If you would take a look at the Small Game Hunting and Trapping Regulations pamphlet that is handed out when you purchase your license, you would see there are lots of hunting options for the outdoorsman to get into over the winter. Rabbit and some trapping seasons run all the way through February and fox, badger, opossum and raccoon season, along with some trapping, goes into springtime.
Cottontails prefer hardwood forests and lowlands, while snowshoe hares are most common in coniferous forest areas. One type of habitat both species love are recently logged over areas. The remaining brush piles offer both food and cover. Hunting for these rabbits doesn’t require any special gear, except maybe a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis. Most rabbit enthusiasts make do with their favorite shotgun.
Hunting jackrabbits is another story though. These long-legged speedsters prefer wide open prairie country with some brushy spots for cover. This type of terrain and the jack’s eyesight make it necessary for hunters to use flat-shooting, scope mounted guns, such as a .223 or similar rifle. However, your deer rifle with lighter loads can work just great.
The most challenging winter hunting is for red and gray fox; these critters didn’t get the reputation of being wiley for nothing. Whether they be red or gray, fox like rolling farm lands with mixed sections of field and woods. Getting permission to hunt on farmer’s property is usually no problem if you courteous and very careful.
There are basically two ways to get a fox in your sights. One is by sitting quietly and using a varmint call to bring them to you. Varmint calls are not hard to use and are available in most sporting stores. Practice on your new call until you get the hang of it, and then find yourself an area with plenty of fox sign. Locate a spot with a good view of the countryside and start calling. If nothing shows after 15 to 20 minutes, move to a new spot; eventually one will come looking for you.
If you are energetic, you may want to strap on a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis and take off on a fresh set of fox tracks. The idea is to keep watching as far ahead as you can and see the fox before it sees you. You might just catch one napping on a sunny hill side.
Again, most hunters in Minnesota do not participate in these winter hunting seasons. But remember, fall hunting is a long way off and doesn’t last very long once it’s here.
Posted by Jeff Howard on February 21, 2011
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