8 Critters You Can Bowhunt in the Off-Season

By Josh HoneycuttJuly 6, 2021

The hot summer months are upon us, and many bowhunters across the country are feeling the off-season itch as they look ahead to fall. The lack of hunting opportunity at this time of year can often bring sadness to many hunters. 

Don’t despair, though. There’s plenty of fun to be had in the summer months. In fact, in some states, there are as many as 10 different critters you can bowhunt during the off-season.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest fun you can have in the summer months, as well as opportunities to stay sharp in the off-season. Make sure to check your season dates, hunting regulations, and safety information for each adventure.

1. Wild Hogs

hunter with hog double
Hogs are an off-season favorite for bowhunters across the south.

Those who hunt in the South are all too familiar with feral swine. Where populations are high, agriculture and native wildlife generally suffer. And where populations are low, it usually isn’t long before they explode. Pigs are proliferated settlers.

Despite all of the negative, they are fun to bowhunt, though. They’re especially entertaining to stalk. While pigs have incredible noses, and decent hearing, their eyesight is abysmal. This makes it possible to slip within bow range undetected. Just keep the wind in your favor, and have adequate cover for the approach.

Meat Quality: 10/10

Accessibility: 3/10

Difficulty: 3/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

2. Coyotes

10 Critters You Can Bowhunt In The Off Season
Your trail cameras can tell you exactly when and where you need to be set up to bowhunt coyotes in the off-season.

Coyotes are among the most intelligent species in North America. These canines are extremely adaptable. Weighing between 15 and 45 pounds, these aren’t large mammals, but they make up for it in cunningness. Luring one of these beasts into bow range isn’t easy.

It is possible, though. Many who do this prefer to hunt from elevated positions, though, such as treestands or box blinds. Where legal, use an e-caller and/or decoy on the ground to keep their attention at ground level.

Meat Quality: N/A

Accessibility: 10/10

Difficulty: 8/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

3. Groundhogs

Groundhogs can prove to be some of the most sporty of live targets in the off-season.

Few people look at whistle pigs as a viable hunting adventure. I’m here to vouch for its incredible fun. And for those seeking to gain permission to chase bigger game, removing groundhogs from barns is a great way to gain favor with landowners. Trust me, I’ve done it.

One of my favorite tactics is to post trail cameras. This tells you which holes they are using, and which ones are vacant. Then, post up in a shaded spot, create some front and back cover, and get ready for action.

Meat Quality: 8/10

Accessibility: 8/10

Difficulty: 4/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

4. Prairie Dogs

The prairie dog is the rat of the West. These things are common in the grasslands throughout the western states. The five different subspecies include the white-tailed, black-tailed, Gunnison’s, Mexican and Utah prairie dogs.

Some of these are fairly accessible, but due to wide-open country, they aren’t easy to get close to. This can pose a challenge in flat, tree-less terrain. Still, given the right circumstances, they’re fun to go after.

Meat Quality: N/A

Accessibility: 2/10

Difficulty: 7/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

5. Armadillos

Cousins to the anteater and sloth, armadillos aren’t held in as high of regard. Instead, they’re basically rodents, and other than cleaning up some unwanted pests, aren’t considered great contributors to society.

Those who want to hone their craft and destroy a few arrows will enjoy hunting them, though. There’s no rhyme, reason or special tactic for success. Just grab your bow, and take a hike.

Meat Quality: N/A

Accessibility: 3/10

Difficulty: 1/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

6. Squirrels

10 Critters You Can Bowhunt In The Off Season
Few off-season targets will be as challenging as tree squirrels.

Gray and fox squirrels are two popular game animals in North America. Many hunters cut their teeth on these animals, and rightfully so. These are perfect for helping new outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen to improve their craft. These are also just plain fun to chase.

Some states offer late-winter and/or spring squirrel season. This is perfect for those who want to spend some time honing their archery and stalking skills and abilities. These also make for a great meal.

Meat Quality: 10/10

Accessibility: 10/10

Difficulty: 6/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

7. Bullfrogs

When the weather begins to warm up once again bullfrogs make a really fun and tasty target.

Bullfrogs are extremely common, especially in areas with plenty of shallow waters. It isn’t hard to find them. These things are extremely tasty, and are in abundant supply.

Those enjoy gigging frogs will also enjoy shooting them with a bow and arrow. There are few summertime activities that beat a recurve and an old farm pond. Fill the quiver, and hit the water.

Meat Quality: 10/10

Accessibility: 8/10

Difficulty: 5/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

8. Fish

mason-with-buff
Bowfishing delivers the best of everything outdoors.

Bowfishing is one of the most popular summertime redneck pastimes ever. People can’t get enough of it, and rightfully so. It’s great fun and if you have lakes and rivers, there’s a good chance of an opportunity near you.

This pastime takes a good bit of gear to get started, but it’s possible to convert some of your old archery equipment in order to get many of the basics in place. Then, find a mentor, and start learning.

Meat Quality: 10/10

Accessibility: 10/10

Difficulty: 8/10

Fun-O-Meter: 10/10

What about you? What’s on your off-season bucket list this summer? 

Comment below and let us know how you’ll pass the days this summer as you wait on the fall season to arrive once again. 

Josh Honeycutt
Josh Honeycutt is an avid deer hunter. He's hunted whitetails from South Carolina to South Dakota but spends most of his time hunting in Kentucky. Honeycutt has written and created other forms of media for more than 60 media companies in the outdoor industry, including: North American Whitetail, Whitetail Journal, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Deer & Deer Hunting, Rack Magazine, Inside Archery, Game & Fish, Fur-Fish-Game, and others. He's also very active in digital content, specializing in writing, editing, photography, videography, podcasting, and more. You can see how his deer season unfolds each year on Midwest Whitetail and Chasing November.
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