Rimfire Hunting Opportunities

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When winter is coming to an end for another year and people are getting the urge to get out and enjoy the warmer weather, there are several hunting options with your rimfire rifle that are often overlooked. Crows, pigeons, magpies and squirrels can make for a great opportunity to hone your shooting skills and provide an exciting switch from the monotony of shooting gophers. These animals are found throughout the west and there are generally no seasons or bag limits in many areas, making for a great time afield.

The rimfire rifle is a much more challenging weapon than the shotgun for these small game animals. Not only do you have a much smaller projectile, but also you are unable to safely make flying shots. With safety in mind, it is important to be very sure of your intended target and what lies beyond, as a bullet can travel great distances, especially when aiming up into trees for squirrels or birds.

 

Pigeons

Pigeons can be found throughout North America and often make for a great species to take new hunters out and get them shooting. With healthy populations across the country, and the ability to breed at any time throughout the year, the population is capable of withstanding a healthy harvest.

There are various methods to hunting pigeons that can be successful with the rimfire rifle. Feed lots, hay barns and old homesteads throughout the west often house pigeons and make for easy opportunities to spot and stalk these birds. Although they can be on edge at times, pigeons can be trusting of humans, and if spooked, will often come back in a short manner of time. This can provide hours of shooting for the patient hunter. In these locations, there are often grain spills on the ground that can make for the perfect bait to keep them coming back. Hunters can regularly get three to five attempts before the birds begin to get wise to what is going on.

Decoying can lead to the most shot opportunities. Locations where cows are fed, or where food is stored, are often the best locations to set up the decoys. With pigeons being a social bird, they will almost always land around decoys.

While setting up around feedlots, be sure to check your backstop first to ensure no animals are in the line of fire. Also, always be sure to check with the owner of the livestock. Although cows tend to ignore the situation after the first few shots, an angry farmer is something you’ll want to avoid.

Camouflage, pop up blinds and other decoys of other species can be used in conjunction with the pigeon decoys to add to the odds of success. A pop up blind, along with a cow decoy, can make for a comfortable, all day set up. The cow decoy often puts the pigeons at ease and allows for more shots on the same flock, while the blind allows you to be comfortable with a chair and even a shooting rest inside. This method is the best for taking out first timers and kids, as it is easy to maintain comfort and allows lots of movement.

Pigeons make great table fare and should not be overlooked as a food source. While some people brand these animals as dirty and filthy, a farm yard, grain-fed pigeon can be just as tasty as waterfowl or upland birds. They can also be a great way to fill your freezer if your meat supply is running low.

 

Crows

Crows can be a great option for those people who live in the mountains or bush country. With populations stretched across much of North America, these animals can make for great, full day outings. Don’t underestimate these birds, however, as they are very smart and often hunters will need more than just their rimfires to have a successful outing. Calling, decoying and using their natural food sources can be great methods to accomplish this.

Springtime can be one of the best times of year to use the birds’ food sources to take them. With this species feeding on the eggs and the young of other birds, they can be otherwise distracted while you make a stalk into range. Knowing the location of other birds, as well as their nests, can be beneficial in patterning the areas where crows will be found. In more mountainous areas, looking for avalanche kills from the prior winter can be bountiful. Targeting winter kills is the most productive method of using food sources – their hunger often makes them forget about the possible danger that surrounds them.

Calling crows can be used by itself or in conjunction with decoying. If used by itself, a predator call will often bring in these black birds, looking for a free meal. Generally the birds will circle, looking for something to feast on prior to landing. But if you are persistent and remain motionless, they will gain comfort and land in nearby trees, deadfall or bushes. Be very careful in making fast movements to line your sights up on these birds, they have very keen eye sight.

Electronic calls are available in a variety of sounds and often come with remotes to activate them from a distance. This method, along with a rabbit in distress decoy, can attract dozens of crows and bring them within close range relatively quickly.

Choosing where you place the decoy and speaker will have a big impact on the timeframe you have to wait for them to move in. Choosing a location that allows you to have cover but have the decoy in the open will speed up the process. Cutlines, abandoned farm yards and dried up creek beds can be great locations, allowing you access to thick cover and close shot distances. Try not to set up near a flowing creek that drowns out the noise of the call.

Using commercial crow decoys can also be successful. It is generally trial-and-error when it comes to setting up a spread, but there are two main set ups that generally work. First is the friendly set up. This involves five to 10 decoys spread out in a 10 to 15 yard circumference. You do not want them all bunched together, but rather imitate feeding on a natural food source. The second option is the fighting set up. This is where the decoys are set up in a manner where they appear to be in conflict, or fighting over food. Generally this is a much tighter spread and works best in a small circle to imitate them feeding on a downed animal. Both will work, but be sure to research your calls as there will be different tones used for each set up.

 

Magpies

Magpies can be hunted with very similar techniques to that of crows, with decoys, food and calling being the most productive methods. They do have very keen eyesight as well and can pick a hunter out from quite a distance. You do not always need to be covered head to toe in camouflage, but rather remain as motionless as possible.

For decoying magpies, an owl decoy can often be the most productive way to lure these birds in. Setting the decoy on a fence post and finding a place to set up 50-plus yards away is ideal. The magpies will not only be attracted to the area by the decoy, but you will also get to watch them swooping in and attacking the decoy. Using either an owl call or a short predator call is all it takes.

As with crows, magpies are attracted to any dead or rotting animals, as well as predator calls. Often when calling these birds, the other species will also come in.

 

Squirrels

Squirrel hunting has always been very popular throughout the United States, and is slowly being implemented in various seasons in Canada. It is important to properly be able to identify these animals, as there are several different squirrel species, and only certain varieties are allowed for hunting. These animals are abundant throughout forested areas and can make an entertaining alternative to gophers.

Like pigeons, squirrels can be a great good source. They might not fill the freezer, but they do make for a great meal if prepared correctly.

Putting miles on by hiking through forested areas can prove to be the most effective way of hunting these animals with your rimfire. There are a few tricks that can be used along with this method, to get you a few more shot opportunities. Carrying a pocket full of small pebbles can be used when a squirrel attempts to hide on the opposite side of a tree. By throwing a rock a few feet past the tree, the squirrel will generally become confused and return to the side of the tree you are on. They are very quick animals, allowing you a very short window to get a shot. Walking areas near water sources works well, as squirrels need frequent water breaks.

Commercial squirrel calls are available but can have varying results. The most effective is the distress call. This call imitates a juvenile squirrel in distress and often results in squirrels not only coming out to see, but also bark, which can be an easy indication of their location. These can be purchased at many hunting stores, as well as ordered online.

Taking advantage of all the hunting opportunities available with your rimfire can not only give you more time afield, but also allow you a chance to hone your outdoor skills. Getting out throughout the spring and summer seasons with your rimfire rifle can act as the perfect opportunity to introduce newcomers to the sport, and you might even have a little fun along the way!

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