By Jill J Easton
It was a tense moment. David Carden stalked in whisper soft steps trying to get a better angle on his target. He’d been working different angles to get the perfect shot for 15 minutes. The chipmunk was fast, wary and never still.
Finally, David shot. The chipmunk jumped and went down. Bear, a well-trained rodent retriever, located the tiny animal in the bushes, scooped it up, dropped it, rolled on the tiny carcass, then picked up the chipmunk and presented it to David. Another perfect start to the day in the Jollys’ war against the varmints that are a nuisance around their beautifully landscaped and tended wildlife acreage.
“It was a challenging hunt,” said David. “Rodents are quick and move often without warning. The chipmunk was a tricky target that kept me guessing. Stalking and shooting small game is a great way to keep shooting reflexes in practice in the off season.”
More than a hundred years ago, Chief Sitting Bull, the great Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux warrior, watched the near extirpation of wild bison on the western plains. Just because the chief’s free roaming, hunting lifestyle was going away, he wasn’t willing to give up the hunt.
The chief said, “When the buffalo are gone, we will hunt mice for we are hunters and we want our freedom.”
Sitting Bull was right. There is no shame in taking out mice, rats, squirrels and other rodents. Shooting these vermin can deliver hours of entertainment, improve shooting skills, prevent them from digging holes under foundations and stop the spread of a large number of diseases.
“Chipmunks, squirrels and rats regularly damaged the wiring on our vehicles and they emptied the bird feeders nearly as fast as Tes could fill them up,” explained Ron Jolly. “A sonic device helped keep these animals out of engines and wiring, but the rodents were still plentiful around the house. We didn’t want to use poisons because of the dog.”
Now in the mornings when the Jollys drink their coffee, or chill on the patio after the endless cycle of working their farm for wildlife, there is always a 22 rifle nearby. At the first wiggling grass, or raid on the birdfeeders, they assume shooting positions. Their success has made a big dent in the rodent damage around the house.
Five hundred miles north, squirrels and rats frequently die on my birdfeeder. I use a borrowed Daisy pellet gun and am shooting at a distance of about 20 feet. The pellets lose velocity quickly after they pass my target-rich environment. The end result is fewer rodents around the house and an occasional squirrel supper.
Unfortunately, crows, starlings and pigeons, three of the feeder’s biggest eaters, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, although crows may be killed if they are predating or about to commit damage. Check your state’s game laws before starting to shoot birds. Also, if you live in a subdivision or in city limits, check the protective covenants for your area and stay within the limits of the law.
Before starting a war on rodents, there are some serious considerations. What is the right rodent gun for your situation based on the distance you can shoot and laws that must be obeyed?
Gun choices are many, we even have a friend-of-a-friend who uses a blow gun and has very good success killing mice and squirrels. Be sure you pick a gun that won’t break neighborhood windows or fly for long uncontrolled distances where people or livestock are in the bullet’s path.
Air guns are a great choice for shooting squirrels and most will also do severe damage to armadillos and woodchucks that also cause a lot of backyard, crop and fruit destruction.
The one I use for the birdfeeder is an old Daisy single shot .177 spring-loaded pump gun from a previous century. It takes some pumping to get it to squirrel killing strength, but it does a beautiful job of terminating bushy tails raiding the feeder.
To get the scoop on more modern air rifles, I asked Lawrence Taylor, Public Relations Director at Daisy/Gamo for his recommendations on up-to-date air rifles.
“For these smallest, small game, a .177 caliber airgun is perfect,” said Lawrence Taylor. “The Gamo Swarm Series of breakbarrels is my choice because of the 10-shot magazine. If you need a follow up shot, all you have to do is break the barrel instead of fumbling around for another pellet – and you never have to take your eyes off your target.”
The Swarm Shadow has an IGT (Inert Gas Technology) piston power plant instead of a traditional spring. The gas piston produces higher velocities, less vibration and a longer lifespan. It’s got a 10-round magazine and sends the pellet downrange at around 1,300 feet per second. This air rifle costs about $150.
“If you want the top of the line rat-killing air rifle, look to the Swarm Fusion Gen2,” Lawrence says. “In this second generation rifle the magazine fits horizontally on the top of the barrel making it simple to add fiber optic open sights, and it also features industry-best sound suppression and a super-high-quality adjustable trigger.”
The Swarm Fusion looks like something that would be used by snipers or black ops and has a thumbhole stock for added stability. If you want to look high-tech bad in your back yard shooting chipmunks, this is the gun.
.17 HMR or a .22 that shoots long rifle or magnum are also good squirrel and rat killing loads, and ammunition is relatively cheap. But it takes someone with excellent aim and a steady hand who can make head shots if the squirrels are going to become a main course. There are too many choices of guns in these loads to even begin discussing them.
Finally, shotguns in .410, 28 and 20 gauge are a great choice if you have gatherings of rats or squirrels under the bird feeder or when scattering corn or sunflower seeds on the ground.
Rodents will never become endangered like the buffalo, but with practice and patience you can limit their numbers and the damage they cause around your property. Besides, with every mouse you kill, Sitting Bull will be grinning down at you from the happy hunting ground.