I don’t know anyone who goes hunting specifically for Badgers. That being said, it’s always in the back of my mind when I hit areas that are infested with Ground Squirrels. But I never leave the house in the morning after telling my wife, “Wife. I’m going Badger hunting!” I would probably find my reloading room covered in a nice padded rubber coating on my return. This was another one of those times. We were going out hunting for Ground Squirrel, but this time the Remington 591 made for a different result than normal! I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning…
Last night I had decided that my wife, daughter and I were not going up to Tejon Ranch today. You know how it is, there is so much to do and you only have two days to do it, so things like taking most of the day to go hunting don’t sound like such a great idea. I don’t know what happened last night, but this morning I woke up at 6:30AM with the itch to head up to the ranch. So, I gently woke my wife up and said, “I changed my mind, let’s go up to Tejon Ranch this morning.” I didn’t get the response I was hoping for when she said, “You are so indecisive about these things”. Her next statement though, a simple, “Okay” was all I needed to hear! We were on our way.
The drive up was nothing special, but traffic was light and there were no accidents so we made decent time. Of course, the normal stop at Wal-Mart and breakfast at a crowded Carl’s Jr. seemed to take a bit more longer than normal, so we ended up entering the ranch after 10:00AM!
Even though this was the last weekend of Bobcat season, it didn’t discourage me because I was looking forward to some ground squirrel shooting and Lilly (my daughter) getting a chance to shoot her bow. The first valley we hit had a bunch of ground squirrels, so Debbie (my wife) took my CZ – 17HM2 and went for a short walk. She wasn’t there to shoot, as much as to relax and take in the scenery. This didn’t stop her from shooting at some of the ground “grizzlies” and even carrying a dead one back to the vehicle for some pictures!
I got to spot for Lilly, who tried her best to stick a ground squirrel with an arrow from her long bow. Too bad they were a bit too speedy. She came darn close to one, but he ducked as the arrow flew high.
Using my Remington 591 in 5mm Rimfire, I shot a couple of ground squirrels as well. Once again, sounding like a broken record, the ground squirrels died quickly and had massive damage to their internal (now external) organs.
After leaving that area we decided to go deeper into the ranch to a spot I know right off a well-maintained dirt road. It is a curvy road, with opportunities on either side as you meander along. As always, the ground squirrels were cooperative so I killed a couple with the Remington 5mm Rimfire. Lilly was once again walking with me, acting as my “spotter”, pointing out potential targets.
About 100 yards from the vehicle, we made our way into a small canyon and began to work our way towards the back hillside. We saw some ground squirrels moving through the grass, so we moved very slowly, hoping to get a shot. I began to scan to my right, when Lilly whispered to me that a ground squirrel had just popped up on the hillside right in front of us. I looked ahead of us and sure enough, there was the ground squirrel. But wait, it didn’t look right, was that a white patch on its stomach? I picked up my 5mm and put the crosshairs directly on the white patch. It wasn”t a ground squirrel, it was a BADGER!! I told Lilly that it was a Badger and to walk very slowly. I knew that with my gun I could hit it well, but at the distance we were at I did not want to take the chance of having this animal get to a burrow after it was hit. I knew if that happened, it would be gone!
We moved up about 50 yards, when suddenly, the Badger began to move off to the left. I pulled up my gun again, but with the ground hugging walk Badger”s have, I could not get a clean shot through the grass. He went up and over a small berm, dropping into a hole. I knew he was still there, because I could see the top of his head poking up and down. He wanted to know who these things were that invaded his territory and he did not seem happy. Every time his head popped-up, Lilly would make a cross-hair on her forehead and whisper to me, “Shoot him in the head!” I could tell she was getting antsy, so I told her to stay put while I moved to the side of him. My thoughts were to maneuver myself to a position where his neck would be exposed, that way I could salvage his skull. Also, with him peaking in one direction, it would allow me a little more time to settle the cross-hairs on him before he dipped back down. I made my move and got to a spot, within 50 yards, with a good shooting lane between a clump of grass and a small pile of dirt. I made sure Lilly was still where she was supposed to be and I got ready. In less than a minute, I saw the white from the top of his head start to come out of the hole. He was looking straight ahead at where Lilly was and where I used to be. He was obviously confused, because he came out even further looking for me. By this time, my safety was off and the crosshairs were following a spot a few inches below his ear. Just as I began to squeeze the trigger (damn Remington 591 trigger pulls are so heavy), he turned to look at me. I knew it was game over if I did not shoot right then. So I moved the crosshairs to just below its chin and pulled the trigger. I thought I heard the “crack” of the hit, but I wasn”t sure because he was gone in an instant!
By this time Lilly was practically jumping out of her skin with excitement. She wanted to know if I got him. You see, the shot surprised her and really sent her heart racing (her words). I slowly walked over to the hole and was at first disappointed because I could not find any blood. I began to question my shot and wonder if I had missed. My insecurity vanished when I saw a large pool of blood down about 6 inches into the hole. I walked to the front and found the Badger slumped down a bit further, stone dead. The 38gr hollow point had done its job, killing him instantly.
We pulled him out of the hole and checked him out thoroughly. His claws were nice and long as expected from such a veracious digger. His jaw seemed to be loose, so I investigated inside his mouth. It looked as if a piece of the bullet had cracked one of its back teeth, but everything else
intact. The bullet made a dime size entrance hole, but did not exit. Although he bled quite a bit, the damage to the fur was nil. He weighed approximately 18-20 pounds and had a beautiful coat of fur. What made this even better, was that Lilly spotted and I was able to harvest, my FIRST BADGER!! I have seen them out of season, or in places that were illegal to shoot, so I never had a chance to get one. It was great. Lilly and I talked about Badgers and the damage they do when digging for ground squirrels. We also talked about how we would skin it and have the fur tanned, then send the skull to my buddy Scott so his beetles could clean it up and he could work his magic to make another display skull. By the time we caught up with my wife, we were both very excited.
Needless to say, it was an excellent ending to a great day!!
— Eric A. Mayer