Small Game Management and Hunting in Oklahoma
This is intended to serve as a source of general information for those with a casual interest in small game animals and as a more detailed guide for landowners and managers who want to improve small game populations on their properties. Technical assistance in developing land management plans is available from ODWC biologists.
Hunting Small Game
Some of the most overlooked hunting opportunities in our
state are for small game. These species, squirrels and rabbits,
were once regular table fare when we lived a more rural
lifestyle. How many meals were provided by a youngster out in
the woods with an old .22 or shotgun?
Hunting for rabbits and squirrels is a great way to introduce youth to the sport of hunting. The pace is slow, the game plentiful and the rewards are untold. The next time you have some spare time, take your child or a kid from your neighborhood and introduce them to something that will last them a lifetime--safe and ethical hunting.
There are three species of rabbits in our state. The cottontail weighs two to four pounds and is generally grizzled tan, brown and gray with white or light tan on the feet and underside. The underside of the tail is white. Preferred habitat is edge cover, brush, creek bottoms, briar patches and swamps. Its diet inclined herbaceous vegetation in summer and bark and twigs of woody vegetation in the winter. Three to five litters are produced during the February to September breeding season. The cottontail inhabits the entire state.
The swamp rabbit weighs four to six pounds. It has shorter, sleeker fur than the cottontail but is basically the same color. Its preferred habitat is marshes, floodplain forests, sloughs and other areas of standing water. The swamper eats mainly grasses, sedges, shrubs and tree bark and twigs.
Peak mating season is from mid-February to September with three to five litters born to each female yearly. The eastern one third of the state with scattered isolated populations are included in the swamper’s range.
The blacktailed jackrabbit is found statewide but is more common in the western regions. It is generally the largest of Oklahoma’s rabbits weighing four to seven pounds.
The coloration for the jackrabbit is buff-brown above with white on the underparts and ear tips and topside of its tail black. It prefers green vegetation for its diet and is particularly fond of alfalfa and other crops. Habitat ranges from sparse brushland to open plains to irrigated croplands. The jackrabbit’s mating season is from January thorough September with one to six young born per each of one to four litters.
Gray and Fox Squirrel
Oklahoma has two species of squirrels that are legal to hunt: the eastern fox squirrel and the eastern gray squirrel. The fox squirrel is the larger of the two with a normal weight of one to three pounds while the gray is about half that size. The gray squirrel inhabits the eastern sections of the state and its fur is gray on back with white undersides and the edge of the tail is whitish. The fox squirrel’s color is burnt orange or grizzled brown on the extremities with a gray back. This squirrel is found across the majority of Oklahoma except the extreme west panhandle. Both diet on acorns, hickory nuts, insects, berries, seeds and bark. Two litters per year of three to five young are the norm for both species.