This collection of varmints to hunt in the off-season will lead to a productive spring and summer.
It’s only February, which means that deer season is still several full seasons away. However, just because you don’t have a chance to go after bucks and does for a few month doesn’t mean you have to give up on hunting entirely. On the contrary, in the interim, you can busy yourself by hunting varmints, or smaller game nuisance animals that are having an adverse effect on deer populations, local farm crops, or even your own private property.
There are a wide variety of different varmint species out there for you to hunt. Some of them are dangerous predators, some of them are elusive prey. However, all of them can make good targets to put on the business end of your rifle, and since varmint hunting is usually less regulated than other types of small and big game pursuit, it can be a great way to hone your shooting skills before the main event rolls around later this year.
Remember, some of them are legal to hunt anywhere, and others have specific guidelines. Make sure to consult your local wildlife regulator to ensure you’re within your rights.
View the slide show to get your varmint hunting fix.
Arguably the best varmint to go after, considering the devastating impact they can have on your local deer property, coyote hunts are also among the best ways for hunters to stay active and sharp during the winter months. Coyotes are treacherous predators, and if you let them, they will take deer on your favorite property out of the game before you can get to them.
Since they often target does or younger bucks, coyotes can have an adverse effect on the reproductive trends of a deer population. If you shoot a buck and it runs off into the woods to die elsewhere, coyotes can also be the pests that make a meal out of the male deer before you get a chance to collect him.
In other words, you have plenty of reasons to want coyotes off your property. Why not use them for target practice?
2. Prairie Dogs
Most varmints need to be culled by hunters for little more reason than population control, and that is certainly the case for prairie dogs. These resourceful little excavators reproduce quickly and can easily amass huge populations. When those populations spread throughout farms, digging little burrows everywhere, they can cause big problems for livestock farmers.
Horses, cows, sheep, and other farm animals can easily step into a collapsed prairie dog tunnel and suffer a ruinous injury, so farmers want the ground-dwelling pests removed from their properties. For a hunter, the appeal of the prairie dog is even more simplistic. Prairie dogs are small targets, but picking them off as they pop out of holes in the ground is like one of those old video games you played as a kid (which is to say, it’s a heck of a lot of fun).
There’s a reason that the object farmers place out in their crop fields is called a “scarecrow.” Crows – grossly overpopulated in most places – are notorious scavengers and can wreak havoc on everything from a cornfield to a private garden or compost pile. Among birds, crows are one of the most reviled of airborne pests, a factor that makes them perfect fodder for varmint hunters.
Foxes often wander into suburban areas and make off with kittens or other small household pets, earning them pest status in many areas. Hunters with dogs – especially foxhounds – also derive much enjoyment from the challenge represented by tracking and chasing foxes down. On top of all of this, taxidermy mounts of foxes are arguably the most attractive of any varmint animal.
Much like coyotes, bobcats can cramp a deer hunter’s style big time by sniping a kill or simply by culling a deer herd before said hunter gets a chance to fill a tag. Bobcats may also go after housecats, livestock, or other types of creatures, making them a nuisance to farmers, suburban dwellers, or hunters looking to get the most out of their properties.
Ever had a raccoon make his way into your garage and tear your trash bins apart in search of food? If so, then that’s probably all the justification you need to hunt these little pests. Severe overpopulation in many areas also helps to make raccoons prime targets for wintertime hunters facing deer withdrawal.
Another varmint animal that is exceptionally fun to hunt with the help of a dog, squirrels also represent a unique hunting challenge due to their speed, their skittishness, and their agile ability to disappear up trees and dash across branches. The challenge of the hunt makes squirrels the subject of competitive varmint hunts from time to time.
Hunters who like to go after small game with the help of their dogs are especially fond of rabbit hunting. Since bunnies like to hide in areas of maximum cover, a hunter might have trouble locating them on a lone hunt. A dog can help to sniff out the little hoppers and send them scurrying into the open just in time for a well-aimed rifle shot. Rabbit meat is also more delicious than many people realize, adding to the appeal of the critters as varmint hunting targets.
Varmint hunters target groundhogs for a lot of the same reasons as they go after prairie dogs. Farmers hate groundhogs due to the tunnels they dig and the way they leave open areas of land pockmarked with holes and treacherous, uneven footing. Add the fact that more than a few hunters want revenge on the groundhog for consistently seeing his shadow and lengthening the interminable slog of winter (a la Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day), and it’s no surprise that groundhogs are high on the list of varmint to hunt in the months between two deer seasons.
10. Feral Hogs
If you’ve done any hunting down south, chances are that you’ve gone after a feral hog or two. In states like Texas and Florida, feral hog hunting is arguably the most popular of all varmint hunting. Their high levels of aggression and razor sharp tusks posit them as potential dangers that need to be culled as much as possible – a role that hunters play graciously.