbows, and all .22 calibers are automatics for small-game platforms.
A $70-$125 pellet gun or .22 LR/WMR pistol will put meat on the table every single day of the year for less than $15-50 in ammo. (Airgun minimums: 600-800fps for .22, 1000+fps for .177)
There’s a particularly big bonus for some of those options: Noise. The pops, bwonnnggg’s, and snaps don’t carry far. We can also outfit our pistols with silencers and our .22 LR revolver, pump, bolt, and lever guns with sub-sonics to reduce audio alerts for them.
For End-Of-Days hunting, whether we’re homesteading, seasonal nomads, or wilderness bugout devotees – and even today – that means we’re less likely to attract attention from other animals or humans.
That also means we get more opportunities, hit or miss.
Now, there’s admittedly a big difference between city/suburban critters and woods/field critters. Wild-wild game animals typically react faster and longer. Even so, the area will settle faster with air gun and subsonic .22 pews and archery bwonngg-thwack’s than bigger booms and cracks.
It also means whole areas in really close proximity never went to high alert, so we can shift locations quickly, settle in again, and repeat the process.
Also huge is the portability of small-game takers.
Many small-game options are small/light enough to add to primary bugout, waterfowl, or big-game load outs.
Some of them would pack in a kiddie lunchbox for Hunter OpSec. The 10/22 Charger is a valid add-on option, especially in brush we can brace on. I’m partial to some of the long pellet pistols, but even they ride in a mare’s leg or standard “school” backpacks.
Continuing “Easier” & “Faster”
Small game also has advantages post-hunt. Hauling them home is a whole different world. Whether we use shoestring straps, a laundry bag, a bucket, or hold onto feet or tails directly, we eliminate the sheer work of hauling home animals that are 30-300+ pounds.
That means we move faster, and we move quieter.
As with platforms that reduce disturbances, stealth allows us more shots on other game. The faster-quieter aspect also further reduces our “after” risks from other humans.
Since we can move in and move back out really fast, and since it’s unnecessary to gut small game right away, we also seriously reduce our risks in areas where wild dogs, feral pig, and bear figure out that a shot means supper and draw in.
Butchering is a biggie, too.
One, because we can work one small animal at a time, and it’s pretty darn fast even starting out, we can bag it or bin it, and reduce the exposure of meat to flies compared to a bigger animal. Two, we can do it anywhere and we’re neither hauling to hang, nor rolling bodies back and forth.
It can be hugely satisfying to bag a biggie and tally the number of meals it will provide, but it’s also a lot of processing. That processing has to take place quickly, and usually involves extra butchering and some type of fuel for freezing, canning or smoking.
Many small-game species are pretty much serving-size portions. When we do get an abundance of small game, we can very easily and quickly quarter off the leg sections and breast/back strap for canning whole, and dine on the fine-picking portions like ribs.
Cleaning at home also means that we can ditch any organs we consider dangerous, but retain offal for our pigs, poultry, and fish – or keep choice bits in a jar and lay fishing and trap lines tomorrow.
From hiking in and the tools used to take, to hauling out and getting meat to plate, the low physicality allows more people to participate.
That means more people stay or become earners for the household. And that can make a world of difference, to those more-limited souls and to the success of the whole household or group, in any kind of hard times.
Go Big on Small Game
A lot of small game’s benefits makes them particularly practical for preppers, but the benefits extend to daily life. The low costs and ability to successfully hunt more places by more people, and the ease after success makes small game a great way to put food on the table even now.
Plus, don’t forget how small game allows us to sneak in hunts around family gatherings – hunts we wouldn’t manage if we had to haul decoys or travel far – and without intruding on football.
Even if you’re not ready to hunt, get out and find the game, learn the signs and rhythms of the area. Time outdoors is good for us – for-real science backed. It’s also scouting/intel we can apply if needed.
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