GOPHER GUTS!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: April 22, 2024

The old song went “Great Big Piles of Greasy grimy gopher guts”… I never knew what that meant as a kid. It was just a stupid song that we used to sing. The grossness of any” guts” added to grease and grime was really nasty. 

Ground squirrels, and “gophers”, are abundant in the fields of Montana. Not everyone has a taste for rodent shooting, but it is important to help control the population of these critters. Gopher’s burrow into the farmers’ fields and create ankle breaking issues for cattle, horses, and wildlife. Richardson’s Ground Squirrels build mounds of dirt and spend more time on the surface. Both are found together. They also can carry, and spread, Bubonic Plaque, and other diseases. Most people lump all these rodents together and simply call them Gophers.

Many landowners will grant permission to help remove these nuisance critters from their land. I have even had them offer ammunition to eliminate their gophers. Alfalfa and hay crops can be damaged more than 25% by rodents. Snakes, raptors, badgers, and coyotes are common predators but do not eat enough rodents to control a population. Harsh Winters can also devastate rodent populations for a few years. 

Gophers and Ground Squirrels are smaller than Prairie Dogs. Smaller targets require more skill and practice. A 22-caliber pistol or rifle will do the trick. There are also many other accurate, fast, and small calibers that efficiently remove gophers. 

Prairie Dogs are also common. The Black Tailed Prairie dogs are legal to shoot but not White-Tailed Prairie dogs, found in Carbon County.

Farmers can eradicate rodents using several methods. Poisons, anticoagulants, propane, and poisonous fumes are used and can effectively eliminate 90% of the rodents. Live trapping is the least effective method. Shooting will reduce the populations but not eliminate them. Farmers allow sportsmen to shoot but this method is more time consuming and expensive. 

My preference is a simple 22 Winchester rifle with a German fixed power sniper scope mounted to it. I also use a Ruger 22 pistol with a red dot scope mounted on top. The pistol is perfect for closer targets while the rifle easily reaches out 100 yards or so. 17 caliber rifles and other fast calibers are also popular.

My friend “Shrapnel” usually brings an arsenal of choices. Some of his rifles are vintage and rare. He enjoys the challenge of iron sights and shotting the guns he owns. His marksmanship is unsurpassed. 

On this Gopher shooting session, the landowner guided us to an area with an irrigator. The gopher population had exploded. I started hunting down the irrigator line, using the tires and frame as a rest. This also ensured that I would not damage the equipment. 

Gophers were everywhere. When the wind would pick up, the little critters slipped back into their holes. When the sun came out and the wind stopped, Gophers were everywhere. 

Every shot needs to be precise. You need to practice the hold, breathing, and trigger pull. If you do everything the same, one shot is all that is needed. We prefer single shots to semi autos that spray and waste ammo. 

Being a great marksman is about trigger time and consistency. Shooting paper, gophers, translates to shooting your best at big game. Every miss needs to be examined if you plan on improving. Paper targets do not move. Gophers do which requires a constant adjustment. 

Within minutes, eagles, ravens, and other scavengers clean up the field of dead gophers. Nothing goes to waste in Natures cycles. 

Despite our best efforts, the “Gopher” population is still abundant. It will take a few more trips to thin the herd. 

Shoot for the Big Sky!

Montana Grant

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