Saturday, March 15, 2008

Steve is having qualms about shooting cute varmints

like prairie dogs. I never had a chance to go after any myself, but in the farming/ranching area where we lived for some years when I was a kid, the ranchers especially loved having someone come in and thin them out. There were occasional cows and horses with injuries from the holes, and they could flat strip an area to bare dirt.

I've mentioned my great-uncle Ray before, he's the one who went to Europe in WWII(the other, George, was in the Pacific). Ray loved hunting, and the land, and the animals, and when he shot something it was either for food or to protect his crop or buildings. The one thing I ever heard of that he actually disliked(four-legged, that is) was armadillos.

Not for carrying leprosy or other diseases, because of their digging. If you've never seen it, you'd be amazed the size of the holes they can dig. Fast. They'll also dig up newly planted trees to eat the roots(my grandfather hated them, too), and do other damage. What really set Ray against them, though, was the holes. Twice he hit holes he couldn't see in the hay or wheat and damn near had the tractor roll over on him, so he shot them every chance he got. In particular, right after the hay was baled he'd go out at night with a scoped .22 rifle and a spotlight, cruise through the fields slowly in his jeep and pop them.

I only went out with him once(only opportunity), and discovered an oddity about the things. We rolled up on one and it presented a nice stationary target. You'd think an animal would take notice of a jeep with three people in it and a bright light shining on it, but nooooo, it just sat there, digging. So I laid the crosshairs right behind the should and pressed. Bang. And it didn't move.

I mean, at all. I didn't even see a twitch. So it hit it again. And it twitched, but didn't move. At this point I was wondering if that damn scaly skin had some bullet-resistant qualities, and hit him a third time.

THAT time he moved. He jumped, spun around in a circle and took off running. Right at the jeep. Ran past notfour feet away, got about six feet past and rolled over, legs in the air twitching. I walked over and put in a finishing shot to make sure, and- since Dad had asked after the first two if I'd missed- looked at the left side. There was a nice group about an inch across, in the right place to put the shots right through the heart/lung area. I reported this amazing fact and Ray said he'd seen that before, that sometimes they just didn't seem to notice a lethal hit. Or two. In this case Remington hollowpoints.

He kept up his war on the beasts up until health wouldn't let him go after them anymore. Wish I'd been able to go down more and help him out with them.


Jeffro said...

I commented on Steve's site that I'd never seen broken legs on livestock due to prairie dog holes. It sure doesn't mean it hasn't happened, I just have never seen it.

The opportunities to hunt the little devils are few and far between. My favorite hunting ground has been lost due to the owner dying, and the new owner of the ground wanting to get some value from it - so he is on a major eradication program. I used to drive out on the ground and be a half mile in before I realized I was on planted wheat ground.

Dog towns don't generally last too long around here.

Anonymous said...

Big debate going on in the Colorado legislature. There's a group trying to stop folks from shooting prairie dogs - as the shooters are having too much fun.
When my son was in middle school, some sweet young thing was going on and on about how cute the prairie dogs were. Son and Heir said, quietly, "They carry the plague." Most of the kids had no idea.

BobG said...

Down on the Navajo reservation prairie dogs are lunch for young kids out watching the sheep. They just pop them with a noose when they stick their heads up. They don't skin them, just roll them in mud and bake them in the fire, then when you pop off the mud, it takes the skin with it and leaves the meat clean for picking.