Reavis Z. Wortham

We moved into a new house a little over a year ago and one thing I was looking forward to was the absence of squirrels. Now, I know you can’t completely get away from those rats with fluffy tails, but at least we’d be away from the infestation that plagued us for years.

If we were in the country, I doubt there’d be much problem because a .410 or .22 quickly solves those issues. However, in the city, folks tend to frown on gunshots. I’ll admit, that on occasion, the odd squirrel sitting in just the right place in our old backyard fell from my pellet gun, but that was rare.

So I picked up a couple of live traps that worked pretty well, though once again I was faced with the problem of disposal. We can all think of certain permanent solutions to tree-rat disposal, but then there was the problem of the corpses.

After a while, I simply loaded the traps into the back of the truck and took them on a permanent vacation several miles away, in parks or wooded creeks.

I thought we were through with that and looked forward to a rodent-free world at Wortham Manor. We were pleased to find our new house already had a vegetable garden staked out, so I tilled it last spring and planted a number of favorite foods.

The peas came up quickly, but one morning when I went out, they’d been munched down almost to the ground. That’s when I learned we had an entirely different rodent problem.

Rabbits.

They seemed easier to deal with. I found their trails under the trees in the back, and under the board fence that separates the back yard from the front. Trapping ensued, and soon I was back in the business of transporting four-legged trespassers.

By the end of the summer, we seemed to be rabbit free.

That ended when more moved in this spring and trapping continued. One morning a month ago, I heard something on the roof and recognized the footsteps of the rabbits’ cousins, tree rats.

I intensified my efforts, and caught three more squirrels before the traps remained empty.

Ahhh. No more squirrels.

Then half-grown bunnies showed up, all eyeing my garden.

At this writing, I must have trapped two entire litters, plus their parents. Some carnivore helped out for a while. I found a few remaining rabbit parts in the front yard. I kept Willie the Killer Shih Tzu close to hand for a while, not knowing what was snacking on small animals in our yard.

This morning, I went out to check on the garden’s progress. The tomatoes are chest high and loaded with fruit. Our potatoes are free of any insect infestations and are spreading. Onions are swelling, and peppers are growing.

But something had been nibbling on my peas again.

While standing there in the cool of the morning, I remembered my grandmother’s solution when I was a kid.

“There’s a rabbit eating up my garden. Get the target rifle and get rid of it.”

I was about fourteen at that time and the idea of taking the .22 out without someone standing over my shoulder was the best thing I’d heard all year.

The sun was settling behind the hay barn when I went up there. The garden was a little over a hundred yards from the house and there were several places you could stand just outside the fence and wait.

It didn’t take long. As dusk approached, a large cottontail appeared between the rows, heading for her peas. I clicked off the safety, aimed with the open sights, and ended that rabbit problem with the pull of a trigger. The good part was that there were more rabbits, so I hunted for the next two nights before there were no more bunnies.

You can’t do that in the city, though. Even the report of a .22 pistol loaded with bird shot would be extremely loud and the acoustics between my house and the closest next door neighbor is deafening. Uh, make that would be deafening…that’s if I really pulled the trigger in the safest manner possible sending those No. 12 pellets loose, knowing they will barely travel over 50 feet that would of course be aimed downward where the cottontails might be feeding on my garden plants knowing there is a waist-high stone wall behind the garden topped with a twelve foot board on board fence protecting us from the neighbor’s dog…but we all know I wouldn’t do that because it would be so loud, if I did, but honest, I wouldn’t do that.

Changing the subject, here’s what I’ve found. Squirrels love roasted salted peanuts in the shell.

Rabbits are fickle. One day you can catch them with carrots or fresh apple slices, but the next day they’re looking for something different, like cheese biscuits, which I like too, so we have that in common.

On the positive side, it’s a little bit like hunting, and when I release them, I get to drive into the country and enjoy fresh air, trees and green creek sides.

Come to think of it, the next one I catch might have to be released on the other side of the lake, about fifteen miles away. I’ll take the rod and reel. I should at least get a little enjoyment out of all this, since I don’t get to shoot them, which I didn’t.

Forget I said anything.

Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”

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