Saturday, July 14, 2007

it's not deer sniping, but it keeps me busy

This summer I've taken up a new hobby, branching out further in the hunting arts to don the role of varmint hunter. We've been inundated with a flood of woodchucks this season, and the final straw was the newly-dug burrow under the steps to our newly-remodeled year-old mudroom. Mrs. Zaitsev finally said, "Go out and get a new gun."

How many times have I longed to hear her say THOSE words.

Ahh, sweet music to my ears. I did some research, made a field trip to Bass Pro Shop, where the salesman, short of .22 cal rimfires, tried to sell me everything from .22 Hornets to .270 "varmint guns." This for woodchucks and generic plinking around the yard.

I then made a second field trip to Gander Mountain, where the salesman very helpfully educated me as to the virtues of the Marlin 980 series .22 magnum guns. After briefly contemplating the more expensive CZs and Sako Tikkas, I settled on a very nice Marlin 983S in stainless with iron sights, and bought a scope with rings and mounts while I was at it.

Marlin model 983S in .22 cal WMR

Brought it home, shot some paper, and was very pleased with its accuracy out-of-the-box, which was my prime concern. Trigger pull also seemed good, a pleasure actually, after years of yanking at my slug gun's trigger. (Remind me to get my slug gun a trigger job for Christmas.) I decided not to mount the scope yet but to see how it goes with open sights.

Next morning I'm awoken at 5:30 am by my eight year old daughter, Sophie. "Daddy, I'm sorry to wake you up, but there's a woodchuck in the yard under my window." I of course jump out of bed, look out the window, and thar she blows: VARMINT!

Downstairs I go, load up a single round, and I'm out the front door. I told the kids they could watch from their upstairs bedroom window.

Now, before I go any further . . . . Some of you may recall the exploits of a certain deer-sniping, air conditioner-loving nuisance control hunter named Zaitsev. Last year he regaled us all summer long with stories about the deer sniping life, stories whose main themes aways seemed to center around how tough and hazardous the summertime deer-sniping business is. Idling the truck, not slamming the door, horseflies the size of pigeons . . . that kind of thing.

Let me tell you, summertime woodchuck sniping is no walk in the park, either.

Out the front door I go. Skillfully placing my wife's minivan between me and the chuck, I creapt stealthily behind the van and tiptoed around the back of my pickup truck. Peering over the truck bed, I realized the chuck was now on the other side of the outhouse that we use to store garden tools. Halfway there!

Without making a sound, I stealthily maneuvered my way from behind the truck to a position just behind our propane tank. Peering over the tank's pressure valve, I located the varmint in the grass a mere eight yards away.

I raised the Marlin stainless to the ready, banging it ever so slightly on the propane tank which resonated an empty metallic-sounding echo. The chuck never looked up.

Using the propane tank as a rest, I lined up the sights broadside on the chuck, still obliviously nibbling the grass, although it had ambled away somewhat and now stood approximately 9.5 yards distant. I mentally re-calculated windage and elevation for this new range, slipped off the safety, and calmly lined lined up the front bead on the belly of the beast.

Pop! The woodchuck jumped, kicked out its hind legs, and then proceeded to make tracks for its burrow twenty yards away. "Hmmm," thinks I to myself. "I couldn't have missed it, could I?" If so, that would clearly be a case of . . . chuck fever.

I rechambered another round and was once more ready for anything. I ground-trailed the beast back to its burrow . . . success! There at the mouth of the main burrow lay an enormous female chuck, belly up, breathing her last. The Marlin was christened!

I gave the thumbs-up to the kids upstairs in the window, and Sophie came outside to assess the carnage. "Look Daddy, its leg is still twitching." Proudly I hoisted the now-dead-but-still-twitching varmint for Sophie to inspect, and after the usual self-congratulatory pleasantries were exchanged, I carried it over to the middle of the sheep pasture and deposited it in the middle. I do not feel the need to experiment with varmint stew (sorry PW), but I figured having a dead woodchuck carrion station out in the middle of the fenced pasture would be good for vultures and safe from our dogs.

There you have it. A notch on the buttstock for woodchuck number 1. Vassili Zaitsev hunts again.



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