Small game hunters hoping for break from weather in final weeks

BIG RAPIDS  — Rabbit hunting continues through March 31 and some area sportsmen are hoping for warm enough weather to enjoy more activity.

If they’re lucky, that is.

“It’s pretty quiet,” said Department of Natural Resources area wildlife biologist Pete Kailing. “People are chasing coyotes with dogs, and rabbit hunting is open. The severe winter conditions have really limited mobility for animals, domestic and wild, and people.”

Ivan Giese of Osceola County said he hasn’t been able to small game hunt.

“I was going to, but the snow got so deep and I couldn’t wade through it,” he said.

Rick Aube of Evart, an avid rabbit hunter, said he’s still waiting for the snow to settle.

“I was out a few times before we got all this snow,” he said. “It was pretty good hunting then. There’s quite a few rabbits out there. The snow is so deep and dogs can’t run.”

Reports on wildlife winter survival will be coming in late March or April.

“In terms of winter stress on wildlife, despite the severity I’ve only had one call on a deer that appears to have starved,” Kailing said. “That’s good news. They’re stressed but surviving. I haven’t heard anything contrary to that.

“Where it really gets attention is in the U.P. The deer don’t have the agricultural buffer we have in terms of food. They’re more vulnerable to starvation from a harder and longer winter.”

“I’m a big rabbit hunter but you can’t drive into the woods,” said Andy Eichelberger of Evart. “The snow is so deep. I’m hoping I can get out. There’s hope. A lot of guys are running coyotes with dogs, with large hounds. There’s a lot of coyotes. They’re bigger dogs and they can get through the snow better.”

Joe Kretoski of Evart is an avid hunter and fisherman noted that he hasn’t had much of a chance to run his hunting dogs this season.

Pat Alber is an avid Mecosta County rabbit hunter.

“The rabbit hunting has been pretty hard because of the amount of snow,” he said. “It’s just been too deep. I’ve hunted quite a bit, but not as much lately. Early in the year we did pretty good. We have a couple of weeks left. Hopefully with the warm weather we had last week,and it’s supposed to warm up pretty soon, we’ll be able to get back out.”