Hopefully the California ground squirrels who have been driving us nutty have an Internet connection and read my blog.
Because if they do, they'll realize that this mild-mannered PETA-applauding animal-loving long-time vegetarian has been driven over the "aren't they cute?" edge into a kill the bastards! dark hole.
Squirrels, notice: I am not smiling.
This is a photo of a non-natural born killer who has been reluctant to send your furry little souls to squirrel heaven, but was driven to this extreme by all the destructive digging you've been doing around the foundation of our house and garage.
Yesterday, thanks to Amazon, my GAMO Varmint Hunter Air Rifle arrived. A gun-savvy friend gave me some advice about what kind of killing machine to purchase.
This model could be overkill for our needs, so to speak, but I decided to spend a few extra bucks in order to get...
-- An air rifle called "Varmint Hunter." Scary name, isn't it squirrels? (if you're still reading this post and haven't high-tailed it back south to Malibu)
-- A scope that features an attached laser and flashlight. I have no idea why I need these things, since I don't plan to shoot at night, but they give the rifle an added dose of deadly coolness.
-- A 1200 feet per second pellet velocity with GAMO's PBA pellets, 50 of which came with the rifle. The side of the box indicates "supersonic" at this speed. Sounds desirable, though I doubt a squirrel could hear a pellet coming and duck at a lower pellet velocity.
I only have a couple of problems to deal with before squirrel bodies litter our south Salem yard.
One, I'm not a great shot, since I haven't ever owned a real rifle -- just had a pellet and BB gun back when I was a kid, but that (obviously) was a long time ago.
We're trying to find some bales of hay to serve as back-up for practicing purposes. I just ordered a pleasingly realistic target that, when the California ground squirrels see it in use, should further quicken their exodus back to the Sunshine State.
Two, for some reason we aren't seeing any ground squirrels at the moment.
As soon as I clicked the Amazon "order" button for the air rifle, I figured this would happen, just as annoying noises in a new car always have gone away as soon as I drove it to the dealer's service department to complain.
Laurel trapped a ground squirrel a few days ago, so this is part of the explanation. We've been assuming that there were lots of squirrels doing the digging, since there were so many holes.
But maybe we got the Public Enemy #1 ground squirrel. Regardless, I'm darn confident that this isn't the last we've seen of the pests.
Indeed, I'm almost hoping that this is true, now that the Varmint Rifle is leaning in a corner of our entryway, ready for use now that a neighbor sighted-in the scope for me, which had a decided right-leaning tendency (disturbing, given my progressive tendencies).
Speaking of liberal warmth and fuzziness, I gave up shooting at sentient animal creatures in my pre-teen years when I aimed at a bird in a bush with my pellet gun and, shockingly, killed it.
It fell down, dead. And I felt terrible.
It was a song bird. Not a nuisance. Just a living thing that my kid-brain had decided was fine to convert into a non-living thing. The moment it hit the ground, I'd intuitively realized, not fine.
This helps explain why it's taken me so long to decide that killing the ground squirrels, rather than live-trapping them (which is difficult to do, though we've gotten eight or so), is the way to go.
Hypocrisy is what caused the Varmint Hunter Air Rifle to be delivered by UPS. My hypocrisy.
We've been urging our dog to chase the squirrels and kill them. When we were out of town for a while, we invited a friend who hunts to come over with his own air rifle and knock some off. He said he got one. We were pleased.
I've been happy to have the squirrels killed. I just didn't want to do it myself, so I could continue to tell myself, "I don't kill animals." That's hypocritical.
Here's a video about the Varmint Hunter rifle. It seems to be a quality product, based on my one day's use. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to "plink" at a target, even (or especially) when it isn't alive.
Ground squirrels, be warned: move out before my shooting skills improve.
Funny but a problem to which I also relate. My husband shoots them with the .22 when there get to be too many down at the barn. I prefer the trapping method around the house (peanut butter is a good lure) but then have a problem with where to put them that they don't come right back as I just can't bring myself to drown them-- what many recommend. I have carried them to the back of our property which is about 1/4 mile and hope that they stay back there although they might return or be gotten by predators when there. Whatever the case, a person does need to deal with them. It's not even just the digging, which is bad enough, but too many rodents is not healthy for the diseases they can carry. When I have to shoot at the coyotes because they are killing our lambs, I always put out the warning as you did with mentally telling them they need to leave the property or else.
Posted by: Rain | August 30, 2009 at 07:47 AM
Dear Rain and Brian,
Does any of that work as well as brute (and occasionally bloody) force?
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | August 30, 2009 at 04:03 PM
Robert, by "that," do you mean psychic warnings to the ground squirrels? If so, I'm not counting on this working -- though so far today, as yesterday, I haven't seen any around the house.
Yes, sometimes brute force is necessary. Today I had my usual coffee house get-together with some long-time vegetarian and meditative friends.
I shared my air rifle photo and talked about my killing quandary. It was agreed that when animals become a destructive nuisance, elimination is justified. That made me feel better about my squirrel karma, though so far I haven't taken a shot at one (not surprisingly, since I haven't even seen one).
Posted by: Blogger Brian | August 30, 2009 at 04:21 PM
Well the time I did it with walking the perimeter and told the coyotes that if they entered, we'd have to kill them, we didn't have a loss of lambs for over a year. Coincidence? I guess I should do it again, since we've lost 3 lambs this summer with one badly wounded before escaping. With the squirrels, I didn't try that but just used the live trap and released them to the back. Good exercise for me if nothing else...
Posted by: Rain | August 30, 2009 at 05:37 PM
My bud got a gamo varmint hunter and he had coyotes killing his chickens at night and of course he had the laser with it... Then 1 night they came when he was ready so ....he was in his realtree apHD blind with his gamo pellet gun then He saw the coyote, now he waited for them to go inside the chicken coup he got away with killing another but twas his last. He shot the coyote right infront of the ear and he droped without a twitch. According to him.............. I was amazed after him telling me this story. So I later on in the month ordered the gamo varmint hunter I use it to kill squirrels because their good eaten. I'm from the south Missouri area and thier are so many varmints. The Gamo Varmint hunter is the ultimate at varmint and pest control. I can hit a penny at 60 yards away with this pellet gun.
Posted by: Clint | January 05, 2010 at 08:13 PM
Here's an email message that I got from a guy who had a similar childhood bird-killing experience. It's so well-written and interesting, I wanted to share it.
Brian,in a quest to find an answer to the creature that is tearing up my front lawn I stumbled into your sights (joke) about the GAMO air rifle. Don't shoot- it's O.K.- I am from the sunshine state!
I was most touched by your story about shooting that songbird when you were a kid. I recently was at a sporting goods store gawking in the gun department when a woman and boyfriend (the encourager) came up looking to buy a pellet gun to take care of a woodpecker chewing up her house.
The woman was about 55 and not too excited about shooting birds but the boyfriend said they were doing $1000s in damage to her house putting nuts in the eves and trim boards 24/7. I offered some suggestions about which model I thought was best going from my teenage experiences and a gun I bought when I was 30 (since my dad never let me have one when I was a kid).
The woman finally looks at me and asks; "have you ever shot a woodpecker?". I said yes and she asked how that was and I told her it has haunted me for the rest of my life. Those visions of that fateful day are burned into my brain.
I just recently reunited with a childhood friend of 45 years ago and we retold the story of the day we shot the woodpecker (he had forgotten/blocked it out).
His parents weren't home and his older brother's single shot pellet gun was in the closet of the bedroom. We took it outside and shot at trees for awhile until we saw the red headed woodpecker on the phone wire and began taking turns one single shot at a time. The bird just sat there as those pellets whizzed by each side of it's head almost taunting us to pick it off.
Why didn't it fly away? If only it had flown away! Shot after shot we took turns missing. It was almost as if somehow the bird was protected by an aura of some sort or some greater entity. Finally my shot hit the mark and the bird circled to the ground and we excitedly ran over to eagerly admire our handiwork and marksmanship only to see the bird bleeding from the mouth and neck dying.
Like you, we quickly realized our teenage brains had done the wrong thing as we looked at each other lost for words. We put the bird out of it's misery I think, buried it, and put the gun away.
Ever since I have not been too keen on killing a living creature and have trapped a lot of skunks, coons, cats and other creatures live and released them. A neighbor cat had leukemia and I helped finish it off with no regrets and then when moles started tearing up my yard I had no trouble with them being terminated by fast acting quick kill traps.
Now I am up against a gopher and have tried smoke bombs and poison baits to no avail.. one site here recommends a 5 gallon bucket 1/2 full of water with a layer of floating sunflower seeds and a 1x6" gangplank 1/2 way across the top with a few seeds on it for ground squirrels. They eat the easy seeds on the plank and then dive in for what looks like a full bucket of seed and eventually drown. Simple but effective. Not sure I could torture them like that though.
Anyway, seems you and I shared a very similar childhood experience and now in our 50s have finally come around full circle to be able to take out problematic creatures if necessary. I hope the GAMO did the job for you. Thanks for sharing your story.
Posted by: Brian Hines | December 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM
Four years after your post....
I don't kill things. Don't like the idea or the guilt.
In fact, I went out of my way to save a darn potato bug a couple weeks ago.
However, the ground squirrel I shot with my Gamo Whisper today... I don't feel a shred of guilt. Good riddance.
Tomorrow? Tomorrow, I'm going to have to get to filling in the hole and fixing all the trouble it caused under the foundation to my wife's shop.
Nope, not an ounce of guilt.
Posted by: stefan | March 15, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Hi Brian. I recently ran into your blog while looking for information on getting rid of grey diggers (ca ground squirrels). I'm wondering where you're currently at with that situation? I'm considering getting a pellet gun or using poison, and would appreciate your thoughts and experiences.
Posted by: David | March 18, 2017 at 10:12 AM
David, maybe for natural reasons, or maybe because we now have a younger, quicker dog, ground squirrels rarely are seen at our rural home.
But when they were, I found that a Mossberg .410 self-defense shotgun with a spreader that I bought worked much better for me than the pellet gun -- given my minimal shooting skills.
With the pellet gun, it was hard for me to hit a ground squirrel. And if I did, to kill it cleanly. With the shotgun I could aim as well as I could, but not perfectly, and BINGO. Dead squirrel. I used bird shot. Also, ear protection. The one time I forgot to wear my ear protectors, I regretted it.
So that's my story. We don't like to use poison because we worry that non-troublesome gray squirrels and some other innocent creature would eat it.
Posted by: Brian Hines | March 18, 2017 at 11:04 AM