You love hunting for small games in woods and meadows, and you can't wait for the new season to open. Find out how to best prepare for the start of the small game hunting season through the experience and informed advice of our enthusiasts.
After several months of inactivity, its is important to prepare your firearm correctly.
After your firearm has spent long months in storage, we advise you to:
- Grease all the points of the mechanism and the chokes
- Clean the barrels with a lightly oiled cloth
- Oil the butt and the forearm, then treat any oiled, sanded wood parts with linseed oil.
Follow our advice on how to clean your hunting firearm for a more thorough clean.
Preparing your cartridges is equally important. Check your stock and dispose of any faulty ammunition (traces of rust, damaged caps, etc.).
Marc, one of our enthusiasts, shares one of his tips on how to choose the right ammunition for the start of the season: "At the start of the season, the game is less timid and can be bagged at quite close range. So you can use ARX, pellets or lube wad-type short-range cartridges."
Every type of hunting is different, but all the techniques involve physical exercise. By getting back into good shape before the season starts, you will be able to hunt for longer and feel fitter.
An to hunt in complete safety and check that you are physically fit, a medical check-up can be useful to test your sight, hearing and heartbeat.
According to Vincent, "there is nothing like clay pigeon shooting to improve your performance".
You can practise on shooting ranges to get back into shape. Personally, I prefer universal trap shooting (try about five€ 25-clay practice sessions). Three or four 100-clay sessions before the season starts are enough to brush up your shooting technique. Game shooting and trap shooting are quite different, but if you start early by hunting for wood pigeon, it is an excellent preparation. It is very helpful for all kinds of bird shooting.
Remember to protect your ears when practising by wearing a protective headset or earplugs. High-repetition shooting can irreversibly damage your hearing.
Like any sports person, your dog also needs to prepare for your small gaming hunting trips. Visit the vet to check that its vaccinations, flea treatments and tick treatments are up to date to protect it against disease. Older dogs that are well-seasoned hunters can also sometimes show signs of painful articular disorders.
Recommended equipment: containers of water to hydrate or spray your dog during the day. Make sure it has a quiet place in the shade where it can rest at midday, and check that the places where it rests and travels are properly ventilated (open car windows, etc.).
As Vincent says, "the very best moments are those I share with my dog. When you are perfectly familiar with your terrain and the game's habits, and your dog is well trained and experienced, you will enjoy hunting much more".
Your clothing must be well suited to the region where you go hunting, but as a general rule lightweight, reinforced trousers will make for easier movements, while protecting you against thorns and dense, aggressive vegetation, so that you can hunt in comfort.
A breathable T-shirt or shirt made of polyester will evacuate perspiration more effectively for greater comfort. You can also wear a gilet. Compact and lined gilets are useful for carrying ammunition, your valid hunting permit and your catches in complete safety.
Remember to take some headgear, a cap or hat, for protection against the sun, to avoid being dazzled when taking aim and, most importantly, for greater stealth when you spot some wood pigeons.
Vincent also recommends "a camouflage net. You can find very light and compact nets that come in very useful on sites where you frequently find these birds. Often on the edge of sunflower fields in the early morning or the late afternoon, when they come to feed."
Finally, decent footwear is essential. Boots or shoes that are both strong and comfortable. Our enthusiasts opt "for shoes at the start of the season, often worn with gaiters in the morning to avoid the unpleasant feeling of dew on the bottom of the trouser legs".
For Vincent, this is enough. "Since the cold doesn't bother me, and I go hunting in the south-west, this is all I need, because even if it feels cold in the early morning, the weather quickly warms up. But you can always add a windcheater/rainproof jacket or a fleece to your outfit, depending on the weather. But they do take up space when you no longer need them".
Even if you are not hunting for big game, a folding or fixed-blade knife always comes in useful when out and about in the wild.
Since it can be quite warm at the start of the season, remember your water bottle, and if there are no nearby water sources, use it to cool down your dog from time to time.
More and more hunters now use training or tracker collars for their dogs. When it comes to training your dog, it is a good idea to call on the services of a professional dog trainer. They will teach you how to use these collars properly. For example, they must not be used to punish your dog, but as a tool to train and educate it.
Regarding your ammunition, if you are hunting for small game or with a setter, Vincent recommends "ammunition with a lube wad for the first shot, which produces a wide spread at short to medium ranges, with type 32 to 34 gramme lead shot".
For the second shot, "a petal wad with 34 to 36 gramme lead shot will enable you to reach game over longer distances if you miss with the first shot, or to strike a double, for more skilled shooters".
You should contact your local hunting association or other organisations to check the latest regulations, the hunting plans for different species and the land where you have the right to go hunting.
The authorities, private hunts and drive organisers should also be in a position to remind you of all the safety rules applicable to wandering hunting for small game, or to drive hunting for big game.
And you must always have a valid hunting permit with you when you go out hunting. You are also advised to reread the local regulations and to check the map of the hunting territory, which is subject to change.
Marc recommends that you should protect these documents "in a waterproof pocket that I always keep on me. This will protect them against the rain".