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