Bolting Gophers

All wildlife that’s hunted should be respected, even rodents like gophers. Bottom line though, they are vermin. They burrow tunnel systems through yards and fields as a means of protection and acquiring food. They annoy land owners and are pests that require extermination before they cause too much damage to livestock, gardens or landscaping. Although there are more drastic solutions to rid a colony, bowhunting works and is pure enjoyment.

Have you ever been lake fishing where the fish are jumping all over 100 yards from your boat? Naturally, you'd move closer to them, but once you arrive, they start jumping from the exact spot you just came from. Gopher hunting is similar. You’ll spot gophers in a portion of the field and then make your way over there. Once you arrive, gophers start popping up where you came from. It’s an endless circle of fun that can easily consume the entire day.

 

Gopher Trap
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This past week, I headed out with my friend Kris, and my kids to hone our bowhunting skills. Kris had permission to hunt on a horse ranch that welcomed us to help keep the gopher population in check. The holes and tunnels that gophers create can cause injury to livestock, so the fewer gophers, the better in the eyes of most country property owners. 

mbx-400
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The mission MXB-400 was my weapon of choice for this gopher hunt.

Lots of Arrows
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Bringing plenty of arrows when bowhunting small game is essential, and gophers are no exceptions.

Slient cocking Device
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This geared cocking device is quiet and doesn't require much strength, but it's slow to reload another bolt.

Rope Cocking Device
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Even the standard rope cocking device is slower than nocking an arrow with a compound bow or reloading another .22 caliber shell.  The rope cocking device requires lots of movement as well.

Small Game Arrow heads
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We stopped by Cabela’s on our way out to grab some 125 gr judo points and small game heads by G5. Both worked well and did the job. 

Gopher Success
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Kris and my son used compound bows, but I elected to use my crossbow. My first shot missed to the left a bit at 57 yards, but I later pinned a mammoth gopher at 43 yards. 

pinned gopher
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Many other arrows flew and all were retrieved. Some gophers lived, some did not. 

Gopher Bowhunting Success
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It was nearing dusk before we even looked at the clock. Gopher bowhunting can easily consume the day, with endless gophers peering up from underground.

Gopher just visible
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The great thing about gopher hunting is its non-stop action. It's also a great way to practice stalking, patience and shooting. And the smaller the target, the better you need to be to make the shot. 

Above Ground Gopher
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I prefer to shoot gophers when their entire body is completely above ground because it allows for a more forgiving shot. 

Head of Gopher
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Aiming for the head when it's the only part in view is very challenging but no less fun. Nevertheless, for anybody starting out, practice some patience and wait for the gophers to fully emerge from the tunnel.

Standing Gopher
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My favorite shot is when they stand straight up on their hind legs and balance with their rear and tail. This stance provides the largest margin of error to work with in regarding to judging distance. 

broadside Gopher
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However, you’re only working with 1 or 2 inches horizontally when they are vertical, so if you have the distance ranged and your crossbow calibrated, wait for a broadside shot with four feet on the ground as this provides the most left-to-right margin of error.

miss sequence 2
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It’s a good idea to have someone watch your shot from behind or slightly beside you.   You'll notice the arrow in flight here and the gopher starting to plan its escape.

miss sequence 3
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Whatching your arrow (or your buddies) will save you from losing arrows. It’ll also save time (and thus allow for more hunting time) when retrieving arrows

miss sequence 4
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A second set of eyes will greatly help track down where your arrow ended up.  As you can see they can end up anywhere, even off the original trajectory.

Prime Conditions

Hot days with little wind are the best. Our specific conditions were as follows: an evening hunt from 6PM to 8:30PM, temperature of 28°C and no noticeable wind. Gopher activity started to taper offer near the end, even though we were still a few hours from last light.

Gopher hunting is a great off-season activity to practice shooting while helping out property owners. I have yet to meet anybody who told me, “No, please leave the gophers alone." There’s still a couple months until fall is here and couldn't we all use a little more practice? Why not make it really fun.