I have recently brought up ideas and tips for new hunters getting started, but I would like to mention two of the easiest small game species to master: rabbits and squirrels.
The benefits of hunting these two semi-elusive animals are numerous. For starters, they offer variety. They can both be hunted with a small gauge shotgun (where legal) or with the ever popular .22 rifle. The weapon of choice all depends on the mentor helping these newbies getting started. I started with a rifle because my mentor was a coyote and deer hunter. He thought that if I could get proficient with a small rifle, it would help me be adequate with a larger rifle. He was right of course and I have no regrets. I shot many squirrels and rabbits with a Marlin .22 rifle. I did have to wait for a lot of rabbits to stop though as we kicked them up out of their beds, but it did teach me patience.
Starting out with a .410 shotgun can help a new hunter quickly transition right into big league bird hunting. Truth be told, a shotgun can make up for small aiming errors on squirrels too and give the new shooter just a little more self-confidence. Success always breeds confidence and shotgunning for rabbits and squirrels will bring more success than a rifle will. Again, a worthy mentor can help make the decision between the two shooting platforms, and if someone is really lucky, both can be experienced.
Another bonus is that the prime seasons for these two species do not generally overlap. Squirrel seasons are often earlier in the fall and hopefully before deer season, and rabbits are always best when the chill winds of winter begin. I never checked to see if it was true, but my mentor taught me that rabbit meat was safest after the first frost of the year. If it is true, good, if it isn’t true, I don’t want to know about it so you will have to figure that one out on your own.
Finally, the best bonus of wanting to hunt rabbits and squirrels is that they are not high profile animals and not very many people target them as their main quarry. This means you are more likely to gain permission on private lands to hunt them and that means you might get a foot in the door with landowners for future hunting of larger game animals.
Hunting rabbits and squirrels is a win-win for all hunters, but new hunters can experience instant success and build a great foundation for their future hunting careers.