Shooting the Bull: It's Spring: Time for a Rimfire Rodent Safari

Shooting the Bull: It's Spring: Time for a Rimfire Rodent Safari

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Photo courtesy Rich Simpson

Rich Simpson’s brother Dave and his daughters thin the local rodent hordes.

It’s often said that familiarity breeds contempt, and I know lots of farmers and ranchers — all too familiar with the burrowing activities of ground squirrels, prairie dogs and other varmints — who harbor considerable contempt for these furry little beasties.

It is not only the loss of valuable livestock feed or crops that troubles these working folk, but the real dangers to life, limb and machinery posed by the complexes of holes and tunnels excavated by these critters. Though wide-scale poisoning programs have been used in the past to control large pest populations, the amount of collateral damage inflicted on non-target species (hawks, eagles, pets, etc.) fairly begged for more species- and outbreak-specific controls.

This is where you and I may be of service.

In some circumstances, the most appropriate and effective pest-control agent is a small group of skilled and conscientious riflemen operating under landowner supervision. Case in point: Each spring my brother Dave, his children and I are invited out to Russ Bloom’s expansive Sun River, Mont., ranch to, as he likes to put it, “thin out this year’s crop of pasteur pups (prairie dogs) and ground rats (squirrels).”

I made my annual pilgrimage to Big Sky country last week during our spring break.

It was the perfect time to witness the meltdown of the last remnants of this winter’s snow and the simultaneous emergence of the sweet, green high-plains grasses and ravenous rodent hordes.

Even though the shifting afternoon winds and see-for-miles ranges are the niche of the hot centerfire .17’s and .22’s, we prefer sneaking “up close and personal” and sniping the energized varmints with our standard and magnum rimfire rifles and handguns. Bulk-boxed high-velocity .22 LR ammunition provide all the accuracy and knockdown energy needed to handily dispatch the beer-bottle-sized ground squirrels out to about 100 yards. Died-in-the-wool long riflers tote the “hyper loadings” exemplified by the likes of CCI’s Stinger, their smoking Velocitor and today’s high-speed champ, Mexico’s own Aquila Super Maximums belting out a 30 gr. solid at a blistering 1,750 fps. Ole!

As potent as these LR loadings are, the magnum .17HMR and .22 WRF extend the practical ranges another 50 yards and do provide considerably more slap. Our limited experience also suggests that the larger-diameter .22 bullets prove to be much more lethal than the flyweight 17-20 gr. .17HMR slugs.

Our unanimous favorite: Remington’s 33 gr. V-Max .22WMR load. But don’t look for it now; this marvelous loading has recently been replaced by the equally devastating 40 gr. AccuTip-V in the Big Green’s Premier Gold Box line.

Even the snappiest rimfire is less effective if improperly aimed, so most experienced varminters mount quality optics on their rifles and handguns. Careful pre-hunt sighting in sessions coupled with shot-steadying bipods, fixed or collapsible shooting sticks can make even difficult shots doable. Slings serve double duty by steadying tricky offhand shots and keeping your hands free to tote your shooting/walking sticks and spotting scope.

This is a great time to be outdoors. The days are lengthening, the sun is shining brighter now, and the new blades of green are pushing up from the warming earth. Life is good, and as Ted Nugent is wont to say: “Remember Bubby, you can’t do this in France!” Enjoy and exercise your 2nd Amendment freedoms.

Rich Simpson may be reached at


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