One of the first things hunters learn about is identifying small game and big game species.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, not really.
While it can be easy to tell a big game from a small game when there’s a stark difference in size, there are instances when it’s hard to tell which category an animal belongs to. Also, the difference between small game and big game tends to vary from person to person. States, too, have different classification standards for small game and big game animals.
Most rifle hunters are capable of hunting for almost any size of animal, but some prefer small games while others favor big games.
So, what constitutes big game hunting and what’s considered a small game hunt? Let us start by defining them.
The majority of states consider all legally huntable animals that weigh under 40 pounds as small game. This often includes small birds (e.g., pheasants, quails, and turkeys), waterfowls (e.g., ducks and geese), upland games (e.g., rabbits and squirrels), and furbearers (e.g., coyotes and raccoons).
You can only hunt small game during the open season of the animal, and the weight limit may vary, depending on what state you’re hunting in. Always check local hunting regulations to be sure.
Big game hunting is ideal for those who like hunting large animals. Technically speaking, any animal that weighs over 40 pounds falls into this category.
State hunting organizations classify elk, deer, pronghorn antelopes, bighorn sheep, wild boar, and exotic animals (such as buffalo, bear, mountain lions, oxen, etc.) as big game.
Again, animals that are considered big game can vary from state to state. Always make it a point to consult local regulations, even if the difference in size is apparent.
Size may be the most obvious distinguishing factor between big games and small games, but the difference between the two goes way beyond the animal’s weight.
Here are other things that set the two apart from one another:
Most states have separate licenses for small games and big games. Some states also issue a different permit for hunting birds and waterfowl.
Licenses matter for game hunting, so make sure you know which category your target animal falls under and that you get the correct hunting license.
Also, big game tags are usually more expensive than small game tags, although the price difference isn’t that significant.
Big games usually live in the wild and remote areas, which means that big game hunting could involve a recon mission with hunting guides and outfitters and a few days’ worth of trip. Small game hunting locations, on the other hand, are easier to find and closer to home.
Big games and small games can coexist in the same locations, but most hunters won’t hunt for them simultaneously or in the same spot for stealth purposes. If you take a shot at a small game during a big game hunt, you likely spook the larger animals in the area.
In addition to getting the correct licenses and picking the right hunting location, you also need to choose suitable equipment and ammunition.
You need to use the correct size/diameter round for the hunt. If it’s too small, you will likely not kill the animal with a single shot; if it’s too big, you might shatter the animal’s body.
Why are you going for a hunt? Are you hunting for fun or meat? The most crucial part is knowing why you’re going hunting in the first place.
If you’re hunting for meals, big game hunting is the obvious choice. Big game animals yield a significant amount of usable meat. You can get a hearty supply of game meat that can last you for months with a single trip.
Whether big game hunting or small game hunting is better is a matter of choice.
What’s your reason for hunting? What kind of animal do you want to hunt? What’s your hunting experience? Take your answers to these questions into account before choosing one over the other.
If you’re new to hunting, it’s recommended to start small and then move on to a bigger game once you’re ready and have gained more experience.
Either way, hunting is always a challenging and rewarding experience that’s well worth your time and effort.
About the Author
Maren Mcreynolds is the Content Marketing Director of BMO Hunts, 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.
Small Game Or Big Game Hunting? How To Make The Right Choice is written by Aaron Spuler for www.weapon-blog.com