Who says the seasons end with summer?
Spring is finally upon us and if you're not already participating in spring turkey season, you're likely thinking about it this time of year. Usually that ends all hunting activities for most of us until at least August or September, and we put the hunting gear away and break out the fishing rods for the summer months after that.
But who says hunting season has to end there?
Today we'll look at some of the options for offseason hunting during the long summer months that can get you through the long wait to the more popular hunting seasons in the early fall.
There is ALWAYS something to hunt.
Many hunters don't dive very deep into their state's regulations books. So many don't realize there is almost always some type of game animal in season. Let's look at my state of Michigan as an example. Some of the animals in season all year-round include red squirrels and ground squirrels, skunks, wood chucks (or groundhogs), opossums, porcupines, weasels, starlings, house sparrows, and feral pigeons.
Most of these animals are, of course, small game. But feral hogs are also open year-round to Michigan hunters, so there is a big game option there, even if most states classify them as a non-game animal. Thankfully, feral swine aren't a big problem in Michigan as of yet, but they do exist.
If you live in Texas, well, you probably already know about the hog hunting there. Wild hogs have gotten so bad in the Lone Star State that the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife has what basically amounts to an "anything goes" policy for hunting them.
You can hunt them all day and even all night if you want. Night scopes, trapping, helicopters...it's all legal. You're even allowed to hunt them from a hot air balloon there. We're still waiting for some intrepid YouTube hunting personality to make a video about that.
Oh, and bag limits on feral hogs in Texas? Forget about it. You can take as many as will fit into the back of your pickup if you so desire. If you find the right area, you might even find a farmer willing to pay you to thin the herd a bit.
Keep in mind, not every state has Texas' mindset when it comes to feral hogs. Arkansas has some rules about where and when you can shoot them that hunters should keep in mind.
We highly recommend diving into your state or province's list of hunting seasons. You might be surprised at what you find in there. For instance, South Dakota allows prairie dog hunting year-round. You'll find plenty of opportunities to hunt these animals in Kansas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Missouri, and Texas too. It's a good opportunity to get younger hunters out in the field to teach them the basics of hunting safety, marksmanship.
Not only is it a lot of fun, but they'll learn valuable skills they can later translate to deer hunting or turkey hunting. Plus, you'll be helping control the population too!
Predator/invasive species control
Noticing a decline in fawns on your property? You may have coyotes. Going back to my home state of Michigan again, there is really no coyote hunting season here, so if you want to spend some time in July and August thinning the herd, that is the time to do it.
And it may pay dividends in the fall deer season if the animals you're targeting are more comfortable with your property because there are less predators.
Live in Florida and are looking for something unique to do in the summertime? Why not try going after invasive Burmese pythons? The Florida Wildlife Commission allows and encourages the taking of these snakes at any time on private land, and you don't need a hunting license.
Just be sure you check the regulations if you are headed into a public area to look for them. You can capture them almost anywhere, but there are exceptions. There are also rules on where and when you can shoot or trap these giant snakes.
The FWC allows the sale of skins and meat of these snakes, but they caution people on eating it on their website because some snakes have been found to contain mercury. Still, by taking a few snakes, you'll be helping Florida's native wildlife populations that can otherwise be decimated by these invasive critters.
Special Seasons and good eating
You might be thinking I've talked only about invasive species that aren't really good table fare with this article. But you'd be wrong. Remember how I mentioned the feral pigeons earlier in this article? They are good eating. Just watch this video by Lake Fork Guy on how to prepare them if you don't believe us. It is a good way to prepare for waterfowl and upland game birds in the late summer and early fall seasons. Practicing on those small birds will also help in hitting fast, small birds like snipe and quail later.
The same goes for crows, which in some states can be hunted during the summer. In Indiana for instance, there is a season for crow that runs from July through August.
Some states offer some unique seasons for various game species that make for great meals. Virginia, for example, has a spring season for squirrel that runs from June 1 through the 15th this year. Who says you have to wait until fall? In Arkansas, the squirrel season starts on May 15 and runs all the way to February. That's plenty of time to fill the freezer!
Another species that doesn't get a lot of attention is the nilgai antelope in Texas. This species is native to India, but they were introduced to South Texas in the 1930s and quickly became a problem species. There's an estimated 30-35,000 living there!
Thankfully, they are not as bad as the feral hogs, but this species still offers you the chance to do a little big game hunting in the summer months, although you will likely have to pay a private ranch for the chance at them. You do also have to have a Texas hunting license.
The nilgai antelope can get up to 300 pounds, providing for a rare opportunity to really fill up your freezer with meat in the summer months. They're also quite challenging to hunt.
Their sharp eyes and hearing will definitely test your skills with a rifle or stick and string. Some nilgai can also be found in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Think of it as a warm up for the fall archery seasons.
It's a long wait until fall. (Make the most of it!)
We know the wait until the fall season opens is a long one and you're probably eagerly awaiting that first early morning in a treestand for more popular big game hunting. But sitting there counting the days and staring at those big whitetails from your trail camera photos is just going to make the wait seem longer.
Why wait around moping when there are plenty of summer hunting opportunities just waiting for you in the coming months?
By making your plans for summer hunting now, the wait for fall will just seem that much shorter and you may gain a new love of those warmer months that you never had before!
With a little planning, you may just find yourself having a hunting adventure you and your family will remember for years to come.