Monday, November 3, 2008

Trench Warfare

We have a critter called a pocket gopher out here. He spends about 99% of his time underground, burrowing along, eating the roots of every plant he comes in contact with. He only comes to the surface to clean out his tunnel and give himself room to work. He makes a hole to the surface and then pushes the accumulated loose dirt out of the hole. It makes a little earthwork around the hole and only rare occasions that you actually see him is when he is doing this excavation project. It's really the only window of opportunity for potting the destructive little bastid. (They make an awful mess wherever they go.)

But it's very much sniper work a la the trenches of WWI. His head will appear only briefly, and then only partially. You will have only a half-second or a second to get off a shot at a target barely an inch square. Only by guessing where he will appear behind his earthwork will give you any chance at all of making a hit on one of them. Plus the fact that their appearances are so infrequent and so unpredictable that you could stake out a spot for a whole day and never see one. This is an exercise in futility in which I do not indulge.

They have been very active lately as the season changes, and my office window looks out on a swath of my laughingly called "yard" where they have been at work. When I see one throwing dirt around his parapet I will go out with my Ruger M77/22 and see what work there is to be done. I've got one of those ranging BSA Sweet 22 scopes on mine and it does a good job of accounting for elevation at different ranges. Shots are normally between 30 and 75 yards. 

Success rate? Very low. They are wary, and you usually only get one shot before they go to ground for a long, long time. But it does give me a break from desk work. So far there has been no return fire, although I could swear that the one yesterday was wearing a little helmet.

The photograph is not mine. I found it on the 'net, where it had no attribution. My little friends don't trust me enough to let me make portraits. Very smart of them, too.


Brigid said...

That wild game recipe book I found. . I was reading it late. I was a bit tired. And I noted several several recipes for "woodchuck".

ewww. ]

Kinda tough, don't you think?

Then I saw it was woodcock, a tasty little bird.

I think I may need glasses.

Rio Arriba said...


Woodcock can also taste like earthworms and damp soil. Not my favorite bird.

But I HAVE sampled woodchuck. Young ones only. BBQ'd. Passable, but not what I'd call first rate fare. Kinda grassy even when young and tender.

Barring famine and total desperation I have no plans for broiled pocket gopher.

Brigid said...

I had heard the woodcock was edible. Good to know.

Today's menu -= Broiled Pocket Gopher in a Pita. No thanks.

Off to the Academy.

Roxie said...

When I was mowing this summer, I saw lots of the destructive little creatures. Never caught up to one, though.

Rio Arriba said...

B., Don't take my word for it. I'm far from a knowledgeable source about woodcock. The few times I have had it I did not cook it myself and found it "loamy." Some like it very much and consider it the best of all gamebirds. I have heard that it is preferred "underdone"-- or at least what I would consider undercooked. One method is to suspend it over a fire on a string for a while.

Oh, yes-- should always be served with heads ON.

BobG said...

Never had woodcock; I don't think we have any around here.
I've had prairie dog; it wasn't bad. Down on the Rez it is what the youngsters get for lunch out herding the sheep. The Navajo kids noose with some twine them when they poke out of their burrow. The don't skin them though; they pack them in mud and toss them in the coals. When the mud has baked hard, you take them out and crack open the mud. The hide sticks to the mud, so it exposes the clean roasted meat. Bit of salt on them, and they can be quite good.

DW said...

Fun and efective too!