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Drennan Kenderdine advises on the 6 guns every pest controller should have in their cabinet, and tells us which models he favours for pigeon shooting, goose shooting, fox control and more!
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Horses for courses! The age-old saying relates as much to pest control as it does to racing, and there are definitely specific guns better suited to specific tasks. I have left air rifles off this list since I do not personally shoot them that often, but they can of course be a great tool for rats, rabbits, squirrels, feral pigeons, and even the odd crow if you know how to use one!
Also missing from this list are larger calibre rifles for deer; I do not consider deer a pest on my own permissions, and I wanted to focus this article more on the smaller, more common species that I expect more of you will have need to control at one time or another in your shooting lifetimes.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of semi-autos and I’ve more than a few of them in my cabinets! However, for general rough shooting, pigeon decoying and corvid control, I’ll most often find myself reaching for one of my Beretta semi-autos, and the choice is very likely to be the gas-operated Beretta A400 Upland.
There are many reasons I tend to choose this gun out of the array on offer, and the main reason is that it is one of the lightest. This makes it a breeze to carry through the woods for roost shooting or a spot of rough shooting on my permissions, and if you’ve a bit of a walk from the car to where you want to build your hide, it helps not to have to lug a hefty gun along with all your hide poles, decoys and other kit.
The A400 Upland also offers great recoil reduction thanks to the Kick-Off Plus technology incorporated into the wooden stock, and this allows for easy, comfortable shooting all day long… if you’re shooting high numbers of pigeons or corvids, this is an important factor in the gun you choose.
I have also found this gun to be reliable, and it will cycle a variety of loads from 24g to monster shells. It’s proofed for steel and has a 3" chamber, so you are safe to shoot most cartridges through this one, making it a great all-round shotgun to have in your cabinet.
I won’t lie that the nicely engraved silver action and smart wooden stock and fore-end also make it an attractive thing to have with you for the day!
The gas-operated Browning Maxus II comes with a 3½" chamber, so it’s a no-brainer for me to grab this one when I know I require big cartridges for my shooting; in particular, this would be my gun of choice for goose shooting, which on my permissions is most often flighting Canadas.
The gun has a synthetic, waterproof stock finished in RealTree 7 camo, which for me is a must when shooting waterfowl.
I love the weight of the Maxus II – it is heavy and has an atom of bulkiness to it, which is brilliant because it allows a good, smooth glide, making it ideal for those longer shots where a steady line
The thick rubber Inflex II recoil pad, combined with that gas-operated system and the slight bulk of the gun, really takes the sting out of magnum steel loads, and it also has a nice soft-touch covering on the cheekpiece and fore-end, which make it comfy and easy to grip, even if you get stuck out in weather meant only for ducks!
This is a no fuss, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin kind of rifle that has never, ever let me down. Nearly everyone has heard of the Remington 700, and it is probably one of the most commonly used rifles in the world, from law enforcement right through to pest controllers like myself; and when something is this popular, there’s usually a good reason!
It has got a synthetic stock which is very durable and which means I don’t have to worry about getting it wet. I use mine exclusively for foxing with a variety of bullets from makers such as Fiocchi, Sellier & Bellot, and Hornady. Oddly, it performs absolutely brilliantly with both Fiocchi Match 73g and Hornady 55g polly tip. I love it because it’s unfussy, and I know it won’t let me down when I’ve been sitting out for a fox in the cold for hours on end.
The .223 in general is a great foxing calibre, with little to no recoil; it’s nice and flat shooting for great long-range performance.
Probably the most 'Marmite' .22 rifle of all time, but I tend to lean towards things that attract negative comments from the masses… perhaps I’m just contrary! To be honest, this rifle came to me from a customer who needed to sell it and again, being completely honest, I would never have gone and bought a 597 off my own bat. Nevertheless, I ended up with it, and I’ve come to appreciate it as something a little different.
The magazines Remington supply could do with an upgrade so I slotted a banana mag into its belly, and for the last 10 years this rifle has not let me down. I have it set up for night shooting bunnies at close range, but it has also brought hundreds of smiles to the host of people on the farm that I’ve allowed to have a plink with it. It really is fun to shoot!
But on a serious level, this semi-auto can go through rounds at breath-taking speed, as long as you feed it with good ammo. I pretty much use nothing but hollow point ammo through it.
Where it really comes into its own is in how light, small and agile it is to use, especially out of vehicles like a Land Rover or Polaris. I’d say this is the next best thing any golf green-keeper can have on his golf course at night in the hands of a good shot. It’s no longer in production, so you’ll have to hunt around on the secondhand market to get hold of one.
Of course, the semi-auto is not for everyone, and a decent .22 is a great tool to have in your pest control arsenal for shorter range rats and bunnies, especially in areas where being quiet is a necessity – feed it with subsonic ammo and you won’t disturb anyone! Just make doubly sure of safe backstops and bury the bullet every time, as .22s can be a bit of a bugger for ricochet.
This, without question, is my most used rifle. I can control pretty much anything and everything that I need to with it on the vermin side of things. I use it predominantly for daylight work, and it’s a calibre that just keeps on giving and giving. I have dropped a Schmidt & Bender scope onto its back, which is one of the best makes of scopes out there in my opinion – the clarity is simply superb.
This rifle has brilliant handling, is light to carry and has fantastic longer-range performance, and for me it comes into its own when I’m decoying corvids… sounds strange, right?! I’ll generally use one of my semi-autos to shoot corvids – either the Beretta or the Browning – but anyone who’s shot them will undoubtedly have experienced the following scenario. You’ve hit one hard, but being tough birds with armour-like feathers, it’s wounded it – you think fatally, but it gets up and runs with the legs of Usain Bolt! However, it doesn’t matter how fast our black winged terror is, it will never outrun a bullet. This is where the .17 HMR comes out of the tool kit, and I will zero in on it and place a polymer tipped bullet right into the central mass; thus, its sprinting days are over!
Some may say why not send in the dog… well, dogs’ eyes are as vulnerable as a lamb’s, and we’ve all seen the damage a crow can do in this area. A wounded corvid is an angry, aggressive corvid, so why risk the dog’s eyes and put it off retrieving forever when a bullet brings a far faster and more lethal result?
I’ve also shot a few foxes with the .17HMR but much prefer my .223 for that. In general, as a nice flat-shooting round for longer distance bunnies, this round and rifle does the job with ease. It’s probably why it’s so popular!
If there’s one pest control tool I see in many hunters' cabinets, and one I most often hear people are desperate to get hold of, it’s the pump-action Mossberg .410 with a Hushpower silencer on it; conversely, I also hear a lot of people slating the .410 as a weak gauge! Take it from me, these are no fairground toys, and they are absolutely brilliant at what they were intended to be used for, which is vermin at close quarters, especially if you don’t want to make too much noise.
At our home, there are/were several squirrels around the farm buildings and the house. A 12-bore was too much gun, and a rifle would be like a sledgehammer cracking a walnut. The Hushpower was perfect for this particular task because the cartridge has enough killing power to do the job, without damaging property or scaring the life out of any livestock. Actually, it’s unfathomable how the combination of the Mossberg 500 and the little 3" Magnasonic cartridges from Lyalvale Express managed to pack such lethality into such a small package!
What do I love about this little gun? Well, it’s easy and safe enough to use in my garden without waking the pigs and chickens up early in the morning; it’s such a snug-fitting little gun and you know it’s just going to work time and again.
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