Defending the Garden – Part I

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back in 2002, my wife and I decided that we would like to grow some fresh veggies. The next couple of blogs recall what happened then and make some recommendations in case you need to defend your garden.

There is no way to confirm this with rock-solid certainty, but according to my back-of-the-ammo-box calculations, it was the most expensive salad bar ever. And I had not tasted so much as a single bite of it – not a morsel of wax bean, not a sliver of tomato.

My wife and I had labored hard through sun and rain over the darn thing. We hired the roto-tiller guy (who showed up with a commercial-grade Troy-Bilt tiller and a business card that read “I dig my work.”) to pulverize a section of our lawn. Then we raked, picked rocks (lots of ‘em), ran strings and pegs, and planted: tomatoes, corn, squash, a couple of kinds of beans, peppers. It was a work of art. We were regular Arlo Guthries out there: “inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow . . .”

Then, by the sweat of our brow, we surrounded it with steel fence posts and sturdy critter-proof wire fencing. And we watched it grow and tended it. Then, just as the tender new plants were seriously establishing themselves, we went away for a weekend.

When we came back . . . someone . . . something . . . had given our garden a crew cut. Where once there had been vibrant plants bursting with the promise nature’s bounty, there was stubble. I was in utter shock: for the amount of money, sweat and effort we had put into this thing, we could have had veggies FEDEXed to us fromChile. Who was the culprit?

Then I saw him. Not one of the deer that wander through the yard. No, this was smaller, more insidious – good old Marmota monax, a woodchuck. And what a woodchuck this was! Round, firm, fully packed, he was so swollen and porcine he could barely wriggle through the hole he had dug under the fence. He was so fat he had a roll behind his neck. I had worked my butt off all spring so this groundhog could enjoy some mitey fine gourmet meals at my expense.

I wanted to shoot him so baaaaad! “Honey, call the supermarket and see if they got any Woodchuck Shake ‘N’ Bake, will ya?” (I never did terminate this particular woodchuck with extreme prejudice. Instead I took my revenge in laughter – he was so obscenely corpulent, likeGarfieldthe cat, his legs barely reached the ground. I referred to him as Jabba the Chuck.)

If you’ve got a problem with a woodchuck, a rabbit, a squirrel or other varmint munching on your garden or prize azaleas, and you live in or near a populated area, there is a problem. The law generally takes a very dim view of popping off any kind of firearm near dwellings, and many jurisdictions have specific prohibitions about shooting guns. Besides, any reader of this blog worth his or her salt will naturally be conscious of the safety of neighbors and their property.

In my case, I live within one-half mile of a major technical university. Shooting any kind of powder is strictly verboten. There is hope, though. Many places have absolutely nothing to say about shooting airguns. Recently, I’ve had my hands on three vintage American .22 caliber pump-up airguns that will dispatch vermin quite well at short ranges.

Next time, we’ll talk about them.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


  1. steve delgadillo says:

    Should have taken the shot. No woodchucks in L.A. county but we do have gophers,rats and pidgons a plenty. Neighbors are only a few yards away so I usually use my R-7 which is pretty quiet and very effective at close range.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for the comments.

  2. dean says:

    were you “into airguns” at the time this happend?

  3. Primo says:

    There is no pest or varmint that compares in quantity of its population, and flora destruction as the green tree iguana from central America . This animal was introduced to Puerto Rico as pets,now they are all over the place. They can lay over 40 eggs at once , and they have no natural predators on the island. Some people eat them,as some people eat snakes in the USA , but it’s not the norm. I happen to live in the country, and my house is surrounded by farm land,the invasion of the iguanas is of such proportion that I get tired of shooting them with my RWS 460 Magnun ,very effective by the way. We have informal competitions shooting them at 75 plus yards. The Benjamin Marauder,like the RWS,in cal .22 is lethal,and super accurate . Iguans besides eating crops also go after the eggs of our indigenous birds. I just hope some culinary fad starts that makes these things a delicatessen so that they can be ,if not eliminated,managed. P.S. first air rifle I got to hunt them was a Feuerkraft from Arizona air guns .177 super powerful & accurate RWS.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for your comments. Iguanas sound like a difficult pest to control and an excellent application for airguns.

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