For this pest control session there were several requirements for the rifle I’d use: it had to be light and compact in anticipation of shooting in confined spaces, it had to have a high shot count as there would be many shot opportunities in such a target rich environment, and for the same reason I wanted a multi-shot magazine with an action that could be rapidly cycled. Because there would be workers in the area and I’d be shooting inside as well as out, a low report and adjustable power setting were also deemed important features. Selecting my small game gun for the trip, and knowing that this pest shoot was a possibility, my eyes settled on a newer arrival in my gun room that had been doing well for me in the squirrel woods, the Brocock Bantam.
The Bantam has all the attributes of my much loved Compatto, and though I personally prefer the looks and balance of the Compatto, it was the high shot count from the bottle up-front configuration that cinched the decision for me. So, function won out over form, and the Bantam it was! I’d shot at this facility in the past, and in preparation sighted the Axion scope at 50 yards, making note of the aim points at 20 yards at a lower power setting in preparation for indoor shooting. The pellets selected were the 15.3 grain JSB Exacts, because they shoot accurately in this rifle and because I’ve had good experience with their terminal performance.
So with my cased rifle in the back of the truck, I left the ranch and headed to the feedlot about 10:00 am. There were birds everywhere as I drove in: pigeons, cowbirds, and doves in quantity, but pigeons were to be my primary focus. You can shoot the invasive Eurasian doves, but morning and white wing doves (which are similar in appearance) are game birds and not on the ticket at this time of year (or with an Airgun). If hunting in an area where there are similar species with different game laws applicable, you need to do a little homework and be able to tell them apart. Penalties can be steep for shooting the games species out of season with prohibited method of take!
As I’d been here only once before, and that was several months earlier, I did a walk about to get the lay of the land. I wanted to note where the workers were, check if there were “no-shoot” zones, and see where the birds were congregating. It was interesting to note that there were areas around the buildings where the pigeons were thick, areas in the feedlot where doves constituted the avian majority, and grassy areas blanketed in blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles. I decided to stick to the buildings and and adjacent sheds where the pigeons were creating the biggest problems.
I found one area in the back of the complex where as wall panel was missing, and the birds were flying in and out, using nearby roofs and pipes as staging areas. I could keep shooting here with very little repositioning, the birds would fly off after one was hit, but would be replaced by a new flight a few minutes later. In the first hour I’d dropped 20 birds, with several falling onto the roof and out of reach for body retrieval. But I soon found that I needn’t worry, as I watched a feral cat run out and snag one of the fallen birds and carry it off.
As the morning rolled along, the birds slowed down at this location and I noticed more flying inside a shed where feed was being shoveled into piles before being scooped onto conveyor belts. I walked over to the equipment operator and asked if I could shoot at the other end of the shed while he worked, saying that I’d be aiming away from his work space. He seemed to appreciate the heads up and said “sure thing buddy, clean those flying rats out! And I did, a half hour latter I had several more birds down.
The Bantam was a well behaved and enjoyable rifle to shoot. The semi-bull pup configuration is really a very clever design. It is compact and well balanced like the best of the carbines, but with a full-length barrel. This is anecdotal, but it seems to me that barrel length becomes more important in high power guns with respect to efficiency, power, and to a lesser degree accuracy.
At any rate, the Bantam performed very well for me (again); the adjustable power let me dial it in for specific shooting situations, and the accuracy was dead on. I could cycle the action rapidly, and the magazine indexed and fed flawlessly. The compact and ergonomic design let me shoot well from any position I found myself in and using the architectural structures I found along the way, never missed my shooting sticks.