Editor’s Note: Binu Inbaraj of Newark, Delaware shares his thoughts on being a new hunter and pursuing hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania.
How do you choose where to go small game hunting?
I have hunted in Pennsylvania for two seasons before this year and I am exploring newer areas every year. For pheasants the Pennsylvania Game Commission website has been great to learn about stocking locations. I like to hunt State Parks for small game.
With State Park lands, there are different people using the areas like bikers, hikers, and hunters. And especially with squirrels, I have noticed them to be less afraid of humans and have had good luck hunting state parks. I also like to hunt small parcel game lands that I have found using the PGC website.
What types of places have you visited in Pennsylvania to hunt small game?
I have hunted State Parks mostly in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and wooded game lands around the Poconos. This year, we did not have snowfall, but for me hunting in snow, walking the woods after snow in search of small game has been a magical feel (Though I haven’t been very successful yet).
As a new hunter, what do you find to be the most attractive about the small game hunting opportunity to pursue animals like squirrels, rabbits, and pheasants?
I am very new to hunting and I only have access to public lands. So for me with big game like turkey and deer, I put in a lot of time and effort the whole season and may see a few animals, and the chances of getting the right opportunity to take a shot are very few.
Early in the season, there were many times that I didn’t see deer and I was getting very frustrated. But all those times in the woods I always saw a few squirrels around and never targeted them.
For me the most attractive thing about small game hunting is being active in the woods and a greater chance for success. I have also hunted doves and I loved hunting them, because of the challenge. They were commonly found but were very fast and I had to improve my shooting skills to get a few. Pheasant hunting is another unique experience.
Without a dog, I have walked through bushes and flushed pheasant a few times and was able to shoot a couple. If I were taking a new hunter, I would introduce them to small game hunting because it is exciting.
What do you like about Pennsylvania’s pheasant stocking and hunting program?
Pheasant hunting is a very exciting sport.
The first time I was ever out pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania was on Opening Day a couple years ago. I was walking in the thick grass, and my heart stopped for a second when a rooster flushed from just in front of me. I couldn’t believe it could make such a loud sound and take off so fast, I didn’t even shoot at it, because I was too shaken.
Once I moved to Delaware, I checked for pheasant hunting opportunities, and found that Delaware doesn’t have a state sponsored pheasant stocking program, and it is only done privately. I like the fact that Pennsylvania offers a pheasant stamp for interested hunters to purchase to pursue this species.
When you are hunting game like squirrels, what is the most important part of the hunt that you concentrate on (such as finding the right habitat, searching with binoculars, or listening)?
I am still learning about squirrel hunting, and it is some of the most fun I have had while hunting. I carry binoculars when hunting squirrel but haven’t had much success finding them through binoculars yet. I have seen more squirrels by sitting in one spot and listening. After some time of sitting quietly in one spot, I have seen squirrels run around on the forest floor and make sounds and then I moved in closer to them to hunt.
Tell us about your most exciting small game hunting experience.
I hunted game lands near Muddy Run Recreation Area in Lancaster County one Fall. I wandered around and didn’t hear or see any pheasants after walking a long distance. It was late in the day and I was about to give up, when I heard a pheasant calling about a half mile away. I started walking in that direction, and heard the call get louder.
After about ten minutes of walking in that direction the calling stopped. I was walking a field and then suddenly five yards from me I spot the bird and it starts to take off. The bird had seen me and had become quiet. I pointed my gun and the bird took off and I bagged it with a quick shot.
After coming back home I checked the distance traveled by foot on my phone and found I had hiked about 13 miles that day.
What ways have you cooked or prepared small game meat?
I have cooked pheasant in different Indian style dishes, and they are great. The firmer and darker meat of pheasant is great for making different style curry and dry roast Indian dishes with a lot of spices. I have enjoyed squirrel stew and deep-fried squirrel. Dove is another of my favorite game meats to eat, and they are great for many Indian-styled dishes.
What is your next goal or plan as a small game hunter?
I have an air rifle and I would like to hunt squirrel and rabbits with the air rifle next. I need to scope it and practice beforehand, but I love taking on the challenge of hunting small game animals with an air rifle. I also plan to spend more time outdoors learning about scouting possible rabbit spots to become more successful in the following years. I also plan to take my daughter who is 6 now on future hunts, to have her experience the woods and to introduce her to hunting.
As a non-resident hunter from Delaware, what is your favorite part about hunting in Pennsylvania?
Delaware is a small state, and the number of public lands you can hunt are small. Small game hunting also has some restrictions in many parts in Delaware public lands. That’s something I love about Pennsylvania: you can go hunt almost any public game land without restrictions. Pennsylvania is vast and the amount of public lands we can hunt is incredible.
Many of the mountains I have explored in the Pocono region are very scenic, and the opportunity to hunt those places is in itself an amazing experience. I love walking in those wooded mountains in search of game.