Small Game Hunting: The Essential Guide

Small Game Hunting: The Essential Guide

Small Game Hunting: The Essential Guide

While some hunters are all about big game, going after small game can be just as entertaining and challenging — in many respects, more so. Skill, confidence, and a strong sense of cunning are strict requirements when it comes to pursuing small animals like rabbits, squirrels, and pheasants, among other species.

If you’re trying to master the art of hunting small game, this guide contains all the essential information that you need to put meat on the table.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

What’s Considered Small Game Hunting?

While each state has its own unique small game classifications, a wide majority consider small game to include huntable animals under 40 pounds. In general, the classifications consist of mammals like coyotes and raccoons, waterfowl like ducks and geese, and upland birds like turkeys, grouse, and pheasant — even amphibians like frogs are considered small game.

Common Small Game Animals

Common small game animals are found throughout the country’s wilderness, and they come in all shapes and styles. If you’re a first-time small game hunter, however, you’ll likely stick to a few basic species, like rabbits and squirrels. With how common these animals are, you can bag several in just a few hours, even with basic hunting skills or without a rifle.

Plus, these smaller animals can make a great, quick meal over a campfire or barbecue. If you’re eating rabbit and squirrel, they tend to taste better in the fall and winter after they’ve had time to fatten up. Remember, as with all wild game, make sure to cook any meat thoroughly to remove food-borne bacteria.

Varmint Hunting

Varmint hunting has been around forever, and not only is it a good way to control pests — whether they’re devouring your crops, going after livestock, digging up gardens, or getting into trash — but it’s also great shooting practice. Since there are more relaxed regulations around these types of animals, you can get a lot of practice in for the upcoming season.

Generally, any animal that tends to be invasive could be considered a varmint. For instance, coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, pigeons, even feral cats, and hogs. You normally don’t hunt varmint for meat, but rather for more getting rid of destructive critters, practicing your shooting, and for the thrill of the hunt.

Small Game Hunting Season: When and How to Get a License

If you’re getting excited about the prospects of hunting small game, there are just a few more steps you need to take before you strap up and head out. Mainly, checking a few boxes with Uncle Sam by acquiring a small game hunting license.

As we stated before, each state has its own unique regulations when it comes to any type of hunting, including small game, with varying degrees of strictness. As you’re searching for the ideal places to hunt, you’ll likely find that one area may allow you to hunt something that another nearby area doesn’t. Make it a habit to check the rules in the area in which you’re planning to hunt so you don’t break any laws and have your license revoked.

Licenses are normally available at sporting goods or outdoor stores, DNR websites, or wherever you normally get other types of hunting and fishing licenses.

Small Game Hunting Gear

When it comes to hunting big game, you need a powerful firearm that can pierce the body of a huge, nature-hardened animal from potentially hundreds of yards away. Hunting small game, on the other hand, is simpler because such animals can be killed by all sorts of weapons, even less-lethal ones.


The most reliable option for hunting small game is a rifle. For these purposes, a smaller caliber such as a Ruger 10-22 or Remington 572 will provide the right shot without damaging too much meat.

Rifle Suppressor

When it comes to hunting any type of wild game, make sure you blend into your surroundings by installing a rifle suppressor. Attach one of these devices to avoid scaring off animals with loud gunshots, even at close range. Plus, since they reduce kickback, they make your shots more accurate, letting you land more shots, make more kills and bring home more meat.


For those that want to test their archery skills, hunting small game with a bow will truly give you a challenge. It’s one thing to hit a giant buck broadside, but it’s another thing entirely to shoot a frenzied squirrel from even just a few yards. As such, consider starting with another option on this list if you aren’t skilled with a bow. Getting frustrated at the outset of the process can hinder your motivation and future progression.


Hunting slingshots are a far cry from the children’s toys you grew up with. In fact, a slingshot can be one of the most effective weapons for killing small game. Since it acts as an extension of your wrist and hand and is ready to fire at a moment’s notice, it provides unique precision in a compact package compared to other options.

Air Rifle

If you’re familiar with guns, you’ve probably played with an air rifle. While they don’t have the firepower of a regular rifle or killing prowess of a bow and arrow, these pump-action firearms are great because they’re easier to buy, more affordable, quieter, generally safer, and some can even be mounted with scopes — just don’t shoot your eye out, kid!

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Tips for Hunting Small Game

Whether you’re hunting a turkey for Thanksgiving, a pesky pack of coyotes that’s attacking your livestock, or a couple of hares near your campsite, keep these tips in mind on your next outing.

Know Where to Hunt

The first and most crucial part of your hunt is determining where you will hunt. While most forested areas in the U.S. contain a wide variety of small animals, some spots may have a denser population of certain species compared to others — you’re more likely to see a wild pig in Texas than New York, for example.

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t use some common sense to pinpoint where small animals tend to gather. First, consider feeding areas. Some crops like corn are popular among animals like squirrels, grouse, opossums, and raccoons, among many others. Additionally, small animals need to drink from nearby water sources at some point. Stalking the brush and shorelines of lakes, ponds and creeks will help flush game out.

Tracking Your Kill

One of the toughest aspects of small game hunting beyond making precise shots on such a small target is actually tracking down and recovering the kill once it’s been shot. It’s not like when you kill a large elk or moose that stands out or leaves blood trails. Small game can easily disappear in dense shrubbery, under downed trees, or be taken by other animals as a meal. In the world of small game, marking where the animal falls becomes even more important.

It may help to bring a companion along as an extra set of eyes. While a human certainly works, no one is better at tracking and retrieving than our furry, four-legged friends. Countless dog breeds, from rat terriers to Brittany Spaniels to Labradors to coonhounds, are actually bred for this specific purpose. With their acute sense of smell and ability to track certain small game, they’ll become your most trusted partner in the field.

Practice Makes Perfect

Small game hunting improves your reaction time, tracking-shot skills, field stamina, and many other things. And the act of “snap shooting”, where you throw your gun into aim compared to a casual point and shoot, can be mastered with enough time spent at the range.

The art of picking off moving targets in the wild is an acquired form of shooting and frankly, unlike any other. For example, compared to hunting mostly stationary big game, or participating in a clay pigeon trap competition, smaller game is more unpredictable, yet just as rewarding.

A Suppressor is a Small Game Hunter’s Best Friend

If you’re getting ready for your next small game hunting trip, remember to keep this information in mind and employ these tips while in the field. Soon, you’ll learn the value of patience, determination, and the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with successfully taking down smaller animals.

If you want to improve your small game hunting prowess, consider adding a suppressor to your collection of firearm accessories. Avoid scaring off your prey by quieting loud gun blasts, while reducing recoil and increasing accuracy. Silencer Central has made it simple to purchase a suppressor by reducing the back-and-forth between you and the ATF. Let us take care of the paperwork and processing while you simply relax and wait for your firearm suppressor to be delivered straight to your door. Be sure to check out our full selection of Silencers and don’t hesitate to contact us for help choosing the best one for your needs.