Getting Squirrelly

August 5th, 2017

Making it Rain Rodents

I keep thinking about shooting on the new farm.

The seller told me coyotes are a problem in Marion County. His family raised goats, and coyotes ate kids. They also got one calf. I don’t know if I’ll have any livestock or not, but I hate pest animals, and as long as I live in a rural area where coyotes are pests, I plan to do my part, by sending them to the coyote promised land, which I like to call the Garden of Acme.

Problem: I don’t think my current rifle inventory is optimized for the work.

I know almost nothing about coyotes, but they’re supposed to be very smart, so I figure the best move is to use a scoped rifle. I assume coyotes won’t walk up to me and pose. When it comes to scoped rifles, I have .17 HMR and .308, with nothing in between. I did some research, and people say a .17 HMR will not necessarily kill a coyote cleanly. A .308 will do it, and then some, but it will probably blow out the other side and make a mess. Also, it’s an unpleasant round to shoot. I would like something that will do the job without overpenetration or bruising my delicate shoulder.

It looks like there are two popular choices. One is the AR-15 in .223, and the other is .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire. Everyone pushes me to get an AR-15, and maybe now I have a good reason, but they’re expensive, and I like the 7.62 a lot better for home defense. You can get a .22 WMR for under $300 and spend the rest of your budget on nice glass.

I need to get up to speed on coyotes. What they look like and so on. It would be a big faux pas if I proudly posted a photo of a freshly killed coyote and then it turned to to be my neighbor’s Scottish terrier. That would make for a lot of tense moments when we encountered each other in the aisles at Tractor Supply.

Note to self: don’t shoot anything wearing a collar. Unless it also has tattoos.

The farm also has pest squirrels. Personally, I think every squirrel is a pest. I used to have one that cut mangoes off my trees and then left without eating them. I would hear a thump and then the skittering of guilty feet. I hate squirrels. I’ve even trained myself not to take my foot off the gas when I see one in the road. I am not going to wreck my car or injure someone over a rat that lives in a tree.

It would be fun to kill some squirrels for my dad. He eats them. But what would I use? My grandfather taught me you should shoot squirrels with a shotgun, because a squirrel killed with a .22 may drop in the crotch of a tree and get stuck. He said a shotgun would blow them out into a state of free fall, facilitating their cleaning and consumption. But won’t a shotgunned squirrel be full of pellets? I guess it must not be too bad, because my grandfather used a Browning Sweet Sixteen, which is now mine.

I think shooting squirrels with a rifle is irresponsible unless you’re on a huge property, because you don’t know where the rounds will land if they miss or go through the rats. What if you like your neighbors?

Is it legal to shoot squirrels? Yes it is. I just checked. On my land, I will be allowed to kill 12 per day from October through March, using any gun known to man. In September and early October, I’ll have to use a bow or crossbow. What? Seriously? Who can hit a squirrel with a bow? Did squirrels write this law? Do they have lobbyists? Crazy.

I have 16 gauge ammunition, but it’s burglar-sized. I will need birdshot. Or squirrelshot, as the case may be.

The seller says they don’t get deer on the farm. Pity, but then I’m too lazy to shoot anything that big, so it doesn’t matter. Anything you shoot has to be skinned and butchered. It also has to be dragged home. I have a golf cart now, so the dragging would be okay, but as for the meat…I’m five minutes from Winn-Dixie.

I should add that I have zero hunting skills, so deer would be difficult even if I weren’t lazy. With squirrels, you just walk out, look up, and shoot. I can handle that.

The final candidate for assassination is the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, AKA crotalus adamanteus (unless Linnaeus has changed his mind). This is the heaviest poisonous snake on earth, and it can grow to a length of eight feet. One more item I don’t feel like lugging. The seller says the snakes left when he built the house, but I’m ready for them anyway. I carry a 10mm Glock wherever I go. Guess I should keep some ear plugs on me.

There may be turkeys on the farm, but I am happy to coexist with them. When I was a kid, the mother of a friend of mine roasted a wild turkey, and I have not forgotten the stench. From the odor, I’m not sure if it was wild or merely homeless. Not anxious to eat anything that smells like that.

I don’t think I could ever hunt birds after buying three baby parrots and weaning them myself. Maybe I could shoot turkeys, which are big and ugly, but since I don’t want to eat them, I guess I won’t.

I can still go out with a shotgun and threaten them with it, so they don’t get out of line.

I have to figure out the licensing requirements. The FWC website is not very clear. I want to rid myself of pests, but I don’t want fines or the inconvenience of prison time.

If I get a .22 WMR, of course, I will be here to write about it and post photos of my targets. Assuming they’re not too embarrassing.

17 Responses to “Getting Squirrelly”

  1. Cliff Says:

    First, wild turkey is amazing. I remember the first “store bird” I ever ate and how bad it was. However, like squirrels, turkeys have a good hunting lobby.

    I’ve shot coyotes with .223 and it works fine. If I were going from scratch I might look at a .243/Win bolt action as they can be had and, should you decide to take deer, they will do that too. If you shot a squirrel with that you wouldn’t have to take worry about moving the body.

    The .243 used to be called a “girl gun” as it was so much less recoily than a 30-06. So much easier to shoot.

    I have a 7mm (and some really old 8mm variants) and would not suggest those as they kick. And the ammo costs.

    Good luck!


  2. Steve H. Says:

    Maybe the wild turkey I smelled had turkey leprosy.

  3. Juan Paxety Says:

    If you ever wanted a Taurus Judge, the rattlers are a good excuse for getting one. Load with 410.
    Seems like I used #6 shot in a 16-gauge for squirrels. Then .22 shorts back when you could get them.

  4. Mike Says:

    The older I get the more I like .223. I’m afflicted with neck and spine issues as well so the mild recoil is a great plus. Reduced whitetail to possession just fine, no 300yd shots, all inside of a 100yds with careful placement. Earlier in life I used a .243win with good results as well. Good bullet design will help assure clean kills. I could see you patrolling the property from the golf car with rifle rack(s) loaded with a variety of tools. The right tool for the job always helps the work day go so much better!

    How’s the book packing going? When the terrible wife #2 forced me to move from a home of 20 years I moved two pickup loads of books. The next move went much better, I gave away or donated about half of them including 20+ years of Precision shooting magazines.

    Good luck with the future varmint control.

  5. lauraw Says:

    Cut out a gun port flap in an upstairs window screen. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve carefully slid the screen up and the damn critter ran away.

    And, you were joking, but you’ll never mistake a coyote for a dog. As soon as you lay eyes on them you know they’re wild.

    Congratulations on your new home!

  6. Ron Says:

    For your tree rats I recommend you find a .22 rifle and use .22 short hollow points. A head shot with this little hollow point will be a quick kill and the low power will keep you out of trouble with your neighbors. Even better, there are some amazingly accurate and powerful .177 air rifles on the market. They are deadly for squirrels, too. Good hunting and happy for you in your new home.

  7. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks for all the great comments.

    I think my dad would appreciate the squirrel meat, so I will probably use the shotgun if I have to kill squirrels.

  8. Sharkman Says:

    I hereby dub these musings . . .

    “Trials and Tribulations of the Modern Landed Gentry”

    (or “Git Off’n Muh Lawn [Tractor]”)

  9. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    If you want to go .223/5.56, consider building it.
    Google 80%.
    You have a mill.
    You buy an 80% complete lower, no FFL involved, and mill/drill the remaining 20%.
    Buy the upper and the barrel, no FFL.
    Total customization and you get to use your tools.

  10. lauraw Says:

    We use an air rifle for bunnies and squirrels. Ridiculously accurate.

  11. Steve H. Says:

    I would say the wild turkey my friend’s mom roasted smelled like someone was boiling a bum’s underwear.

  12. Electro Dude Says:

    Fascinating post Steve, even more so than usual. Also, congratulations on the move. I haven’t kept up to date on firearms and so was surprised to learn that a .22 WMR is more powerful than a .17 HMR. Live and learn. As for squirrels, our British friends use air rifles to dispatch the grays. Across the pond, red squirrels are the native species and our grays carry squirellpox which is deadly to the reds but which our tougher all American grays just laugh at (also, there may be some evolutionary effects involved). This has caused great concern for the survival of the reds to the point where there is a group of air rifle carrying defenders of the reds striving to eliminate the gray invaders.

  13. lateniteguy Says:

    I would actually vote for a solid air rifle and a bolt .223, probably a Savage, and I would not be afraid to go used on either. A lot of people get decent air rifles and go cheap on pellets and glass, and after lousy accuracy and the third broken cheap scope they get rid of it. The recoil impulse of an air rifle can actually be worse that much larger guns, and you should look for an air-rifle-specific scope. For the .223, consider a Savage with the Accutrigger. You can mix up the ammo to find a brand and weight the gun likes and that the yotes do not. The Accutrigger is wonderful, and Savages tend to shoot well.

    Congrats on the move.

  14. lateniteguy Says:

    And furthermore, I have seen nice air rifles replace .22s as the small truck gun in a lot of South Texas, and they really work. You can even pop hogs in the ear in a trap or smaller ones from 25 yards away and they are DRT. Nice air rifles really seem to have arrived in the US after all these years. Lots of use and no problems I have heard of as long as you use decent scopes. It’s funny seeing boxes of really nice Euro pellets on the shelf of two-fers and ice houses in the middle of nowhere out here.

  15. Steve H. Says:

    Savage is what I had in mind, for the reasons supplied in your comment. My .17 HMR is a Savage with the Accu-trigger. I like it a lot, and I like the price even better.

    I hadn’t considered .223 in a bolt gun. I think of that caliber as semi-auto. It sounds great, but .22 WMR costs 10-20 cents per round, which is pretty tempting.

    Then there’s .17 WSM…

  16. lateniteguy Says:

    .17 HMR will absolutely work at <75 yard on coyotes with head shots. Over, you get erratic performance and the wind becomes an issue (I am not sure how much the second will be an issue for you). Most of the time, OK. I have relatives who live where there are a ton of coyotes now and they all pretty much settled on light .223s with varmint bullets. That seems to buck the wind better and perform out to 250 yards with minimal bad shots. What distances?

    And rereading, yes, a head shot squirrel from a .17 HMR just sits there in the tree and won't fall. It helps if they are standing and you do a COM shot. I would expect that you will get a lot of target practice, and will get to be a much better shot from the anti-rodent operational tempo. What a problem to have!

  17. Ken Says:

    I have a 25 yard backyard range. A Sheridan Blue Streak, multi-pump air rifle will put 5 pellets into one hole with the stock metallic sights, off the bench. With 46 year old eyes.

    Shooting a 22 target rifle with $10 per 50 target ammo, and a 20 power scope, the group was a little bigger! Cloverleaf, with all holes touching.

    I like the multi-pump instead of the spring, one cock. It’s easier to do 5 small pumps instead of one big one for me.

    Do some shopping on, AR15 rifles are at an all time low price right now. Plus, the AR allows multiple caliber options by just swapping an upper on your lower.

    I think FL allows sound suppressors: a 300Blackout upper, shooting sub-sonic bullets, with a suppressor is stupid quiet. Sounds like a pellet rifle being shot.

    THAT is a varmint rifle, no racket to disturb the neighbors, accurate, and deadly.