Oklahoma Small Game Hunting Offers Cure for Cabin Fever

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Oklahomans don't have to hang up their hunting vests and gear yet. Rabbit and squirrel seasons are still open and offer endless hunting opportunities at wildlife management areas across the state.

Rabbit season remains open statewide until March 15, and squirrel until Jan. 31. Resident hunters only need a hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit unless exempt, and residents age 15 and under are exempt from having to purchase a hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit. For complete license information, see the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. After obtaining the proper license, hunters only need a place to hunt. But when you consider that the Wildlife Department offers public hunting areas all across the state that often have minimal small game hunting pressure, having a place to go is not a problem.

"With so many wildlife management areas open to small game hunting, a hunter can just grab a gun, boots and a warm jacket and be well on his way to a great day in the outdoors," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Not only that, but chasing small game is a great way to introduce a child to hunting and to teach hunter safety."

Generous bag limits on both rabbit and squirrel allow hunters to take plenty of game home from a day in the woods or field. Young hunters who are not used to sitting for long hours have a chance to move about and talk with their friends and family, and longtime hunters have a chance to sharpen their shooting skills. A shotgun or .22 rifle are both great for small game hunting.

"Small game hunters often get to shoot more often than when hunting big game, and doing so can help make them more confident with a big game rifle. One thing to remember, though, is to always be sure of your surroundings and your target when shooting," Meek said.

For bag limits and regulations on rabbit and squirrel, see the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding benefits of small game hunting comes after the hunt. Rabbit and squirrel make excellent table fare, and can often be substitutes for chicken in many recipes. For a simple way to prepare squirrel and rabbit, cut the meat into quarters, roll it in flour and dust it with a favorite spice. Then quickly brown the meat in a skillet filled with ΒΌ inch of vegetable oil until it is golden on all sides. Finally, add water until the meat is about half submersed, then simmer 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and a gravy is formed. Serve hot with mashed potatoes and buttered rolls.

Rabbit and squirrel seasons on public lands may vary from statewide seasons, so hunters should consult wildlife management area regulations beginning on page 37 of the "2006-07 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" before hunting. For more information on small game hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.