Small Game Hunting: Tips & Tricks

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By Jordan McDowell

Small game hunting can be a fun and challenging way to get outdoors and enjoy some time in nature. In order to be successful, however, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Whether you’re targeting hares, squirrels, or other small prey, certain techniques will help you bag your limit.

Here are some tips and tricks for successful small game hunting.

small game hunting

Be aware of the regulations in your area.

First, check with your state or provincial wildlife agency to make sure you are familiar with the small game hunting regulations. Each state/province has different rules and regulations regarding which species of animals can be hunted, what equipment is allowed, and when the season is open. Familiarizing yourself with these regulations will help ensure a safe and legal hunt.

Ensure you have the right hunting equipment.

One of the most important aspects of small game hunting is having the right equipment. If you don’t have the proper gear, you’ll likely find yourself frustrated and unsuccessful. For instance, if you’re an air bow hunting enthusiast, you’ll need a quality airbow and airbow arrows. For rifle hunting, you’ll need a good scope and a rifle that’s comfortable for you to use with the correct ammunition.

You’ll also need the right clothing for the weather conditions you’ll be hunting in and to help you blend in with your surroundings. Be sure to dress in layers so that you can add or remove clothing as needed to stay cool or warm when you’re hunting. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you’ll also need a comfortable pair of boots that won’t give you blisters. In addition to the essentials, you’ll also need:

  • A good pair of binoculars to help you spot game from a distance
  • A knife for dressing your game
  • A game call or decoy to attract the attention of your prey

Don’t forget to prep your crossbow before sighting in for hunting season or any other hunting equipment you’ll be using. This includes cleaning and oiling your equipment and making sure your arrows are in good condition. Doing so will help you avoid any frustrating and costly surprises when you’re out in the field.

Prioritize safety protocols before you start hunting.

Before you go out into the woods, make sure that you and your hunting buddies are on the same page when it comes to safety protocols. Review these basic arrow and bow safety rules:

  • Always keep your bow pointed in a safe direction
  • Always practice safe shooting
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times
  • Know how to properly handle and store your hunting equipment
  • Never shoot without having full visual contact with a target
  • Never shoot without knowing what is behind a target
  • Take a hunter’s safety course to refresh your knowledge

It’s also a good idea to let someone else know where you’ll be hunting and when you plan to return home. That way, if something happens and you don’t come back when expected, someone will know where to start looking for you. And finally, as part of ensuring safety, always wear blaze orange or another bright color when you’re hunting – it will help make you more visible to other hunters and prevent accidents.

Scout the area to find the best location for you.

To ensure a successful hunt, you’ll need to do some scouting ahead of time. This is especially important if you’re hunting in an area for the first time. Look for areas where there is a high population of small game animals. Pay attention to the type of terrain and vegetation in the area as well. You’ll want to find a spot that provides good cover for you to hide in and that has a good line of sight.

Another important factor to consider when scouting is the time of day. Small game animals are most active at dawn and dusk, so you’ll want to be in your hunting spot during those times. If you’re able to do some scouting ahead of time, try to visit the area at different times of day to see when the animals are most active.

Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

Remember to always be aware of your surroundings too. Pay attention to the sounds you’re hearing and the movement you see in the bushes and trees around you. You never know when an animal might pop out and startle you, so it’s always best to be prepared. Also, be aware of the wind direction. Scent is a powerful tool for animals, and they can easily pick up your scent if the wind is blowing in their direction.

If you’re downwind from your prey, they’re much more likely to catch a whiff of you and take off running before you even have a chance to take a shot. So pay attention to the wind and always try to position yourself upwind of where you think the animals might be.

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Be patient and wait for the perfect shot.

Patience is a virtue and this could not be more true when hunting small game. Oftentimes, animals will move quickly and unexpectedly, so it’s important to wait for the perfect shot. If you can, find a comfortable spot and wait for the animal to come to you. You need to be able to sit or stand still for long periods of time without getting antsy.

You should also practice moving slowly and quietly to avoid scaring away any animals. If you can’t do this, small game hunting is probably not for you. The wait will be worth it when you finally get that perfect shot. Even the most experienced hunters who hunt big game like elk sometimes miss, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it on the first try.


These are just a few things to keep in mind when small game hunting. Remember to have fun, be safe, and be respectful of the environment and the animals. With a little practice, you’ll be an expert hunter in no time. Also, keep in mind that one of the best ways to become a successful hunter is to learn from experienced hunters. So, get out there and join a hunting club or group, and happy hunting.

What about you?

Do you use small game to supplement your grocery budget? What do you hunt? And do you have any tips for preparing it? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

About Jordan McDowell

Jordan McDowell is a writer and second amendment rights advocate. As a proud advocate for responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting as well as the latest developments in state and national legislation. Check out his work at

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  • “If you’re downwind from your prey, they’re much more likely to catch a whiff of you and take off running before you even have a chance to take a shot.”

    I think this should be “if you are upwind from your prey”

  • Well, while I was not necessarily hunting them for food, one year we had a rat/pest problem.
    They would show up to feed from my wife’s bird feeders around dawn and dusk. I would use the .22 air rifle to pick them off from the deck.
    Two things I noted:
    1) Animals can be creatures of habit. Not just the rats. I have noted deer tracks along my paths out in the fields, as they are easier than blazing a new path. Also, when I move the cows, about three days latter, I will find turkeys have torn up the manure to get to the maggots flies have laid in earlier.
    Use their habits to your advantage.
    2) Elevation can give you a better shot or better chance of a first round hit.

    As always, practice the fundamentals of marksmanship for that good, clean shot.

    • “rat/pest problem … I would use the .22 air rifle to pick them off from the deck”

      as garbage services decline an air rifle will become a valuable tool.

  • Traps work 24/7 and are silent. Most states require trappers be licensed, and check their traps every 24 hours. This will be critically important during warmer months, if you’re trapping for meat. There are many kinds of traps out there–the cheapest are commercially made snares. There are also leg hold traps and body grip traps as well. Snares often kill the critter caught in it, as do body grip traps. Leg hold traps–while viewed as inhumane in some social circles assure the trapper will have a LIVE animal, so freshness of the meat is always assured. Contrary to popular belief, modern leg hold traps are NOT inhumane. If you plan to use traps to fill your larder, do not used home-made or primitive traps like one sees on YouTube. While I’m sure someone, somewhere may have successfully caught something in a copper wire or Paracord noose, he hasn’t caught much, and couldn’t keep himself alive with such. Pretty much any animal you catch can be cooked and eaten, some popular species include feral hogs, beaver, raccoon, opossum and rabbits. With a little planning, doves, pheasant and quail might also be trapped in a grid-down situation. Check the laws in your state relative to this, and to learn more check The Meat Trapper on YouTube…

  • Snares. Cheap, easy, can be made yourself for pennies/foot, made to accommodate game as big as deer and can be deployed quickly in massive numbers. This leaves me time to do other things.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hunt. I’m pretty fair at it. But the older I get the cooler my bloodlust gets. So, I really, really like snares.

  • One thing I noted, is there wasn’t much mention about “Seasons.” There’s a reason most hunting is in the fall and early winter, and that’s Parasites. Rabbits and Hares tend to pick up fleas in the warm months, and Tularemia can be a big problem (already two reported cases in Colorado this year so far). Cooking the meat thoroughly, generally takes care of any internal parasites, but handling your game is when flea bites occur. Make sure you wear gloves, especially if you’re handling wild game out of season. If the pelt’s infested, discard it, don’t try and home tan it, unless you really know what you’re doing. When the weather turns cold, parasites aren’t as big of an issue.
    I’ve hunted Deer, Elk, Moose, and Pronghorns, and Small Game for 50 years and though I enjoyed the Big Game hunts, my favorite hunting was always Pheasant. I could Pheasant hunt year round if it was legal to do so. Pheasant cooks up and tastes a lot like chicken, except it’s all dark meat. Some excellent recipes.
    Being in Colorado, I grew up hunting. Tagging along with my Dad until I was old enough to legally carry a gun. Some of my fondest memories are the times we spent hunting.

  • I like knowing how things work before I use them. I would tell a newbie to learn how to properly strip, clean and reassemble before ever taking a shot. Would y’all add anything to that?

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