Last week, a friend from work sent me an e-mail asking me to grab my rifle because cottontails have been ravaging her lawn. They have a beautiful garden and she’s going to be hosting her son’s wedding at their house. She’s afraid the cottontails will leave large deadspots in the lawn just in time for the wedding. She also said the ground squirrel population has doubled this year and they’re causing lots of damage. So yesterday after work, my buddy and I headed over there to help out with depredation control. When we got there, she showed us where the cottontails and ground squirrels were causing all the damage. Sure enough, the rabbits were eating the lawn down to the dirt. Almost immediately, we saw 3 ground squirrels at the end of the 12 acre parcel, where they come up out of a ravine into her property. We sat down on a couple of railroad ties and I shot one offhand at 50 yards with my R9 Goldfinger .177 and a Beeman FTS 8.9 gr. After the telltale thwack, the critter escaped into the bushes. At my shot, two others spooked so we started walking and stalking. A couple hundred yards away towards the North side of the property, the ground squirrels had a real town going. My buddy shot one offhand at 25 yards with his TX200 HC .177 and a JSB Exact 8.4 gr. It dropped and started kicking so he finished it off. I shot another one offhand at 30 yards and it escaped down into its hole, despite a solid hit. My buddy shot another at 35 yards before they got wise and started staying down. We moved on. Eventually, my buddy spotted a ground squirrel’s head sticking up from behind a wall about 20 yards away watching us. He cocked his preloaded TX, aimed and fired offhand. Thwack! I saw the dirt kick up in a cloud behind the critter’s head after the pellet slammed home, knocking it over behind the wall. After a bit of more walking around, I was setting up a camp chair to sit on and heard a noise behind me. Turning, I saw a large gopher stick its fat head up out of a hole only 5 yards away! Up, down, up, down its head went peeking and ducking into the hole. I slowly backed away, setting the parallax on my scope to 10 yards and cocking the R9. Thwock! The gopher’s head snapped back at the impact and it flopped half out of the hole. I saw another ground squirrel and ranged it with my rangefinder 50 yards out. I had a great rested shot off my knees sitting in the camp chair, checked my trajectory map and noted my POI would be about a half inch high at 50 yards. The squirrel stood up on its hind legs, a perfect target. I held a little low and fired. Thwack! My FTS slammed home to the boiler room, knocking the squirrel over backwards several times. I love my R9. It’s just such a pleasure to hunt with. Spot on accurate, powerful enough and always my go-to gun for 25-50 yard urban pest control. Plus, because it’s a break barrel, I can load it quickly without much effort to get on target, and can uncock it unfired if the target moves away before I can take the shot. My buddy went back to work the squeek town and I heard him take a couple shots. He’s a great offhand shot and I knew there would be a couple more bodies out there. Meanwhile, I’d spotted some more activity toward the back of the property and set up my camp chair. A fat squirrel was poking around 45 yards away. As I was ranging it, I saw out of the corner of my eye a head poke up out of the ground off to my right. Another gopher! I decided to shoot the squirrel first as it was the highest priority due to the damage they cause. I took aim, accounting for my hold under and fired. Thwack! The squirrel rolled over and crawled off into the bushes, its hind end dragging. It must have started moving as I pulled the trigger. They don’t stand still long!After my shot, I looked off to the right to see if that gopher was still there. Yup, there he was still looking at me. I ranged him at 21 yards away and steadied my rifle, resting my elbows on my knees. I have a 10 yard zero on the R9 and according to my trajectory map, POI would be 1-inch high. So I held low, placing the crosshairs right where the gopher’s chest met the ground. Thwack! I saw the gopher’s head snap back and disappear. Darn, I thought. Went down its hole. But when I looked around for it, I found it had just pulled back a bit into its hole and was sitting there dead in the pocket. I checked on my friend and sure enough, he had 2 more dead squirrels. We walked back towards the main house and I met my friend’s father, who is 90 years old and going blind. “Got any trophies?” he asked, smiling. I said we’d gotten 8 ground squirrels and 2 gophers. “That’s great,” he said. “Get as many as you can!” We chatted a bit more and then I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. I spotted a cottontail moving onto their main lawn, 25 yards away. “Excuse me, sir.” I told my friend’s dad. “There’s a rabbit over there I’m going to get.” I ranged the rabbit, aimed an inch and a quarter low and fired, striking the rabbit in the neck. It rolled around, kicking. So I walked up point blank and put one in its head to end its suffering. Good going, her dad told me. Later, my buddy got another one of the rabbits. But we didn’t get any more because they’ve been spooked a lot by my friend and her family who try to shoo them away to prevent them from doing damage. So all told, we got 8 ground squirrels, 2 gophers and 2 rabbits. My friend was really grateful and said she’ll gladly have us back if she has more trouble. Better yet, she said her neighbor who lives on the hill behind her asked if we’d shoot his ground squirrels because they’re undermining the hill his house sits on. Are you kidding? And how. So we’re going to head over there and get written permission to hunt there, too!What a great way to start the weekend. Here's some photos. Sorry for the crappy cell phone pictures. It's all I had on me. We saw a couple blood trails leading back to the ground squirrel holes so some of the mortally wounded ones made it back underground.RAGopher #2 taking a permanent dirt nap in its hole after meeting up with my FTS pellet at 21 yards.
One very dead ground squirrel.
Another one bites the dust.
This one looks like it has been nursing. Don't like leaving little ones to starve but the ground squirrels have to go.