As the last segment of our area's deer seasons winds down (the special late season for archery and muzzleloading hunters ends Dec. 22) the majority of hunters will clean and store their guns for another year, thereby ceasing their hunting efforts until next May (for some) when the spring turkey season opens. A few may continue to hunt for small game such as rabbit, squirrel and grouse, but with diminishing habitat and acreage to hunt in, coupled with the snow and colder temperatures, even this group is steadily decreasing. It's somewhat the beginning of a hunter hibernation period.
Despite the fact several small game hunting seasons remain open until Feb.28, 2010, only the most optimistic and diehard hunters will take advantage of the opportunity, and for fairly good reasons. Given normal winter weather, and decreasing private land areas to hunt, access to the majority of state forestland public areas will be closed due to the roads being seasonally open to vehicles only until the deer season ends. After that, most will only be open to snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and foot traffic. And many users of these public lands remain skeptical of mixing hunting with the other activities.
I have be honest in that I'm no longer an avid wintertime small game hunting fan. The reasons have more to do with the availability of game than the weather. Grouse are pretty much confined to the denser evergreen sections, cottontail rabbits tend to stay in their burrows or other refuges such as brushpiles, and the area's density of varying hare (snowshoe rabbit) has plummeted in recent decades. But there are two remaining hunting activities that I still do and enjoy. One of them is something I've done for years, but the other is relatively new.