In the event of TEOTWAWKI, procuring food, including acquiring small game, can be not only a benefit and a help making supplies last longer, but it can also be a lifesaving ability. Small game is prevalent just about everywhere until the hunting pressure is on and then it disappears. I have seen this first hand on our small six-acre lot. We hunted the rabbits on the property one year with our archery equipment, and although the rabbits won overall, we harvested a few, or two, over the course of the season.
Visible Rabbit Population Decline
Despite our inability to make a dent in the overall population, the rabbit population on our property seems to have declined substantially. This decline could be attributed to a rise in predator population, but I think it is more directly related to the pressure we applied during hunting season. The neighbors properties still have plenty of rabbits, and I can see them hopping around during the day in many areas. They seem to be as plentiful as ever, and yet our property didn’t contain any that I was aware of.
However, after placing a trail camera, I found that we still had rabbits; they just came out after dark. I consistently got pictures of rabbits at around midnight to four in the morning. The moral of this story is that even a fairly large small game population will be affected by hunting pressure, whether or not the hunters are successful. To be an effective hunter in a highly competitive post-TEOTWAWKI environment, knowledge, skill, and the right equipment will be essential.
Knowledge can be gained right now. In order to harvest an animal, it must first be located and an approach must be made to within reasonable range for the weapon being used. Finding the animal can be the hardest part.
I have walked within two feet of a rabbit and not seen it although I was looking for it, only to have it jump up at my feet. Knowing not only the animal but the environment it lives in is essential. There are many books on the topic, but there is no substitute for actual time in the field. Watch the local wildlife. See how it moves, how it is affected by weather patterns as well as moon phase. Having a knowledge of the animal and how it moves and is affected by changes in the environment provides a significant head start over the people who will grab anything and run out the door with the intention of finding and harvesting game and have no idea how to actually do it. This is a steep learning curve, and it is a lot less stressful now than it could be later.
Learning Through Practice
Part of learning comes through practice. The act of learning about the animals and their movements, and the acquisition of skill is the beginning. Just being outdoors with the animals will help, but try to also learn the effects of different approaches. While hunting deer, I found that in the semi-residential area that I hunt, the best approach is usually in the open. If I try to sneak up on the deer, they inevitably see me and head for greener pastures. When I just walk up to them, they don’t seem to mind at all. I attribute this to the area I live in.
The deer are used to seeing people out doing chores and walking around and have learned that a person that is just walking is no threat, but if someone is seen trying to sneak up they are probably hunting. Different areas require different tactics, and the best way to know what works best in a particular area is to get out and try it yourself. This builds the skillset that will come in handy later.
Modern Firearms Make Hunting Easier
I have found that a modern firearm makes the whole hunting process substantially easier. I am far more successful hunting rabbits with my .22 than with my bow. That being said, in a post-TEOTWAWKI situation, hunting in an even semi-residential area with a rifle or shotgun could draw undesired attention. Where I live, even a .22 can be heard by many of the neighbors, even indoors. To desperate people, the shot sounds more like a dinner bell, and they may not feel like sharing. In situations like mine, stealth becomes very important. I have found that the lowly pellet gun can be a very helpful piece of equipment.
Types of Pellet Rifles
There are four basic types of pellet rifles– multi-pump, CO2 powered, break barrel, and pre-charged. These rifles are available in three major caliber options, although there are many other calibers. I will discuss calibers in a moment, but first I want to make the case for the best action.
Multi-Pump Style Pellet Rifles
The multi-pump style are generally a lower powered option designed for smaller shooters. There are some very nice multi-pump guns on the market, but the power of these guns is generally somewhat lacking. The major downfall is the fact that they need to be pumped after every shot, which is very hard to do for fast follow up shots.
CO2 Powered Guns
CO2 powered guns are generally semi-automatic, which fixes the major flaw with the multi-pump style, but the gas produces its own line of problems. These guns require a cartridge, and the seal around the gas cartridge is prone to wear. I haven’t owned a CO2 gun that has lasted very long. CO2 cartridges also add to the cost to shoot, perform poorly in cold environments where most hunting occurs, and produce substantially lower velocity than any other action.
Break Barrel Guns
Break barrel guns are the most prevalent pellet guns in today’s market, and a quick glance at the variety at any major sporting goods store will support this claim. They have substantial power, and the only process needed to load is the action of bringing the barrel down to expose the breach and cock the gun in a fluid motion. The only downside to these guns is the additional skill needed to be able to shoot proficiently.
Break barrel guns are powered by either a spring or gas piston, which creates some major recoil when the shot is fired. The gun has an initial backward recoil as the spring starts to move forward followed by a forward shock as the ram hits the end of its channel. The spring vibrates the whole time. The only way to shoot break barreled guns accurately is by using a special hold to allow the gun to vibrate in the same manner each shot. I have shot a break barrel for a while and have not had much accuracy past about thirty feet.
Pre-Charged Pellet Guns
The last type of pellet gun is pre-charged. These guns carry a reservoir of high pressure air, which is achieved by using either a tank of high pressure air or a high pressure hand pump. The pumps are less expensive than tanks and allow filling just about anywhere, as long as the owner is willing to take the pump apart to replace seals when they go bad. Pre-charged guns have the power of the break barrel and match-grade accuracy.
They get multiple shots per fill, and some can be adjusted for power. Many also have a pellet magazine for faster reloading. Due to the design, the guns can be made very quiet with a variety of aftermarket parts, and the range can be easily pushed out past fifty yards with practice. The guns can be purchased with the pump for about the price of a standard .22 rifle. My favorite air rifle is pre-charged, and I can consistently kill the starlings that get in the attic out to fifty yards. These guns are worth looking into.
Importance of Knowing and Practicing
So, we’ve covered quit a bit about the importance of knowing your prey and practicing the hunt now as well as selecting the right weapon. We’ve talked about various pellet rifles. Tomorrow, I will continue with more information about pellet rifles and then move into the various types of traps that can be successfully used to acquire small game quietly.