Whether you’re an experienced hunter or someone who has just recently discovered the world of game hunting, there’s a good chance that you already have a target animal in mind when planning a guided hunting trip. The thing is, if you’re new to all this, it’s not always evident if the animal you’re hunting is big game or small game.
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition when it comes to game hunting. Different people – including seasoned hunters – can have different interpretations of what constitutes a small game and a big game.
Legally, though, it’s a lot easier to distinguish the two. And as a hunter, it’s critical that you know the difference between big game and small game before coming face to face with the animal. You can’t wait until the game is in your line of sight before worrying about whether or not you have the right game tag or if your hunting weapon is powerful enough.
Small Game vs Big Game Hunting
Before we get into the technicalities, let us first take a closer look at what small game and big game hunting are.
As a general rule, small game hunting refers to hunting game animals that weigh less than 40 pounds such as ducks and pheasants. Big game hunting, on the other hand, refers to hunting larger animals; those that weigh over 40 pounds. This includes deer, boar, and elk hunting, among others.
Both small game and big game hunting are popular among hunting enthusiasts, but there are four important differences that set them apart and every hunter should be aware of.
- Hunting License.
Most states require a different set of licenses for small game and big game hunts. In fact, some jurisdictions even have a separate permit for hunting ducks and birds.
To avoid getting in trouble with the law, research the regulations of your hunting location beforehand and make sure that you have the right license and game tags with you. Big game and small game tags have minimal price difference between them, but it’s important that you purchase the correct one.
- Hunting Equipment
The right weapon and ammunition are just as important as having the right licenses when going on a hunting trip. Your choice of weapon will significantly impact the outcome of your hunt.
Aside from your choice of weapon, you also need to use the right size of ammunition. A round that’s too small won’t be able to take down your target in a single shot. Conversely, a round that’s too large can shatter the animal’s body, compromising the quality of your game.
- Hunting Spot
It’s relatively easy to find a hunting spot for small game; you can even engage in small game hunting within the comforts of your own backyard. Big game hunting, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Big game such as mountain goats, wild boars, and bears are usually found in the wild. As such, big game hunts often require recon missions, hours of scouting, and the trip could last for days.
It is possible to pursue both small game and big game in the same location, but a wise hunter will not commit this mistake. Separating your hunting spots will give you the advantage of stealth and increase the rate of your success.
- Hunting Yield
Before you choose one over the other, you must determine why you want to go on a hunting trip in the first place. Are you hunting for fun or are you hunting for yield?
If you just want a short hunting trip to practice your skills, then small game hunting should be fine. However, if you’re hunting for meat, then big game hunting is obviously the way to go. There’s a lot of yield to be had from big game animals, which could last you for months.
Which Hunting Type Suits You Best?
Nobody can answer this question but you. Small game hunting will let you experience the thrill and excitement of tracking down your target animal, while big game hunting will provide you with a great variety of meat. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your motives and hunting experience.
If you’re a novice hunter, it’s a good idea to start small and work your way up to larger prey. Whether you choose one or the other, there’s no denying that hunting is an exhilarating and rewarding experience.
About the Guest Column Author
Maren McReynolds is the Content Marketing Director of Black Mountain Outfitters, a company that offers world-class guided hunts in New Mexico, Arizona, and South Dakota. When not working, she spends time swimming with her two kids and giving back to the community.