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Driving to the Ranch through the Mohawk valley — east of Yuma, Arizona — I encountered the shotgun-wielding gentleman above. The soil under his feet was a fluffy loam. He stood on highly productive land, irrigated by Colorado River water. In fact, the area near Yuma is some of the most productive agricultural land in the United States — and the world.

Leo and his partner on the other side of the field spent nine hours a day guarding the field from the pests. I asked if he was guarding the field from birds that would eat the seeds. No, he said, ground squirrels. He’d shot three the previous day. They infiltrated the approximately 10-acre field from the perimeter of uncultivated land.

Leo was carrying the utility grade version of the popular Mossberg 500, the Maverick 88. The 88 has trigger guard-mounted safety instead of the tang safety found on the 500 proper. The Mossberg family of pump shotguns is one of the most popular the world has ever known, with the beefed-up military version the 590 and 590A1. Leo loaded his Mossy with ordinary dove and quail loads of number 8 shot.

Lettuce is a common crop in Yuma. The value of a crop is about $10,000 per acre, so a 10 acre field has about $100,000 to be protected.  The ground squirrels only raid the edges.

I talked to a farmer about other pest problems in the area. Birds can devastate whole fields of lettuce by pulling up sprouts one after another as they walk along, without eating them. Maybe they think they are worms. Larger pests do monumental damage. Deer consume large amounts of valuable produce. It’s hard to obtain depradation permits to harvest them.

Wild horses come in the middle of the night and fill themselves in the fields. Then they wallow in what is left. Wild burros are said to be even more destructive. Managers are frightened of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, terrified that “animal rights” activists will single them out for destruction with the assistance of the media.

Farm managers in the Yuma area are careful to use the latest techniques to deter pests. And guns. If Leo, his partner and their model 88 shotguns were not cost effective, they wouldn’t be there.

Leo was knowledgeable, polite and well-spoken. He handled the Model 88 with the casual confidence of a workman with his tools. His muzzle discipline was excellent; the muzzle never crossed me, and it never was pointed at the road.

Leo was quietly enthusiastic about the job. He gets paid to hunt. That said, he and his colleagues spend much of their days managing the irrigation flow. It’s their efforts, and those of farm managers organized around a market, that produces the abundant and inexpensive food supply in the United States. Using one of the oldest and best tools for the job.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included. Gun Watch

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  1. There was a story yesterday about a national forest that is being destroyed by feral horses. Sad that the bunny-huggers have been so successful. What concerns me more though is that there was a quote two days ago from some politician somewhere about depopulating the humans. I first encountered this back in 1994. Guy I worked with was a rabid environmentalist who advocated reducing the entire human population to no more than 10 million hunter-gatherers. When I challenged his assertion and asked him who would choose those who die and those who live, he got really mad and started spouting the usual liberal bull shit about how humans are destroying the environment and something had to be done.

  2. Getting paid to hunt? That turns hunting into a job. I’m retired. I’ll do it for free and provide my own tools.

    • Oh good grief. Another misinformed person.
      Hey cheeky, where do you think lead comes from?

      • Hey, Tom in Blue Oregon,

        Eat a paint chip or three as a child?

        Or was your homeschool science education lacking?

        Lead and food for human consumption don’t mix.

        All the top lettuce farmers famously praise the fact that their lettuce is raised on former trap and skeet ranges.

        Save your sanctimonious drivel for your inbred relatives.

  3. The flip side of hunting in nut groves is bird shot gets into the fruit. The pack line requires a metal detector. Also fish farmers i.e. black bass get predator licenses for white crane. Those birds will eat 30-50 percent of hatchlings.

  4. Maverick 88 is an awesome budget shotgun; I picked up a lightly used one several years ago for under $200. No, it’s not a Benelli, but it definitely gets the job done.

    WRT grounds squirrels, for urban / suburban critter control I highly recommend the Benjamin Marauder in .22. Have someone qualified massage it a bit, find the flavor of pellet it likes, put some cheap glass on it, and it’ll shoot ragged one-hole patterns all day at 25 yards (pushing a 14gr pill at about 900fps). Ridiculously easy to drop Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Rabbit with head shots.

    Now if I could just persuade my neighbors to let me thin the herd of White Tailed Rats (a/k/a deer) that infest the area . . . .

  5. I asked if he was guarding the field from birds that would eat the seeds. No, he said, ground squirrels.

    Yo’ marmot so fat, she digs black holes.

    Yo’ marmot so ugly, even bullets wouldn’t hit that.

    • “Yo’ marmot so ugly, even bullets wouldn’t hit that.”

      Proof Hillary can never be assassinated by a sniper’s bullet…


  6. Interesting and true. Most people in the city have no idea how prevalent firearms are in rural areas. Just about everyone keeps a “truck gun.” This is a gun that is first and foremost a tool which gets used and abused. They bounce around, they are rarely cleaned, and like the people that own them, they are often at work. Mostly from what I have seen they are a .22 mag or .223 or .243 bolt action but often as not they are a lever 30-30. Useful against varmints, these guns are just part of everyday life. Anyone that has a truck should have a rifle floating around in it with a couple boxes of ammo in the glove box. In Arizona near the border I would consider upgrading to a semi-auto 223 of some sort.

  7. I’ve generally used a .22 rifle (Marlin 60) for shooting ground squirrels, although I’m sure a shotgun works perfectly fine as well.

    I suppose the shotgun allows one to control squirrels, birds, and wild horses, all with one tool.

    Separate issue, but I hope that the farmer doesn’t have a problem with soil salinization or sodicity. They are pretty common in the area, and the water from the Colorado river is relatively high in salts. High salt levels can really drop your yields.

  8. I had no idea that Mossberg Maverick 88 shotguns are apparently even less expensive than their 500 series. I’ll have to look into them.

    • /begin_rant

      When is someone finally going to make an inexpensive, reliable shotgun with these features:
      (1) 20 gauge (and possible option for 28 gauge or .410)
      (2) pump-action
      (3) 19 inch smooth bore barrel
      (4) cylinder bore or threaded for chokes if cheap
      (5) tube magazine as long as the barrel (7 round capacity?)
      (6) rifle sights that are extremely rugged and simple
      (7) dual bars and dual extractors
      (8) weighs 6.5 pounds
      (9) synthetic stock if necessary to keep price down
      (10) made in the U.S.A. (ideally in a “free” state)

      This would be the IDEAL home-defense shotgun and said manufacturer would sell 10s of millions of them if their actual retail price was $199 or less. Alas, I cannot find such a shotgun.


      That shotgun that I described above would be especially appealing to homeowners where women or teenagers might have to use that shotgun for self-defense because 20 gauge has less recoil than 12 gauge shotguns. It would also be especially appealing to people who disparage handguns or military-style semi-auto rifles. Of course it would be very appealing to people on limited incomes. And it would be an appealing “just in case” / “why not?” purchase for people with disposable income. It would be appealing for home defense in urban and suburban settings where people are concerned with over-penetration since it would allow you to use birdshot. Finally, it would be appealing to everyone else because they could use buckshot or even 20 gauge slugs which are hard to top in terms of “stopping power”. (I cannot think of any situation where a 20 gauge slug is going to be inferior to a 12 gauge slug against a home invader at home defense distances.)

      Seriously, I cannot figure out why a manufacturer such as Mossberg does not manufacture this. It would be easy money. Call it a refinement of their Maverick 88 platform. All they would have to do is design, manufacture, and install a shorter barrel on their Maverick 88 — All-Purpose 20 gauge shotgun and install the rifle sights that they already install on their Maverick 88 — Slug shotguns.

      • Remember that the Maverick 88 will accept barrels from the Mossy Model 500 series, so if you really wanted to you could just get a 18.5″ 20 gauge Model 500 tactical barrel and swap it out. Or just buy a Maverick 88 in 20 gauge (under $200) and chop the barrel down to 18.5″.

        I agree, if Mossy just offered this option for the Maverick they’d sell a bunch, but I suspect they don’t want to cannibalize their Model 500 sales . . . .

        • LKB,

          I have heard a few people mention an 18.5 inch barrel in 20 gauge for the Mossberg 500 series … but I have never been able to find a part number or one for sale. Do you have a link to a webpage showing one for sale? And even if a short barrel were available, it still increases the overall cost by over $100.

          As for chopping the barrel down, that gets the short barrel but fails to address the desire for rugged rifle sights.

        • LKB,

          Now imagine if someone manufactured reduced-recoil 20 gauge slugs for home-defense to go along with that 20 gauge home-defense shotgun that I outlined above? A shell with a 3/4 ounce (328 grain), .62 caliber slug with a muzzle velocity of 1100 fps would be quite devastating to any two-legged home-invader. And yet the recoil would be quite mild. Plus the mild load would significantly reduce muzzle blast and help protect hearing, both short and long term.

      • I don’t know about all of those options, but I would suggest a short barrel pump, either a home defence model or just chop it down to the close to the legal minimum, and slap a rail like this on it, and you can look through it and its just like a rear peep sight with your front post as the front. It works very well. A Remington 870 with the 6 shot “tactical” version, with that rail sounds like it fits what you request very well.

    • I have mossberg 500’s and the maverick 88 security model(extended mag and 20 inch tube). As far as I can tell they don’t have a 18.5 inch tube for the 20 ga.

      What I did killed 2 birds with one stone. My wife is just 5 foot tall and she can’t comfortably handle the controls on a full sized gun. So I got the youth model 20ga. It’s barrel is longer than 18 inches but overall it’s still a handy package and it has thread in choke tubes. For under 300 bucks.

      • I suppose I could go with the youth model and add a wood spacer to the butt stock to increase the length-of-pull. It still would not have rifle sights nor a full length tube magazine (with at least a 7 shell capacity).

  9. In the western Dakotas where ranching is common, prairie dogs are a major nuisance. They look cute and cuddly, and they are intelligent, but the holes they dig for their burrows are dangerous to cattle (breaking a leg in the middle of nowhere is never good).

    Poisons are bad for the environment, so the best way to remedy the situation is to camp out on a hill with a Remington 700 in .22-250 and start thinning the towns.

    It’s long range precision shooting at its finest, and the results are more spectacular than using Tannerite.

  10. The ideal ground squirrel gun (having had shot thousands of ground squirrels in my life, with everything from air rifles to .338 WM’s, with 12 gauge shotguns, compound bows, slingshots, rocks, and pickup trucks making an appearance on my “ways to kill ground squirrels” resume’) is a .17 HMR, using the 17 grain Vmax bullet. Where we farmed, they were called “hay rats.”

    My most memorable shot on a ground squirrel was with a 12ga, and using a 1 1/8 oz load of #7.5 shot. I was close enough that I saw the shot cup/wad go through the 3/4″ hole smack in the middle of the squirrel. I distinctly remember being able to see daylight through that little SOB for a split second before he keeled over.

    The shot of which I’m most proud was with a .17 HMR, over 200 yards away, offhand, and hitting a ground squirrel dead center.

    If you hit a squirrel with a .17HMR with the 17gr Vmax pills, they’re dead most all of the time. They come off the ground by about 2 feet, straight up into the air. Damnedest thing you’ve ever seen. If you hit a squirrel with a shotgun, maybe it is dead, maybe not. If you’re close enough to get a tight pattern with #6 shot, they’re pretty dead. If it is wounded because it caught only a couple of pellets, and/or you were using too small a shot size, and the squirrel runs back down the hole, all you’ve done is improve the diet of all the other ground squirrels – they’re cannibals, after all. The .17HMR is the single best invention for a “truck gun” for farmers in the west, where you have to deal with ground squirrels, prairie dogs, etc. The .17 HMR is amazing in how capably it drops pests in their tracks.

    When I’d hit them with a .17, they’re DRT – and I’d then come through with a bucket, and (while wearing gloves), I’d pick up the bodies (and pieces) and take them off the field, then bury them in a hole. Never handle a squirrel without gloves – not even for just a moment. They carry the plague, and (in some areas) hantavirus. Both diseases can kill your ass dead.

    In the end, shooting squirrels just isn’t productive. The only way to get rid of squirrels economically is to mark all the holes in a methodical manner, then come through about an hour before sunset, and drop Phostoxin tablets down the hole, then drop in some water on the Phostoxin. The next day, the place will be a ghost town. In the old days, farmers would use strychnine on cabbage bait, but that’s been off-label or outright illegal for years now.

    Shooting squirrels? You can do it from now until the sun cools off, and only hold them down to a smaller population.

  11. $100k/year/10 acres is pretty amazing – i wonder what the net is on just 10 acres. I hope they take measures to conserve the water in the area and take care of the once mighty Colorado- i do know the further south of Yuma you go, the more sad that river gets.

    • Table fruits & vegetables that are produced to a high quality, with “organic” appellations can net some big bucks.

      Also, remember they effectively have a year-round growing season, perhaps taking off only August and September, when it might be too hot.

      Want to see some incredibly profitable farming ground? Go to the Imperial Valley, two hours east of San Diego. Holy crap, is that profitable ground – even given the high levels of salt they have to deal with in their ground and irrigation water.

    • An acre is 43,560 square feet. A head of lettuce probably needs about one square foot of space. I pack my garden leaf lettuce tighter than that, but don’t grow head lettuce. Head cabbage takes more space18-24″ inches in each direction (maybe 3-4 square feet).

      Point being, that you can probably grow 30,000-40,000 heads of lettuce per acre. Sell each one for 25 cents, and you are at $10,000 an acre.

  12. Whitetails are our problem. Not too terrible on peanuts but on cotton it’s horrible.
    We have hit them had the past couple years. Typically kill 2-300 a year.

  13. More love for the Maverick 88. Yep I’m getting the 7shot 20″ model next week. They sure ain’t $199 around here…

  14. “The soil under his feet was a fluffy loam. He stood on highly productive land, irrigated by Colorado River water. In fact, the area near Yuma is some of the most productive agricultural land in the United States — and the world.”

    That’s an interesting mindset, claiming title to “most productive land” that is made that way only by using someone else’s water. Whatever. Pretty soon, you’ll all need to recon with what’s happening to Lake Mead.

    As for his pest problem – I think maybe he needs what we in the midwest refer to as a “fence.” 1,000 yards of it will cover ten acres.

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