The very sight of him makes my trigger finger itch. He deserves to be shot; he needs to be shot. Sometimes I think he wants to be shot. But I get ahead of myself.
The trouble really began when the big blue spruce just south of our sunroom was taken down. It supported our big, heavy, green metal squirrel-proof birdfeeder. The feeder was relocated to another tree not visible from the sunroom.
We missed our sunroom view of birds at the feeder so we bought another lightweight feeder to hang from the sapling that stands a few feet from where the spruce had been. The new “squirrel proof” birdfeeder is really a marvelous design: The feeder is surrounded by a springloaded wire mesh cage that provides perches for the feeding ports. When a bird lands on one of the perches, no problem. But when something heavier, like a squirrel, grabs onto the outer mesh cage, it slides down, closing the feeding ports. When the squirrel leaves, the springs slide the cage back to its original position, opening the feeding ports. Neatly designed.
We hung the feeder, the birds found it, and all was well for several months. Then later in the fall, The Kid, a wisenheimer, teenage squirrel with attitude, shows up. He climbs the sapling, shimmies down the bungee cord that holds the feeder, and starts examining it for security flaws.
My wife and I are watching. The Kid grabs the wire mesh, and, just as advertised, it slides down and closes the feeding ports. I’m thinking: “Any minute now, he’ll figure out that he can’t get to the seed, get discouraged, and wander off for easier pickings.”
The Kid, however, is thinking something entirely different: “I can see all this luscious birdseed in there, so there just has to be a way to get at it.” After a few minutes of clambering around the feeder, he climbs to the top and begins working on the spring-loaded metal top. In a short while, he has it tilted at an angle, but he can’t remove it entirely because of the spring. Soon, I figure, he will begin gnawing on the plastic edge of the feeder.
Now, I don’t begrudge The Kid all the birdseed he can eat if it has been spilled on the ground, but ruining my feeder is not among his privileges. I explode from the house uttering several of the more interesting short words at the top of my voice (did I mention I was in my pajamas?). The Kid takes one look and skedaddles. I say to my wife, “Hopefully, he has gotten the message,” and I go back to reading a Louis L ‘Amour novel. Mentally I am somewhere west of the Pecos when my wife says, “Your buddy is back.” I look. Sure enough, The Kid is shimmying back down to the top of the feeder.
I’ve had trouble with squirrels before. See “The Noise in the Attic.” It seems to me that once they get an idea into their tiny little brains, they have a great deal of trouble getting it back out again. Therefore, sterner measures were needed. I get up, heading for the basement. “Where are you going?” asks the better half. I answer, “I need to shoot ‘my buddy’ in the behind.”
My wife, however, is having none of it: “I don’t want you to kill him or wound him.” “How about if I shoot him a little?” I asked. “What do you mean?” she replied. “I’ll shoot him with an Airsoft pistol. It won’t wound, but it might convince him to leave the feeder alone.”
A pair of full blow-back, CO2-powered Airsoft pistols from Crosman.
Now, if you’re thinking that Airsoft firearms—replicas that shoot 6 mm plastic BBs at around 300 fps, are simply something for kids to play with, let me set you straight. Bianchi Cup shooters (particularly those from countries where firearms ownership is difficult or impossible) have practiced for the Cup using top-end Airsoft pistols and later did pretty well in the actual competition. But that’s not all: Increasingly, Airsoft is used by law enforcement and firearm instructors for force-on-force training. In addition, the smart folks in NRA’s Recreational Shooting Division are using 3-Gun Airsoft as a way to introduce new shooters to shooting sports. Further, as I can personally attest, Airsoft guns are fun to shoot.
I grab a replica Beretta 92, check to make sure I have a fresh CO2 cartridge and a full load of airsoft BBs, ease out the front door and sneak around the corner of the house. The Kid is still there, trying to break into the birdfeeder. I ease into a combat stance, the Airsoft Beretta steadied in a Weaver grip. I align the sights, flick off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. Pop! A white plastic BB sails toward The Kid, dead on course. But just yards before it connects, it bends heavily to the right. At 300 fps, the light plastic BBs are no match for the wind.
I try a couple more rounds with the same result. The Kid looks at me: “Is that the best you got, Old Man?” He’s hanging off the right side of the feeder. I missed him even further to the right. I decide to aim to the left of the feeder.
Pop! The BB smacks him amidships. The Kid looks at me in surprise and decides he has urgent business elsewhere. “I think the problem is solved,” I tell my wife. But it isn’t. The Kid shows up two days later and we repeat the process.
It’s been going on for several weeks now. Every few days, The Kid shows up, I shoot him, and he scampers off, only to reappear a little later in the week. Finally my wife says, “This is like having my own personal Wild West Show. It’s pretty entertaining.” I tip an imaginary hat to her and affect my best western lawman drawl: “We aim to please, ma’am.”
For myself, I indulge in some self-justification. I believe I have invented a new shooting sport: shoot-and-release hunting. And The Kid doesn’t seem to mind either.