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Ann's Corner

VOLUME 98-----------AUGUST 2010

SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'

WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY

August 8, 2010

Yes, I know.  Late again!  Got lots of good excuses, but you wouldn't believe me anyway, so here goes.

We finished our fifth and final Hunter Education Class of the year August 7th.  We graduated 11 students after completing our field day at Hauser Lake Gun Club.  Students walked through simulated hunting scenarios, with several 'shoot - don't shoot' decisions required based upon both the safety and legality of each situation.  For details and class pictures, visit the Hunter Education pages.   Since my last newsletter, I've also posted pictures of our H. E. class that ended July 10th, so you can see those as well.

With our hot, dry weather in recent weeks, we are on constant alert for fire danger.  While we have only had some small, quickly extinguished brush fires in the Spokane area, central Washington has kept firefighters busy with several larger blazes.  About the only effects here have been hazy skies from the smoke drifting high above us.  We did have a little rain shower early this morning, which freshened the air today.

We celebrated Jennifer's 14th Birthday on July 31st.  Little Heifer and I were treated to Rick's famous bar-b-qued ribs as we enjoyed a family get-together at Rick's house.  Jennifer's friend Val Milliken joined the festivities.

The highlight of the day, as usual, was the opening of the gifts.  In addition to school clothes, between her parents and Grandma, Jennifer picked up enough cash to purchase a nice personal laptop computer before school starts.  Here are some photos of the occasion.

           

L to R:  Rick's Ribs, Jennifer and Val like ribs, Swimsuit modeling, Waving cash with running shorts on head

Sunday, August 1st, we celebrated the birthday again at Shogun Restaurant.  This is a Japanese Hibachi place where they cook your food on a tabletop grill at each table.  Items that nourished the Parmans and Val this day included mounds of fried rice, filet mignon, scallops, shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, zucchini, and onions.  Our chef's name was Kong, and he put on a good floor show while cooking the food too!  Jennifer has chosen Shogun each year since she was about 6, so this was familiar territory.

Jennifer is moving from Middle School to High School this fall, so she will be going from the top of the pecking order to the bottom of the totem pole.

She has signed up for the cross country team, and they began practicing a couple of weeks ago.  In spite of the hot weather, they've been doing sprints and doing a two or three mile run twice a week.  A couple of the runs have ended at a coach's swimming pool near the high school, so a cooling dip was available on those days.

I guess Jennifer has been doing pretty good, as the coaches have told her that if she continues to perform well, she has a good chance of making the varsity team.

Rick and family are planning an RV vacation in the near future, so when they informed the coach that Jennifer would miss a couple of practices, he said it would be important for her to continue to do her running while on vacation.

He told Rick, " I don't mean for her to get out and run alone in a strange place.  You can follow along in the car."

Rick told us later, "That pissed me off!  I guess he thinks I'm too old to get out and run with her!"

Guess who's been getting up each day for an early morning run/walk to get in shape for running with Jennifer while on vacation?

Speaking of the RV, today I helped Rick with some adjustments on the height of his hitch to make his travel trailer ride more level.  After finishing that chore, we were making some adjustments to the slide out and discovered that a bearing in the mechanism needs replacing, so getting the trailer to the repair shop will be on Rick's agenda this week.

The season is also right for pocket gophers to expand their territories.  We are seeing increasing numbers of those telltale mounds of dirt in and around the areas we mow here at the ranch.

Led by urban "do-gooders" on the west side of our state, a citizen's initiative passed in 2000 that made most forms of animal trapping illegal.  Damn fools who wrote the initiative failed to make exceptions for vermin, even though they claimed the ban was not intended to cover such critters as moles and gophers.

Legal interpretations being what they are, it was determined that the ban did indeed, include such creatures.  As might be expected, this led to a proliferation of those pests in lawns, parks, and golf courses throughout the state.

In the early years of the ban our state legislators battled over this dilemma each session.  The urban liberals proposed to keep the ban, but exclude the lawn pests.  The rural representatives allowed that the rancher had just as much right to protect his lambs against coyotes as did the city dweller his lawn against gophers.  Therefore, the entire trapping ban should be overturned.

To the best of my knowledge, the ban remains unchanged because the legislature continued to find ways to deadlock on the issue.  Either the house and senate couldn't agree, or the rural/urban conflicts got in the way.  In recent sessions, the economic downturn has caused so much fighting over money that we haven't heard anything more about the trapping ban.

I've made a bit of a sport out of controlling the pocket gophers here at the ranch.  I now wish I'd kept an accurate accounting of the number I've killed over the years, but lost track at around 60, some years ago.

I've written about my gopher hunting a number of times in previous newsletters.  In fact, my first published magazine article was called "PEST CONTROL" and described my methods of gopher eradication.

I've tried everything from poison pellets, to smoke bombs, to gassing the little suckers with exhaust from internal combustion engines.  Usually the poison gets pushed right back out of the hole, and the soil around here is too porous to concentrate the smoke and carbon monoxide to lethal levels.

A load of number 6 shotgun pellets works really well.  The trick is getting to see the little suckers long enough to get a shot.  Except for shoving excess dirt out of their burrows into mounds atop the ground, pocket gophers spend their entire life underground!  Even when pushing up dirt, they rarely show themselves.

They do have one predictable vulnerability!  If something or someone digs out an opening under one of those dirt mounds and the burrow is still occupied, such occupant will eventually push dirt into that opening from below until it is closed again.

A shotgun blast directly down the burrow as the gopher fills the hole will usually get the job done.  This, of course, requires being there, watching, with a loaded gun, while the refill process is going on.

I've tried .38 special shot shells in my Colt Trooper revolver, but the tiny #12 shot just won't penetrate the dirt well enough to do the job.  The Thompson Center Encore pistol with the .410 shot shell barrel works OK, but a 20 gauge works even better!

My stalking methods have evolved from opening a burrow, grabbing a lawn chair, and watching until the refill activity begins.  This method takes a lot of patience and may not be practical when the lawn needs mowing, a vehicle needs washing, or other projects await.

I now usually dig out one or more gopher holes, then go about other activities.  Occasionally, I stop what I'm doing and check the holes.  Of course I miss the hole-filling activity a lot of times, but eventually I'll find evidence that work is in progress, and then watch until I get a shot.

In researching the habits of these little pests, I learned that they are solitary creatures and won't tolerate another gopher in their territory except during breeding or raising a litter.  So, killing one gopher usually stops the activity in that immediate area.

Unfortunately, the vacated burrow may not stay empty for long.  Twice this year, a second gopher has moved into a burrow where I've killed the earlier occupant, and another hunt had to be executed.

The pocket gopher is an evolutionary oddity.  They have tiny eyes, almost no ears, typical rodent teeth, and giant claws in relation to their body size.  They are truly dirt diggin' machines!

I'm still not clear about the purpose of their cheek pouches, or why the pouch openings are outside the mouth.  I've only killed one gopher that was outside his den, and he was in the process of filling those cheek pouches with grass.  Whether the grass was for a nest or for food, I'm not sure.

The pocket gopher species in our neck of the woods are small creatures, usually running 3 or 4 inches in length, including the tail.  One I killed last week though, was what I'd call a 'trophy gopher'!  Here's a picture.

Trophy Gopher

I have one of these varmints in my newly seeded area south of the house, that I've been stalking for several weeks.  So far he has managed to refill the holes I've dug out when I ain't watchin'.  This often occurs at night.  Have I found one that's too smart to kill?  Only time will tell.

As I mentioned last month, July activities included doing a reloading clinic on the 16th at Center Target Sports in Post Falls, ID.  This was part of the series of 'Free Clinics' that Ed and Peggy Santos are hosting now.  Each month a clinic of interest to shooters is held.  Previous subjects included information on AR style firearms, pistol shooting, and concealed carry methods.

We had about 40 people attend our presentation, which ran from 6:00 PM to 8:30 or so.   Rick assisted me with the presentation and Ed Santos ran the video camera.  We did not actually video the presentation, but connected my camera to the conference room projector in order to show close-up views of the process on screen.  It would be impossible for everyone in a crowd of 40 people to view the process in detail without such an arrangement.

Peggy reported that attendees had positive comments as they left, so I think we put on a good show.  Since I've never charged the Santos' for doing reloading seminars, Peggy offered a free class as we were packing up our gear.  I had previously taken Ed's Utah Concealed Carry class, so we made arrangements for Rick to take advantage of the offer.  He will be doing the Utah class after they return from vacation.

I'm sure those who read my newsletters are aware of the two recent Supreme Court rulings overturning Washington DC's and Chicago's handgun bans.  Of course both DC and Chicago immediately wrote new rules that continue to make it nearly a practical impossibility to exercise one's second amendment rights to protect your home and family with a firearm within either jurisdiction.  There are already lawsuits in the works challenging those rules.

Former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia now has a blog called the "Barr Code" where he reported on the new rules in Washington DC shortly after they were enacted.  Requirements include a gamut of restrictions like background checks, fingerprints, photos, ballistics identification of the firearm, a level of eyesight that satisfies the authorities, safety and training courses, passing a test on DC's firearms laws, and telling authorities where in the home the firearm will be maintained.  You would also be required to re-apply for your permit every 3 years with another full background check every 6 years.

One of Barr's readers posted a comment which I thought too good to pass up, so I'll quote him here:

"Sound like very sensible restrictions to second amendment rights.  I suggest we go further and apply some equally reasonable restrictions to the first amendment lest we have people making or writing opinions irresponsibly."

"To properly exercise first amendment rights, you should be required to:

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Submit a voice sample and a handwriting sample to the authorities.  Your IP address should be frequently updated to protect against improper exercise of the first amendment on the internet.

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Permit the authorities to utilize voice analysis and handwriting analysis on your samples.

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Submit to whatever tests the authorities decide are necessary to determine if the citizen has the proper degree of intelligence to satisfy the authorities.

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Complete a government-approved college level English class and submit to a test gauging the citizen's knowledge of first amendment laws and procedures.

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Tell the authorities in advance which venues you might choose to exercise the first amendment in.

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Re-apply every 3 years and submit to a full background check every 6.

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And for good measure, all pens, pencils, and computers should be kept in unusable condition unless the citizen can demonstrate that its use is required to meet an 'immediate' threat imposed by disagreement in their home."

"Adherence to these rules would surely benefit the public welfare as it would ensure intellectual safety for everybody."

Can you imagine what Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and the country's newspaper owners would have to say about those rules???

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from another Will Rogers quote:

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like."

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

THE OL' HILLBILLY
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