American states are rapidly expanding their small prey hunt season in response to low levels of hunting in late 2020. In Idaho, National Geographic estimates that a huge 90% of the current wolf population could be made available under new hunting regulations, in response to the habitat and public safety damage risk they pose. This expansion of the small prey hunt brings challenges that some hunters might not be quite aware of – what you need to be successful on a small prey hunt can be a lot different to stalking deer or other large prey. This starts, of course, with your equipment.
The handgun is a great tool of choice for small prey hunts. Outdoor Life covers the surprising power that many pistols have – indeed, with the right adaptations they can be used for long-range hunting of larger prey, such as deer. Picking the right scope is key, however, whether you decide to use optical sights or lasers. Optical sights offer the benefit of quicker target acquisition and better distance shooting. Lasers can offer absolute precision in your shot, but can spook your prey. The iron sights can be useful, too, but only for the most skilled hunters who can shoot from range with a handgun.
Small prey can be dangerous to hunt. Coyotes and wolves in particular are the source of a handful of attacks every year – as the Urban Coyote Research institute notes, these attacks, while rarely fatal, are still a cause for concern and break up your enjoyment of a hunt day. Bring with you a proper defensive kit. Wear appropriate outdoors wear, bring a knife or other tool to defend yourself with (and to make a camp), and don’t be too far from your vehicle in case you need to get to safety or get medical attention. This is also true for accidents, which can be all too common in small prey hunts.
Hunting accidents are, sadly, all too common in the USA. There’s a heightened risk when hunting small prey due to the deft motor skills needed to track and shoot the prey, often smaller and faster than large animals like deer, and because of the wider range of weapons deployed. It is far easier to let off an accidental shot, or a misdirected shot, with your handgun, than it is a rifle – even if the damage will be less from a pistol or similar item. Take extra precautions on a small animal shoot. Go slow, and be precise with your shots. Aim to take the animal out after a long stalk, rather than abruptly or in sweeping movements. This will allow you to take care of yourself and anyone else out on the trail.
Bring together these principles and preparations and you’ll be set for a great small prey hunt. It’s a field that people aren’t quite as experienced in, or perhaps aware of, when compared with the big scenes like whitetail. With the right mindset, it can be just as rewarding.