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By Steve McCadams

Novemberís arrival brings on a potpourri of hunting opportunities for Tennessee sportsmen and fishermen are still in the picture too.

Among the seasons opening up this week are small game, namely quail and rabbit. Unfortunately, very few quail are left in the countryside so in the opinions of most veteran bird hunters the opening of quail is a moot point.

There are a few hunters holding on to bird dogs and the southern tradition but their numbers, like the quail they pursue, are few and far apart.

Rabbit hunters, on the other hand, are anxious to drop the tailgate and let the games begin. The beagles are overdue for some good races as theyíve had a long rest since season ended back in February.

Yet there is some concern on the part of both deer hunters and rabbit hunters when season openers conflict. Muzzleloader season opens Saturday and so do quail and rabbit seasons. Sometimes deer hunters donít want their chosen area to get disturbed by a pack of beagles running rabbits through the area.

The deer usually hit the trail and get out of Dodge when dogs enter the picture.

Also concerned are bird and rabbit hunters who fear the danger of hunting in an area where muzzleloaders are present, not to mention the concern and safety of their dogs. Most fellow sportsmen would never shoot a manís hunting dog but there have been times when bad things happen.

The hunting dog doesnít know when acreage might be posted or someone else is hunting in the area. Thatís why opening the seasons at the same time is a recipe for conflict, at least in some sectors.

Many rabbit and quail hunters simply donít go if their favorite season opens at the same time as a popular segment of deer season. They defer until weekdays or later in the season when hunting pressure diminishes for all concerned.

Meanwhile, rabbit hunters are always wondering how the numbers look for the season ahead and whether or not some of their favorite spots are still intact the way they remembered them. Each year habitat disappears and small game gets pushed aside when fencerows vanish and gullies of honeysuckle or other thick vegetation disappear.

Small game must have a place to hide and thrive. Many hunters voice concern over predators such as coyotes, fox, raccoons, skunks, bobcat and feral cats that hunt all the time and take a toll, especially during the nesting season.

Fortunately, thereís still enough cover to keep rabbit hunters going from year to year. The same cannot be said of quail hunters who have suffered years of habitat loss and various factors that contributed to the demise of southern bobwhites that once thrived across the countryside.

Ready or not here comes small game seasons. Bag limit remains five daily on rabbits and six on quail. Seasons run all the way through February 29, 2016, which means another day added for Leap Year this time around.


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