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Varmint Hunting Page

Last Updated: 11/21/2014
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| Squirrel Hunts22-250 Imp/40į Rifle  | 17 Ackley Hornet Rifle | 223 Ackley Improved  | Ground Squirrels | Coyotes |


Spermophilus beecheyi
Ground squirrels everywhere.

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Here are three juvenile ground squirrels on a wood pile. This wood pile is right next to a haystack.
They would have been burrowing in the hay bales and ruining a large amount of the hay.
This rancher needed help controlling their numbers. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.

Two ground squirrels up close and personal.

Profile view of a juvenile Spermophilus beecheyi

ENCORE RIFLE.... This page will take a while to load. It is graphics intensive. An accurate rifle and carefully prepared hand loads are an effective means for controlling the California Ground Squirrel. It is much better than using poison which kills much more than the squirrels. Good viewing.

This is my Encore in 22-250 Imp/40į with a Bullberry full bull barrel and integral muzzle brake. The scope is a Leupold 6.5x20 Vari X III with a Thompson/Center base and KWIK-Site rings. The moly coated 40 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tip gets about 4000 fps with 38.7 gr. of Varget.

This is a closer view of the action and scope. The buttstock and forearm are also from Bullberry and are their "Utility Grade" wood with their cheap epoxy finish. Sure looks good to me for elcheapo!

The scope base is cut so you could put 3 narrow rings on the scope if you have one of those recoil beasts! The brass is neck turned with a "fitted-neck" and for reloading no resizing is required. Merely clean the neck ID, deprime, clean the primer pocket, reprime, load powder and seat the bullet. It sure makes reloading easy. Weaver Mounts & Rings Reference Charts

It won't shoot 0.25" groups all day, but it will stay on a ground squirrel out to 300 yards if I do my part. These three groups were fired after I put the Leupold scope on and was trying to get it centered at 100 yards. There was just enough wind so I am not sure if it is absolutely centered, but good enough for squirrel abatement work!

CONTENDER CARBINE.... Another good ground squirrel rifle is my Contender Carbine with a 22" Stainless steel full bull barrel from Bullberry in 17 Ackley Hornet. The 17 Ackley Hornet & 20 gr. Berger MEF Moly is on the left with a 22 Hornet and 22 K-hornet for comparison. The three groups were shot using the Nikon scope the first time on the benchrest. Looks like the scope works good enough on that rifle. The two ground squirrels were taken at about 120 yards and the damaged side is not visible. The bull ground squirrel in the front sure has a "pair" for his body size! I bet he didn't need Viagra.

Below is a group shot with the new 17 caliber 20 gr. Hornady V-Max bullets. I moly coated them with the Midway moly and the pill bottle technique. Not too bad at about 3600 fps with AA1680 powder and Rem 7-1/2 primers. The close-up picture shows the 17 20 gr. Berger MEF hollow point (B.C. of 0.113) compared to the 17 20 gr. Hornady V-Max (B.C. of 0.185). Notice the much larger diameter at the base of the plastic tip. That is one BIG hollow point that happens to be filled with plastic. The V-Max bullets have a very good terminal performance on ground squirrels.

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Here are the same two California Ground Squirrels from another view. I didn't see any fleas on them, but they usually are loaded with fleas. Ground squirrels also drill holes in the levees around the islands in the Delta and can cause serious flooding problems if their hole systems start to leak water.

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223 ACKLEY IMPROVED.... This is my Encore with the full bull 25" overall length stainless steel fluted barrel with a removable muzzle brake from Virgin Valley Custom Guns (no longer in business). It is a hummer. The rifle including scope and carrying strap weighs 11 pounds. The buttstock and forearm are from Bullberry and are "Utility Wood". The forearm is 13-3/8" long and 2" wide and what Fred at Bullberry calls a beavertail forearm.  I  have fire formed 250 brass for it. It shoots very well with the 40 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tips Moly. Only male ground squirrels were out when I was doing the fire   forming and here is a big male that met one of the Ballistic Tips. The barrel now has a Tasco 8-32X by 50mm World Class Plus scope on it shown in the picture at the right. Much later and many rounds controlling ground squirrels and it still wears the Tasco scope. I usually set the scope at 18X and it just keeps knocking over those ground squirrels. Most ground squirrels that have been "thinned out" are not as undamaged as the one on the left with the large equipment.

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Here is a close up of the ground squirrel. No sissy here, this is a "bull" ground squirrel for sure. I bet he didn't need any Viagra! There is the box of 223 Ackley Improved rounds. Notice the plastic foam in the lid so the rounds don't rattle and prevents the tips from banging against the top cover. It shoots the 40 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tip Moly bullets very well. I get about 3700 fps with stiff load of H322. Here are three targets I shot. If I could fix the flyer, the groups would be pretty good. I guess that is the way it goes. With this accuracy, it is very easy to regularly connect with ground squirrels out to 400 yards.

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This is a close up of the removable muzzle brake and the barrel flutes. If you look very closely, you can see where the muzzle brake ends and the barrel starts. The chamber is for a 223 Ack Rem Imp .242 Neck. The Weaver 6-24X scope is not the best. There is very shallow depth of field and the image is impossible to get a sharp focus at 24X, but it is ok at 18X. I have ordered a Burris 6-18X full field scope for the rifle. It deserves a top quality scope. The muzzle brake works great. The recoil is nil and I can easily spot my bullet impact points even at 18X but not at 24X.

Going Small with the New 17 HMR

Left to right:

  • 22 K-Hornet
  • 17 Mach IV
  • 17 HMR
  • 22 Long Rifle


The 17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) ammo has a 17 gr. hollow point (filled with polycarbonate) boat tail bullet with a 0.172" diameter and delivers a muzzle velocity of about 2550 fps (depending on the barrel length). The muzzle energy is 245 ft-lb and with a 1-10" twist, the bullet is spinning at 183,500 rpm. A typical 22 Long Rifle cartridge has a bullet weight of 40 gr. or more than twice as much as the 17 HMR. Here is where I got my ammo. Midsouth Shooters Supply is taking orders for the new 17 HMR ammo.

THE 17 HMR.... This 17 HMR is a Stainless Steel T/C Contender Carbine with a Bullberry Stainless Steel barrel, Full Bull contour, 0.810" diameter, 22" long and bead blasted to eliminate the shine. The wood is also by Bullberry. The base is a 92A Weaver base. The Rings are the KWIK-SITE KS-WEV-H rings and the scope is a 15X by 40mm Weaver CKT-15. Fred Smith at Bullberry reamed the chamber with minimum dimensions for better accuracy. Click here for a large picture of the rifle. Field Testing the 17 HMR.

More info on the 17 HMR. Click here to View the 17 HMR Field Testing Page.

Here is a montage of ground squirrels on the Island just south of Bethel Island. The grass is starting to get tall after all of the El Nino rains, but a sharp eye and good binoculars do the trick in finding them. No, they are not quite this thick here in the Delta. I patched a bunch of pictures together with the photo software.

Here are more California ground squirrels on one of the ranches where I hunt coyotes. These pictures were taken with my new Sony MCV-FD7 camera that writes the picture files directly to a floppy disk. The close up pictures of the ground squirrels at the bottom were taken at about 30 yards with the full zoom option. The ground squirrel in the center was actually about 70 yards again with the zoom option.

WHY SHOOTING IS BEST.... If hunters donít shoot the ground squirrels, the farmers are forced to poison them or they will over run their land. The poisoning of ground squirrels requires two feedings to kill them and it takes two days or more to work. The poison turns their intestines into blue mush and gives them a two day stomach ache that ends in a long agonizing death. They donít always die underground so hawks and eagles can find and eat them and are also killed. The poison grain is dyed blue so that "supposedly" the birds won't eat it. But birds do eat the poison and it kills all of the quail, pheasants, and other grain eating birds in the area and then it kills the animals that eat the dead birds.

Shooting the ground squirrels has beneficial effects. In the next drainage to the south of where I shot these ground squirrels, they use poison and they have no quail and almost as many ground squirrels. If the poison is used continuously for a few weeks, it will kill ALL the ground squirrels. Shooting never kills all of the ground squirrels, it merely thins out the crop to an acceptable level. Hunting is the best way. It is quick and efficient and when the hawks or coyotes eat the shot up ground squirrels, there will be no ill effects to their health. Besides, the old coyotes with poor teeth can eat them easily because they are tenderized!

I WALK A VERY FINE LINE.... I am very careful to only "control" the ground squirrel population. I have to walk a very fine line. If I shoot too many, they might not survive and the field will be barren. If I leave too many in the field, the rancher might use poison and kill them all. A surviving population of ground squirrels is a good thing and besides, I don't want to work myself out of a job. The same goes for coyotes.

NIGHTLY RAIDER.... Here is a coyote that was making nightly raids on the rancher's chickens right near his house. What bothered the rancher most was when his grandkids were visiting and playing outside and he saw the coyote watching them. About half a mile from his house, I used the diaphragm call, shown in the picture, to make the fawn bleats. After about 10 minutes, I saw the coyote coming downhill through the tall grass at the edge of the trees. I still had the call in my mouth and made a few soft whimpers when the coyote stopped in the trees. The coyote continued my way and when she went out of sight behind some bushes, I moved my Bi-Fur-Pod setup inline with the approach. One shot at 120 yards with the old Sako in 243 Win and right through the boiler room and it was all over. I stopped and told the farmer and he sure was happy to hear about my success!

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CLOSE TO HOME.... I was home bound for 2 weeks taking care of the wife and her new titanium hip joint. She is doing fine and improving fast, but I just had to get out of the house. I went to the next island south of here and was going to reduce the ground squirrel population a bit. When I got to the second gate (nearly the middle of a 2 mile square cattle pasture area) I stopped to look around. I caught a glimpse of a coyote at about 400 yards walking into the tall grass and it went completely out of sight. A visual sighting is a lot better than just seeing fresh tracks!

WHIMPERING WITH A TURKEY CALL.... I got out my old Sako 243 Win and my Bi-Fur-Pod and walked down the fence line (luckily it was into the light breeze). I setup on a one foot rise and really couldnít see very much but grass. Maximum visibility was about 60 yards with some clumps of tall grass and a few places where the grass was only about 18" tall. Getting positioned took about 15 minutes and there was no way to hide while I walked to the spot. I got out my cheap but trusty H.S. STRUT Mag 3.5 Diaphragm Wild Turkey Call and made a few very soft whimpering calls. After about 5 minutes, I saw the coyote looking at me at about 50 yards peeking over the top of the grass. I could see the nose and ears. I had to move around with the Bi-Fur-Pod sticks to get lined up and through the scope I could just barely make out the neck. I guessed at the chest and touched one off. It was Bang -- Whoop! I could tell it was a hit by the sound. I continued calling for another 10 minutes, but didnít see anything else. I lost the exact line to the coyote but went looking for it. It took about 30 minutes to find it in the tall grass. It was a textbook hit right through the center of the chest. It was a young female about one year old. Just a few ticks on the under belly, but in pretty good shape and just a few battle scars. The call is shown in the picture laying on the coyote's shoulder. You can click on the hot link above and read about the call. This coyote was almost like having it on a leash. The calling was done very very softly.

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BUZZ SAW.... The young female coyote had a good set of teeth that are like a buzz saw on a one-day old calf. The cows are calving and the rancher had seen a pack of 5 or 6 coyotes out in the fields. I am sure he will be happy with the photo and news that there is one less coyote after his young calves. Here are two links to the damage that coyotes can do to game animals and livestock.

Ground Squirrel Control

RODENT CONTROL.... Various rodents cause farmers problems and varmint hunters are willing and able to help with very specific rodent control. Here in California, the rodent that causes the problems is the ground squirrel. I have never hunted ground hogs or prairie dogs because they are not found here and I have no firsthand information on them. 

A VERY FINE LINE.... I am very careful to only "control" the ground squirrel population. I have to walk a very fine line. If I shoot too many, they might not survive and the field will be barren. If I leave too many in the field, the rancher might use poison and kill them all. A surviving population of ground squirrels is a good thing and besides, I don't want to work myself out of a job.
The same goes for coyotes.

I have gone to a number of the Squirrel Wars in Northern California. It is great shooting up there and here is the Modoc County Web Page where there is more info. The squirrel shooting helps the farmers who are desperate to control the overwhelming Belding's ground squirrel population. The scientific name for the Belding's ground squirrel is Spermophilus beldingi. I use a Contender Carbine with a 22 inch full bull stainless steel Bullberry barrel chambered for a 17 Ackley Hornet (9.25 lb. total weight) topped with a Nikon 6.5-20X44AO Matt scope. The buttstock (14-1/4" pull) and forearm (12" long beaver tail) are also from Bullberry. They are "utility wood" with the hard epoxy finish. They looked so good, I couldn't camo them. The Nikon scope has very clear optics. I also have Bullberry barrels for the rifle in 17 HMR, 17 Mach IV, 22 K-Hornet, and 221 Rem Fireball. This makes a very good combination for ground squirrel hunting.

BACK TO 1997.... Here is the way the Varmint Al Hunting Page looked in 6/26/1997. Back in those days, the whole site would fit on a single 1.44Mb floppy disk. I actually started the site in early 1997 with Geocities, but have no copy of the very first site since it was done on the fly at Geocities. I later started editing with Notepad. Here is the first page I saved on an old floppy disk: Primitive Page.

SURPRISE VALLEY INFO.... Contact Modoc District Fair Grounds 530-279-2315 and check the Modoc County California Web Site. This year's Ground Squirrel Round Up is  March 29, 2003, Sponsored by the Greater Sur

prise Valley Chamber of Commerce, phone for details (530)279-2001 or e-mail to: Read about some of the Ground Squirrel Hunts on my Hunting Stories Page  Ground Squirrel Hunt, Bob's Ground Squirrel Hunt and Feeding the Birds. Here is more information on the Belding's Ground Squirrels.

Squirrel shooters spurn Humane Society protest. 03/23/04

Cockrell's High Desert Guest Ranch Lodging In Cedarville & Surprise Valley right in the heart of Northern California ground squirrel hunting locations. Complimentary Squirrel Hunting on Ranch for Guests when available. That is all the information I have.
Roe Outfitters Ground Squirrel Shoots in Oregon. Not cheap.

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Contenderous bullberrini

Spermophilus beldingi

PLAGUE IS ENDEMIC.... The Black Plague is caused by a bacteria named Yersinia pestis carried by fleas. For eons it lived in the blood of resistant wild rodents in northern Asia. During the Middle Ages, it somehow began to infect the domestic rats that infested towns and cities. After the rats died, their fleas fed upon the villagers themselves. Unable to imagine what was happening to them, more than half of Europe's entire population died as black death swept the continent.

In 1900, infected rats reached California on a ship from Asia. Soon plague spread from the port of San Francisco to other nearby cities, and to deer mice Peromyscus, and other resistant rodents. While towns in Marin and Sonoma counties largely escaped the outbreaks that affected most temperate regions of California, Y. pestis became firmly entrenched in the Coastal and Sierra Nevada Ranges. Tularemia is also carried by rodents in California.

Today, plague is endemic in resistant wild rodent populations throughout the western United States. Predators or scavengers can get the disease when they eat their prey, and hunters when they handle or skin infected game animals. From time to time the bacteria spreads to more susceptible rodents, like ground squirrels Spermophilus beecheyi. Epizootic outbreaks decimate the squirrel colonies, leaving hoards of infected, hungry fleas around the now empty burrows. Sites like these are especially dangerous to hunters, campers and nearby residents.

38 Cases Reported Since 1970
POSTED: July 3, 2002
LOS ANGELES -- State health officials issued a warning Wednesday to people planning to be outdoors this holiday weekend to guard against bubonic plague, which is carried by rodents in foothills, mountains and along coastal areas. Since 1970, 38 cases of the plague in humans have been reported statewide. The most recent report was in 2000 when a Kern County man survived the sometimes deadly disease by taking antibiotics, said Ken August of the California Department of Health Services. Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen glands.

Good shooting from Varmint Al.

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Last Updated: 11/21/2014
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