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5 Summer Hunting Species

By: Hunting, by Cody Larrimore

If you are a hardcore hunter, summer is the one time you get a slight break. From the close of turkey season until the first day of early archery, there is a brief three-month lull where you can reacquaint with the family, get the house in shape, and the yard mowed.

We’re about to change that. Our advice? Hire a yard boy, get a contractor, and take the family with you–the calm before the storm just ended.

As they say, there is no rest for the wicked. Here are the top six wicked summer hunts of which taking part becomes a necessity as you wait for that opening day deer season.

Squirrels

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The number of small-game hunters is on the decline. Nintendo has replaced the .22 as the approved 5s2form of childhood entertainment, and most hunters live in a world obsessed with mega-racked bucks–no longer small game. It seems we have lost sight of the little things and simpler times that make the woods such an enjoyable place to be. What a shame. However, it doesn’t take much to reignite the fire in the seasoned or start it in the youth–just a pocket full of .22 shells, an inexpensive rifle, and a patch of hardwoods loaded with bushytails. As anyone who has ever gone after squirrels will attest, it’s damn fun. And now with more states opening earlier than ever (August is common throughout their range, and some states such as Kansas and Missouri open as early as May), squirrel hunting is the perfect off-season hunt.

Squirrel hunting requires little in the way of equipment, no high-priced leases, and no hardcore scouting. It is hunting rendered to its purest form. Grab a .22 rifle, pistol, or for the shakier among us, a shotgun and head to a patch of hardwoods. Many choose to sit and wait, allowing the woods to settle down and the squirrels to start moving.

In these ambush situations, a squirrel call can also be of value. Any time of the day can be good, but mornings and evenings are prime. Other hunters still-hunt quietly through the woods, stopping and looking often, traveling little. Even if no squirrels are brought to bag, both methods are a great excuse to get out in the woods and look for deer sign.

Prairie Dogs

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Paper targets are the path to better marksmanship–but they’re boring. If you’d like to leave them briefly 5s4to give your soul a lift, visit Dogtown. Prairie dogs abound east of the Rocky Mountain front, where long expanses of short sage are broken by shallow, seasonal watercourses. Natural meadows and seeded pastures support sprawling colonies of these rodents. For the most part, ranchers want them gone. Their holes are hoof-hazards, and prairie dogs compete directly with livestock for forage. That said, some landowners have figured out that hunters will pay to shoot them, and they’ve opened private pastures for nominal fees.

Some shooters arrive armed for a major assault, with AR-15s or heavy bolt-action varmint rifles wearing powerful scopes. They set up on portable benches, use laser rangefinders, and delight in shooting that’s so intense they must change rifles regularly or use water to cool their barrels.

While I enjoy the walks that show me new country, some of my colleagues get their kicks from a shooting station that on good days soon surrounds them with .223 hulls. Some arrive with handloading tools on the tailgate. Distance matters. If you’ve not visited Dogtown, this summer is your turn. Schedule the trip for June if you can. There’s no need to rise early, but the best shooting is in the morning as the sun warms the prairie. Cold and windy days put the dogs down.

Pheasants

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Every fall, upland hunters regularly shed hundred-dollar bills. It’s true nothing beats the action of hunting5s5 native birds. The dogs working and the excitement of a wild flush are hard to top.

For mere pennies on the dollar, I would get a few friends and we would chip in to buy the birds. My dog-training friend simply wanted to work his dogs for the upcoming season without the added expense of buying birds himself. For less than $50 each, we could hunt the better part of a day and all take home a vest full of birds–quail, pheasant, chukar, the choice was ours.

Hunters who have regularly run dogs tend to have full freezers, too. At the end of the day, the birds were all ours and the family back home did not have to pick pellets out of supper.

Coyotes

They say coyote hunting is a winter sport. They are wrong. I started hunting coyotes during the summer months, not because I thought it was good, but I simply just liked hunting them enough that I didn’t want to stop when the weather turned warm. Thankfully, with year-round seasons, in most states you don’t have to quit. What I discovered was summer months were every bit as good for calling as fall and winter (maybe even better), even if the pelts are thin. A variety of calls work well since pressure is light. Traditional prey-in-distress calls as well as whipped-pup calls can do a number. Hunters find favor with both hand calls and electronics, but for maximum enjoyment, keep it simple. Leave the decoys and electronics at home and grab a mouth call; the uneducated dogs won’t know the difference and you may want to keep the electronic ace-in-the-hole for winter when they are educated.

The biggest problem hunter’s face is heat. Early mornings generally prove most productive. Figure on two to three quality stands before the sun drives the chill out of the morning air. On rare overcast days, hunters may eke out four or five stands. Evenings are long, but success is generally had only at last light.

While summer days are unproductive, summer nights can be fantastic. Unlike the winter when night hunting is often windy with temperatures plummeting into the single digits, summer night hunting is short-sleeve weather and calm. Use red filtered lights to see in the darkness. More hi-tech-savvy hunters (with unlimited budgets) can use night vision scopes such as those offered by ATN.

Wild Hogs

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Next to a rabbit, I cannot think of a more prolific game animal. A wild sow can have 15-plus piglets in a 5s3single litter and breed three times a year. Young ones can make great fare for the BBQ, but if you give it six months or so to put some meat on the bone, the hog will tip the scales at 200 pounds or more. For the trophy hunter, a mean-looking tusker adds excitement to any trophy room. For those on a bit more of a budget, a hog skull with a few inches or more of razor-sharp tusk sticking out is sure to be a conversation starter.

Several years back I watched a young lady down a 250-pound tusker pulling a 42-pound bow with a cut-on-contact broadhead. Medium-caliber rifles will likewise get the job done. If you are a fan of bigbores, smokepoles, or handguns, hog season is open to and favors all of them. In any case, shot placement is critical. I have seen a hog shake off a .357 Mag. to the forehead from a few feet, and I have recovered .300 Win. Mag. bullets from the plate covering the shoulder of a big boar. Mature hogs have a plate that may run up to two inches thick. I have learned from experience not to take a traditional broadside shot, and now I wait for a quartering-away shot. In this way, I can slip an arrow or bullet behind a plate and through the vitals.

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