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Late season hunting opportunities abound

Just because deer season is over and winter is here, doesn’t mean you have to put the guns away quite yet. Rabbit, grouse, raccoon, fox, bobcat and coyotes can make for some great late season hunting opportunities.

In West Virginia, you can legally hunt all of these animals until Feb. 28, with the exception being that you can hunt coyotes all year long. Squirrel season is still in and ends on Jan. 31.

Right now is also a good time to do some scouting for the 2014 deer season. Yes, I said deer scouting, even though the season just went out last month. January and February can help you put the pieces in the puzzle for that buck you might have missed this past year.

Trails are well-defined, and old rubs stick out in the bare woods. With a little snow on the ground, trails can become even more obvious as well as tracks from the animals still in season.

I know it can be hard for some to already be thinking about deer hunting since the rifles have just been put back in the cases, but information gained from late season scouting – or I guess you could call it really early scouting – will lead you to where to concentrate come fall. I look at it as getting some exercise and staying in shape for the upcoming turkey season, also.

Shed hunting, as some call it, provides another reason to venture out into the woods. Although in my opinion, finding a shed antler is more luck than anything in West Virginia. I’ve found a few in my lifetime but not many.

Granted looking along fencerows, heavily traveled trails and the edge of bedding areas can be a place to start, I still think it’s more luck than anything.

However, if you do find any, that is confirmation that a buck made it through hunting season, and hopefully, it will be in the same area when the time comes to hunt deer once again.

If you are lucky enough to own some beagles or have a friend who does, now is the time to get out and kick the brush. Rabbit hunting with a good group of friends and a few beagles is an excellent way to spend a Saturday in January and February. Listening and watching the dogs work is what it’s all about.

Grouse hunting with a dog can be quite exciting, as I’ve found out hunting with Sammy and his two English setters. I’ve been grouse hunting with Sammy and his dogs for the past 6 years, and it’s something I really look forward to during the winter months. It’s a great way to kick cabin fever and take a walk in the woods at the same time. Not to mention grouse are good eating, also.

Predator calling can be an effective, and probably the best way, to bring foxes, bobcats and coyotes within gun range. A squealing rabbit call is the most popular call to use, and you can get it on a tape or a mouth call.

Also, it is the middle of winter and the predators are hungry and will usually investigate a possible easy meal.  Just keep in mind to watch the downwind side, as they always seem to come from this way.

This can be one of the best times of the year to use a call and bring one of those coyotes toward you. Coyotes start to pair up in February and March, as this is the breeding season for them.

The best times to hunt coyotes are just after sunrise, first thing in the morning and the hour before dark in the evening. It’s important to be well hidden as ole’ Wile E. has keen eyesight and, of course, a good sense of smell. They can be a challenge to hunt, and I’m hoping to get out soon to try my luck on a few I heard during deer season.

Whether it’s tromping through the briars after rabbits and grouse or waiting on that fox, bobcat or coyote to come into your call, it’s a good reason to get outdoors and enjoy some late season hunting opportunities.

Be sure to keep your eyes open for deer signs as well as shed antlers if you venture out. It might just help you narrow down where you want to sit come fall.

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