Varmint hunting is the practice of hunting vermin, generally small mammals targeted as a means of pest control, rather than for food. Varminter may refer to a varmint hunter, or describe hunting equipment either specifically designed for, or suitable for varmint hunting, such as a varmint rifle. Varmint hunters may hunt to exterminate a nuisance animal from their own property, to collect a bounty offered by another landowner or the government, or for amusement.
Targets of varmint hunting
A contemporary woodcut of varmint hunters shooting passenger pigeons, a varmint species that was known to damage crops. Overkill resulted in complete extinction of the species.
The term varmint is a US colloquial term for vermin, though it refers more specifically to mammal or bird pests, including:
- predators which can kill farm animals: badger, bald eagle, barred owl, bobcat, cooper's hawk, cougar, coyote, feral dogs, goshawk, foxes, golden eagle, great horned owl, lynx, mink, osprey, raccoons, screech owl, snakes, snapping turtles, snowy owl, sparrowhawk, weasel, wolverine, and wolves
- rodents and lagomorphs that can damage cropland or pastures or carry disease: beaver, groundhogs, muskrat, prairie dogs, porcupine, rabbits, rats, and squirrels
- birds perceived as damaging to crops: crows and raven, as well passenger pigeons and Carolina parakeets, both of which were driven to extinction in part by pressure from indiscriminate hunting
- invasive species, such as starlings and wild boars, that are displacing desirable native species
Shorter Blowguns and smaller bore darts were used for varmint hunting by pre-adolescent boys in traditional North American Cherokees villages. They used the blowguns to cut down on smaller raiding rodents such as rats, mice, chipmunks and other mammals that cut or gnaw into food caches, seed and vegetable stores, or that are attracted to the planted vegetables. While this custom gave the boys something to do around the village and kept them out of mischief, it also worked as an early form of pest control. Some food and skins were also obtained by the boys, who hunted squirrels with blowguns well into the 20th century.
Varmint Rifle Characteristics
Since varmint hunting is a form of pest control, and minimally regulated by law, the definition of what constitutes a varminter model tends to vary by regional pests. The definitive varmints are ground burrowing animals such as groundhogs and prairie dogs. These animals are small and difficult to approach closely, and hunting them requires a long range, highly accurate rifle. Because of this, models labeled Varminter will generally fit the following characteristics:
Ruger No. 1 Varmint rifle in .223 Remington with heavy barrel, bipod rest, large telescopic sight, and "dope" sheet on the stock for windage
- Bushmaster AR-15 based Varminter model; includes extended heavy barrel, adjustable trigger, and no iron sights (being designed for dedicated use with telescopic sights).
- Remington 700 SPS: Has a 26" heavy contour barrel with standard features that include a hinged floorplate magazine, sling swivel studs, and a drilled and tapped receiver.
- Ruger No. 1 Varminter single-shot rifle; equipped with scope base and rings for telescopic sight, available in high velocity calibers with extended heavy barrels. While the trigger is factory set and locked, the trigger does include sear engagement and overtravel adjustment screws, which can be adjusted by a gunsmith.
- Savage Model 12 Varminter; includes adjustable trigger, and free floated extended heavy barrel, no iron sights, and a benchrest style stock.
- Sierra Varminter line of bullets; light weight, hollow point and soft point bullets designed for high velocities, minimal penetration, and maximum expansion needed for varmints.
Impacts on varmint populations
Hunting of varmint has typically been to reduce crop loss and to stop predation of livestock. This hunting, like all forms of harvest, has imposed an artificial selection pressure on the organisms being hunted. The selection pressure on varmints is likely for younger reproduction ages and quicker maturity. Varmint hunting is also potentially selecting for behavioral changes that are desired, animals avoiding human populated areas, crops, and livestock.
- ^ Ovington, Ray (1965). The Compact Book of Small Game and Varmints. New York: J. Lowell Pratt & Company.
- ^ Smith, Jim "Crow". 2017. "The Modern Blowgun." The Backwoodsman "The magazine for the twentieth century frontiersman specializing in trapping, woodslore, survival, gardening, muzzleloading & homesteading". Volume 38. September/October 2017. Pages 58-60.
- ^ Bushmaster AR-15 Archived October 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ Remington 700 SPS Varmint Archived July 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ Savage Model 12 Varminter
- ^ "Sierra Bullets – Varminter Bullets". sierrabullets.com. Sierra Bullets. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
- ^ Tellman, Barbara. "Varmint control in Cochise County over the years." (2005).
- ^ Allendorf, Fred W., and Jeffrey J. Hard. "Human-induced evolution caused by unnatural selection through harvest of wild animals." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106.Supplement 1 (2009): 9987-9994.