It's a Blast

Pesky reality could trigger a boom in chippie-huntin.'

"Sure, I'll come over for a chipmunk shoot," said my friend Paul, a county wildlife worker. He showed up with a six-pack of beer and his own pellet pistol. We passed a pleasant afternoon together while the women stayed quiet indoors, Little House on the Prairie style.

We were successful enough to be confronted with a slight chipmunk-corpse issue. I liked the idea of using what the land provided, just like Native Americans before me. But our options seemed limited. "Too small for a sandwich, too big for a cracker," Pablo, a New Hampshire web-poster wrote sadly. "That is the true quandary regarding chippies."

Neal "Doc" Martin, recipe keeper for the Coon 'n Crockett Muzzleloaders, confirmed this. "I've never looked for a chipmunk recipe," he admitted. "I haven't eaten one yet. Some of the guys have eaten mice and gophers."

Christopher Smith

Eventually, the problem of the chipmunk remains was solved with a natural elegance. We threw them onto the backstretches of my three acres, where they were snapped up nightly by the resident red foxes. It felt good to contribute to the circle of life.

Like any hunter, I told stories, epic tales of stalking and marksmanship. My friends desperately wanted in. Chris drove all the way from the Western Slope with his BB rifle. Everyone who tried it agreed: It was restorative watching a chipmunk tumble down a rock face like a rooftop cowboy picked off by the sheriff in the street. Chris felt cheated, he added, that the only pests on his own land were antelope.

The garden struggled valiantly. I hadn't completely erased the chipmunks, but I was making a dent. Besides, there is something deeply just, in an Old Testament way, about treating a varmint as it has treated you. I'd established a biblical reckoning -- and right in my back yard, too.

This was a man's job, I thought. And when he does it well, he ought to be recognized.

"No, we don't keep records for trophy chipmunks," a woman at the Varmint Hunters Association said. Still, she wasn't uninterested. "Why? Do you have one? What's the biggest one you've gotten?" I searched my memory: About the size of a Johnsonville brat. It could be record-worthy. But then again, who knew?

The Boone & Crockett Club, based in Montana, tracks records for most game animals, including walrus -- but not chipmunks. Yet. "The smallest thing we'd accept is an antelope," a spokesman said. "That's nowhere near the size of a chipmunk. Why? You got a big one?"

"People call us to find out if there are records for squirrels, possums, raccoons," says Sean at the Safari Club International. "But a chipmunk is a little odd. Why? You got a big one?"

Maybe. The other day, while drying dishes at the kitchen sink, I looked out into the garden and saw a chipmunk uprooting one of the last flower plants to make it through the spring. I signaled my family with the universally accepted sign for "Shut up -- I'm about to kill something." They fell into a reverential hush. Silently cranking the window open, I reached for my handgun. Everyone held their breath. A trophy if I ever saw one.

Now if only I could find a good taxidermist.

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