February is Full of Hunting Opportunities
Dr. John Woods 02.16.15
For many hunters, the winter doldrums have set in. Most of the big game seasons out west have been over for some time. The Upper Midwest white-tailed deer hunting is over and the snow is too deep anyway. Here in the South, deer seasons are over or will be in a couple weeks. What do we do now?
Well, as I look outside my window in Central Mississippi as an example, it is 43 degrees and raining. The wind is blowing. Though it may turn up to nearly 60 degrees by tomorrow (the south is famous for wide temperature swings), weather predictions for next week are calling for another polar blast. That’s just great.
As February is now well underway, I am exploring the options for us outdoor people not yet satisfied with sitting back with a good book by the fireplace, as appealing as that sounds. The Super Bowl is over, as is football. It is too early for crappie fishing and too early to start poking around the turkey woods. What’s left?
Well, to be honest, there are plenty of things to do in February for the hunting enthusiast. First, if you are a deer hunter, then go scouting a couple more times. Take your time and walk your entire hunting area. Scout sign just like it was the week before the season starts, not the week after it just ended. Take a hunting area map or a notebook. Mark down the site of every rub you find. Dot the map where you find scrapes. Always be on the look for antler drops as they are starting to fall now.
Look over your food plots for wear and tear. Did some plots work and others not? Maybe you can determine what went well and what did not. Should you abandon some plots or create new ones in other areas? Do you need to try other seed mixes or use more fertilizer? Is it time to lime again? Make notes.
Inspect your hunting stands again for location and condition. Make notes on what should be moved, rotated, repaired, or taken away. Were some stands over hunted while others were seldom used? Are there new approaches or strategies you can adopt next year. The list of things that deer hunters can do after the season is endless. Enjoy the time outdoors, take the kids, along with the dog plus a shotgun in case some quail get up.
While you post-season scout your deer property, combine the time afield with a good varmint rifle, especially a fast handling AR-15 rigged out for quick sighted targets of opportunity. You may round the next corner of the woods and catch a coyote crossing a food plot or open field. Those twitchy little ears there in edge of the willows could be bobcat poised to jump.
There may be a fox lurking in the weeds or any such targets like a raccoon, possum, armadillo, or some crows. Most any game that state’s classify as nuisance animals can be taken year around, like wild hogs. So when you go afield, always be prepared for what may turn up.
Speaking of those wild porkers, February (after all the deer hunters are gone) is a great time to approach a landowner about freelancing a bit on hogs. If they have a hog problem, they will likely love to have you come rid the sounders of a few family members. Pack a gun capable of taking down a rough ole husker, and that is no simple task for those not prepared for how dense their hide can be. They are fun to hunt and some say the eating is fine, too.
Of most note is that February in many states across the country is hailed as the month for small game hunting. In the southern regions this usually translates to rabbit and squirrel hunting. Bird hunting might be mixed in, but bobwhite birds have been in short supply in most places. I hear Oklahoma is still good for fine quail hunts.
If you have never been on a truly organized southern rabbit hunt with beagle dogs, then your bucket list is at least one item short. There is simply nothing like it. Even walking good habitat with another rabbit hunting partner can serve well enough. There is no rush or tactic to rabbit hunting. Everything is kick up and shoot and stay on the ready. Few targets can test a shotgunner’s skill like a dashing and jagging canecutter rabbit.
Rabbit hunting solo or with a close friend is a grand fellowshipping experience with nature. If you walk parallel, advance so your hunting barrels stay in the safe zone of fire. Just walk the edges of fields, fence rows, and weed patches. If you find a wood pile, trying kicking on it, but be on the ready for an escaping blur of fur.
Of course, team hunting with a group and several dogs is hard to beat. Just use care in shooting and stay in those safe zones of fire. Spread out but maintain sight of every hunter in the group. Holler out if you have to just to keep all the hunters knowing where everybody is. Let the dogs bring the racing rabbits to you. Rabbits nearly almost always return right back to the original spot where they were jumped up to start with.
Squirrel hunting is part art and part hunting strategy. Slip into a piece of woods that is a squirrel rich habitat. I like to creep in and just sit down for a while. I still use a shotgun with 6-shot, but many hunters like the challenge of a good .22 rimfire rifle with or without a scope. Popping squirrels high up on a limb with a rimfire handgun is fine sport, too.
Sometimes if you sit still in one spot, you can nearly fill your bag limit and never have to move around the woods. If the shooting slows, then pick up and move quietly in the shadows, pausing ever so often to observe movement both on the ground and up in the trees. Truth be told, no kind of hunting can equal quality time in a good squirrel woods.
Let me throw out one more caveat to a good rabbit or squirrel hunt. Many times we have done this but nobody does it better than Max Phillips of Jones County, Mississippi. That is to throw out a southern culture tailgate lunch break between runs for rabbits or a noon break in the squirrel action.
To Max this meant laying out a treasure drove of culinary delights. Always on the list were cans of Vienna sausages, assorted cold cuts, potted meats, cans of Spam, corned beef, little tins of tuna fish, pickles (sweet and dills), olives (green and black), and cheeses of all kinds, but the favorite was a big hunk of red rind Longhorn cheddar.
There were bags of potatoes chips, corn chips, and at least two boxes of saltine crackers. A fresh loaf of soft white bread and some fine yellow mustard was also on hand to make a sandwich. Somebody brought an ice cooler filled with soft drinks of all kinds, and a couple jugs of water. Today there would probably be green tea or something, too.
Gather up the ten or so hunters in the troupe, say a solid blessing for life and nature and friends, and then dig in. The fellowship shared there at the tailgate of Max’s pick up truck and the lawn chairs could rival any good “Come to Jesus” meeting. What a capital finish to a grand hunt or the break in the middle of one. Try it. It will become a tradition that is hard to break.
So hunting in February is full of opportunities for those not willing to give up on hunting season just yet. Look around, see what is available, pack, and go. Invite some friends and take along supplies–especially some cans of Vienna sausages and a box of saltines.