Ground squirrel “season” is upon us
In Oregon, the month of March can be a time of change. Daylight savings, the start of spring, hopes of slightly warmer weather and sage rat hunting. What are commonly referred to as “sage rats”, are actually the Belding’s ground squirrel. An abundant rodent that often finds itself in the alfalfa fields of Eastern Oregon. While ground squirrels are native to the high desert, alfalfa and orchard grass fields provide an easy meal and relative safety for the critters. The ample food supply means the squirrels can gorge themselves throughout the growing season, and burrow down into the soft soil to avoid predators. Sage rats can become quite a nuisance due to their appetite causing crop loss, and driving up the price of alfalfa. Their tunnels can lead to weak spots in the soil that may cave, injuring horses and other livestock.
The ground squirrel abundance and nuisance status among ranchers make for a target rich environment where varmint hunters of all ages can participate. The most common weapon of choice is a rimfire rifle. 22lr, 17HMR, 22WMR, 17WSM are all acceptable sage rat cartridge choices, and in many areas where firearm choice is restricted to rimfire only, they are the only option. Rimfire rifles can use several different mounting systems including weaver style bases, picatinny rails, 3/8″ or 11mm dovetails and luckily Warne can help you mount a scope on any of those systems.
Pictured above is a CZ 455 American chambered in 22WMR. This rifle features an 11mm dovetail receiver like all CZ 455 models. Warne 7.3/.22 rings are the perfect match for this rifle and scope combination. Warne 7.3/.22 rings are available in 1″ tube fixed, and quick detach, and 30mm tube fixed configurations. Medium and high heights are available as well as matte black, gloss black, and silver finishes. The standout feature of the 7.3/.22 rings is that they can attach to either a 3/8″ or 11mm dovetail, where most rimfire rings can only attach to one or the other. This rifle also features a new Warne product called the Switchview. The Warne Switchview is a small lever that attaches to the power selector ring of a variable power scope. What this product enables is the quick and easy transition from high to low power and vice versa. Additionally it gives extra leverage to turn a stiff zoom ring. The Switchview is a perfect accessory for sage rat shooting; giving the shooter the ability to transition from a long range shot, to a close range shot with the flip of a lever.
If you are hunting in an area where centerfire rifles are allowed, you may not find a better ground squirrel round than the 204 Ruger. With muzzle velocities upward of 4400 fps, the 204 Ruger can really reach out while retaining the speed to turn varmints into red mist. The Howa 1500 paired with a Hogue stock makes for a very accurate package with very little recoil. Setup with a Minox ZE 5I 3-15×56 scope and a bipod, this rifle is ready for comfortable shooting off of a bench all day long.
For those who really want to reach out and shoot something different than steel or paper targets, sage rats are a great way to hone your skills on a precision rifle. The Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor with a Minox ZP5 5-25X56 and Atlas bipod makes for a fantastic long range rifle. Precision accuracy ensures that the small rodents are within reach where a rimfire or smaller centerfire may not be effective on target. Warne MSR rings place the scope at the perfect height on this rifle, with a sleek profile that can really make your gun stand out among others.
Sage rat hunting is not limited to the guns listed above,and that is the beauty of this pastime. It is an event for the whole family, and an instance where you can bring whatever firearm you are comfortable with for a day of shooting. Whatever your firearms of choice is, Warne can help you prepare for sage rat season.