Posted by: 1of10boyz | November 8, 2014

Bird Killer

I sat in the office the other day talking about the silliness of China and its extreme restriction on guns. A friend was contemplating going to the “underground” dealers to buy a BB-gun to shoot rabbits and other birds that were eating his garden and making messes where they weren’t supposed to be. As we talked it just made me appreciate being an American and the privilege that is mine having a safe full of the real things.

There was nothing better to the little boy that I was than a good gun, not too much has changed since then except that the cost of what I consider to be a good gun.

Red Ryders for everyone.

Red Ryders for everyone.

I am going to share with you a story about Cowboys and Indians but I need to tell you another story first. I have watched the movie “A Christmas Story” many times, at least once a year for the past 15 years for sure. I am always reminded about my Cowboy and Indian story every time they say the line “You’ll shot your eye out”. But I need to tell this story first to set the stage for that story.

I need to share a little background information about my “destructive nature” as a BB-gun wielding dead-eye. There are several “invasive species” that inhabit the air ways of Western Wyoming in the days of my youth, the English or House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). These birds were and likely still are considered pests in many places in America as they are not native species. They were introduced to the Americas by some well meaning person that likely had them as a pet some several hundreds of years ago. They happened to be more than plentiful in the agrarian environment of the farming communities of Star Valley in 1976. As a pest they were considered to be no better than the burrowing and tunneling mice, gophers, and squirrels that seemed to be everywhere. Those “invasive species” and rodents were all fair game and had an open season for me and my BB-gun. I honed my skill as a marksman on the poor critters that managed to allow me to sneak close enough to launch an attack.

That is the one.

That is the one.

20 feet and the 2nd one from the left would be the one.

20 feet and the 2nd one from the left would be the one.

I had a gun that was similar to the one in “A Christmas Story”, I may have even gotten it for Christmas. It was a Daisy BB-gun, with a lever-action that would compress the spring that was the mechanism that fired the BB. The spring actuated BB-gun is by no means a “long range” weapon, in fact in most cases I could throw a rock nearly as far is it would shoot accurately and further than it could actually prove to be fatal.

A spring fired BB-gun has extremely low muzzle velocity, around 275 ft/s (84 m/s). A BB doesn’t travel far before it loses considerable speed and it was often able to be observed visually in its travel out beyond the first 20-30 feet. This made it a requirement to be pretty good at sneaking up on the unsuspecting vermin that was my target. It became more and more difficult to get close as the summers wore on too as they “survivors” learned that my sneakiness was an unsafe condition and a reason to fly somewhere else. In fact, a long range, 30-40 foot shot could be “dodged” as the sound of the spring firing (sound travels at 1,125 ft/s (343 m/s)) traveled faster than the BB. That also required some estimating of which way they might dodge if you wanted to make that ‘long shot’. That all makes sense to me today as a trained engineer but my youthful mind had no real idea why they could seem to “sense” when I pulled the trigger and dodge out of the way. I probably should have asked why and learned a little physics and aerodynamics then, both would have been worth knowing much sooner than I ended up learning them.

The little farm I worked with my Father and brothers had several power lines where the sparrow and starling liked to perch. The height of the power line and distance you could normally sneak to was right at the maximum range of the effectiveness of my BB-gun. You had to catch the birds “napping” or put on a good stalk to get within range to have much of a chance most of the time. There were enough of the birds around to make it possible to walk around the whole day stalking birds trying to get a shot.

I got to be quite good at sneaking up on birds as I remember it. The problem was it wasn’t always sparrows and starlings that liked sitting about the wires and fences on this little farm. I unfortunately wasn’t as good at telling the vermin birds from the song birds and swallows. I don’t remember being too discriminating about which birds got shot at the time. I do remember that my Mother did chastise me for killing the “good birds” along with the vermin.

So on a balmy summer day in Wyoming during the 1970s when I wasn’t fishing, it was quite likely that I would have been wandering around looking for a sparrow or starling that wasn’t paying attention.

But that little BB-gun got me into troubles that are well known and others that are secrets that I am only now going to reveal. It is my hope that the statute of limitations is over and that I won’t be brought up on charges for the indiscretions of my youth.



  1. […] mentioned earlier in “Bird Killer” that I was going to tell a story about Cowboys and Indians. It includes my trusty Red Ryder and […]

  2. […] have shared several stories about killing birds and exterminating the resident population of the ground squirrels on our little farm in Wyoming. In […]

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