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Pest Control on the Farm

by Dana Webb

Several weeks ago I had received a call from a good friend of mine who kindly invited Lindsey, Marley, Buddy and I to spend the weekend on one of the farms he frequents. This was an excellent opportunity for us as we had just recently purchased an R/V for extended trips and to make room for our new larger dog Buddy. Friday afternoon I loaded up the R/V with all of my camera equipment, Airguns and gear so we could get started on the road early Saturday morning. My friend had informed me that the Ground Squirrels and Collared Doves were plentiful and ready to be thinned out a bit. Saturday morning we left the house for our several hour trip down to the farm, the weather was a bit chilly but bright and clear. We arrived to the farm by 9:00 and were kindly greeted by the farms owner. We drove in slowly as the road was still a bit muddy from the several days of rain we had had. All the rain has turned the hills grass so green, something I have not seen in many years.

This farm has many acres of prime huntable land that offers a great place to target shoot as well. The panoramic views were just gorgeous with the green grass and snow capped mountains in the background. I had brought several Airguns with me but had planned to use my American Air Arms EVOL .30 for most of the weekends hunting. I started off the day by unpacking the gear from the motorhome and to situate it for the several days of being parked. After setting things up I was eager to set out on foot and have a look at the property as well as the varmint activity.

As we made way down an animal trail that weaved through the many fallen citrus trees I noticed a ton of Rabbit and Ground Squirrel activity. This trail made way around the property and ultimately led up to a small abandoned shack. This shack was a great place to stay hidden from the many Eurasian Collared Doves that flock into the branches of the fallen citrus trees.

I set myself up inside towards the back wall that left me some great shots between 20 and 60 yards. After waiting for several minutes sure enough a good size flock of Eurasians came in to perch on the branches just ahead of me.

The Eurasian Collared Doves are becoming more and more abundant here in the Western states and can be found near almost all agricultural properties. In many cases the populations have simply become far out of control and at times may need to be thinned out. No species of bird has colonized North America at the speed with which the Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) has marched across the continent. Many invasive species have a negative impact on native species, particularly species that are similar to the invader.

Eurasian Collared Doves can be easily identified by the black ring that goes from the back of the neck and stops halfway around the front with a sharp taper. Most states have no limit on these invasive species and are in some cases encouraged to be taken. Air Rifles are near the perfect tool to ethically hunt the Eurasian Collared Doves, especially in a farmyard type environment. When hunting on any permission it’s imperative to be safe and know your surroundings. Under some circumstances the use of a large caliber may be a poor safety choice. When hunting birds we are most likely always aiming upwards and sometimes near buildings or livestock. We always need to be aware of what’s behind our line of sight and to be conscious of the surrounding areas.

 

Over the next few hours I had some great success with taking many Collared Doves and ranges out to 60+ yards. My rifle is outfitted with a DonnyFL Ronin moderator that quiets the report down considerably making the birds a lot less skittish to land.

Many of the times I was able to take several sitting on the same branch. The fallen citrus trees had many California Ground Squirrels that burrow in and around these areas.

Marley and I spent enough time on the birds so we headed back to the motorhome for some lunch and a bit of relaxation. This area was a pleasure to hunt and definitely had given me the most fun I’ve had hunting birds in a great many years. After lunch I topped off the EVOL with air and filled my bag with some more NSA .300 47gr hollow point slugs. I have used these slugs for the majority of the hunting I do here in CA as they’re extremely accurate and carry much better BC than that of a standard diabolo pellet. After reloading my pack and putting a fresh battery in my camera Marley and I set out again, this time we were going after the California Ground Squirrel. This farm has several large pastures that are bordered by some large citrus groves. When Springtime comes the Ground Squirrels move into the groves and cause serious damage to the orange trees, killing many of them. Our goal was to eliminate some of the larger adults before having a chance to create offspring that can explode the population in less than several weeks.

I walked around the property and noticed quite a few large adults in an area approximately 40 yards from the edge of the citrus grove. These areas all had very large mounds with active holes set several feet apart. Marley and I set up on the very edge of the northern part of the field between 65 and 100 yards of most of the active holes.

In most cases hunting Ground Squirrels requires a good amount of patience and quiet time. When hunting like this we sometimes may be waiting 20 minutes before we get a good clear shot. After a short wait I spotted several large adults congregating just outside one of the large mounds at 67 yards. With careful aim I was able to take a great headshot that threw the Ground Squirrel down lifelessly.

A short time later I spotted another one at 72 yards and was able to take it down with another perfectly placed headshot. This field looked to be pretty active but after killing several off they became extremely skittish and stopped coming out. At this time I decided to move a bit higher up on the hill where I could get more of a long range view of the field. This hill gave me a great view but took me out of the shelter of the wind. The next adult ground squirrel was across a ravine at 112 yards, somewhat of a tricky shot in heavy wind. I took the shot and was a bit low hitting it in the shoulder sending it into a flip. Not much can survive a shot like that and sure enough Marley found the squirrel expired just under a nearby bush. After several hours of some casual pest control we headed back to the motorhome to relax and to take a short walk with the dogs. That evening my friend and I had planned to take a trip out for some rabbits, skunks and coyotes.


After having a nice relaxing dinner in the warmth of the motorhome my good friend and I got ready for a night hunt. I would be using the GAMO TC45 loaded with 138gr Air Venturi diabolo pellets.

This is a rifle I have been working with for several months doing and in depth review on. I have found it to be an excellent short range big bore that’s an excellent choice for small to medium game. This rifle is easy to carry and with the Trinity Force 1-4X28 scope I’m able to mount a light very easily onto the tactical rail. This area gets very cold at night so we quickly found that most battery powered devices lose power due to the low temperatures. This evening I was hoping to spot one of many coyotes that frequently roam throughout the farm looking for rabbits as well as trying to enter a nearby chicken pen. Due to the cold we called the night short but not before I was able to take several cottontails moving about through the thick areas of a large field.


The following morning I got up fairly early to head out to film some shots for the enclosed video. Over the next year I plan to do add some more hunts like this into the “Farm Series” of videos. This has been a great experience for me and was happy to have the opportunity to try something new. Most of my hunting is done in very remote and hard to reach natural terrain, this has opened my eyes to a different form of hunting. I was happy to have put a dent in the pest populations on this farm as well as opening the door to future visits. I apologize for the short post but have found it to be increasingly difficult to produce both videos and written reports together. Over the past several months I have been working on several amazing projects with some very interesting Airguns that will be shared very soon. Enclosed is the video I hope you may enjoy!!

 

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