The Great Outdoors: Small Game Seasons Underway

1495135_1001659136532645_7591276874083664727_oWith the regular rifle season for white-tailed deer over, it might be easy to think that hunting is more or less over until spring gobbler season. However, nothing could be further from the truth!

(Photo courtesy PA Game Commission)

For those who don’t put the gun away or hang up their bow, there are many ways to continue enjoying the field sports. If you are like me and enjoy hunting and exploring in the snow, this is the time to do it. 

Small game seasons for cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, squirrels, and pheasants began Monday and will run through Christmas Eve, then resuming on December 26.

For me, this is the best time of year to chase small game. 

Cold and wet conditions during November and December have stripped shrubs and bushes of their leaves, increasing visibility dramatically. Experienced hunters who know their hunting areas well understand where small game can be found, but for those learning their way, snow offers a glimpse of what may be found.

The hunting seasons that follow Christmas for deer are also rewarding. Flintlock hunters get a chance to reconnect with the past. Getting a deer with a primitive weapon is a thrill that is rarely equaled.

Most bow hunters have called it quits, but for those who still have a tag and the desire, opportunities still exist. And, with the unpredictable nature of weather, it’s not unusual to have a few days of unseasonal warmth that make sitting in a tree stand tolerable.

Those who hunt with dogs have never had more chances. Houndsmen can go after rabbits and snowshoe hares with their beagles.

One sport that is growing in popularity is using larger hounds to chase bobcats. That kicks off on January 14 and runs for three weeks into February. Our region has a thriving bobcat population and anyone can get a permit, provided you have a fur taker license.

If you know someone that has hounds and likes to run raccoons or bobcats, try to take advantage and get out there. It’s a rare chance to see the elusive bobcat, which isn’t typically seen.

For coyote hunters, it’s time to start scouting and getting ready for many of the big prize money hunts that occur in our area. Typically, the biggest and the greatest amount of coyotes are taken by hunters who employ dogs to chase them. You don’t need a special license to hunt coyotes, and there is no limit to how many you can take.

For me, nothing matches listening to the hounds on a chase, be it for rabbits, hares, or predators. It keeps your interest and gives you an opportunity to see game that is rarely witnessed.

For trappers, this time of year is also when things get going. Seasons for coyotes, raccoons, mink, skunks, weasels, and fox began in the fall, but the fur is more prime at this point.

Beaver season kicks off on December 26, and for those looking to match wits with bobcats and fishers, those seasons begin on December 17.

For those willing to put up with colder temperatures, winter hunting can be very rewarding.


“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.

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