You can see that the soil in this area is a fluffy loam. It is highly productive, irrigated by Colorado River water. This area near Yuma is some of the most productive agricultural land in the United States and in the world.
Leo did not mind having his picture taken. I asked him if he were guarding the field from birds that would eat the seeds. No, he said, ground squirrels. He had shot three the previous day. They infiltrated the approximately 10 acre field from the perimeter of uncultivated land. Leo and his partner on the other side of the field spent 9 hours a day guarding the field from the pests.
Leo was carrying the utility grade version of the popular Mossberg 500, the Maverick 88. The 88 has trigger guard mounted safety instead of the tang safety for the 500 proper. The Mossberg family of pump shotguns is one of the most popular the world has ever known, with the beefed up military version the 590 and 590A1. Leo used ordinary dove and quail loads of number 8 shot.
I am not sure what was planted in this field. I talked to a farmer about pest problems in the area. Ground squirrils are only one. Birds can devastate whole fields of lettuce by pulling up sprouts one after another as they walk along, without eating them. Maybe they think they are worms. Larger pests do monumental damage. Deer consume large amounts of valuable produce. It is hard to obtain depradation permits for them.
Wild horses come in the middle of the night and fill themselves in the fields. Then they wallow in what is left. Wild burros are said to be even more destructive. Managers are frightened of the Wild Horse and Burrow act and terrified that "animal rights" activists will single them out for destruction with the assistance of the media.
Lettuce is a common crop in Yuma. The value of a crop is about $10,000 per acre, so a 10 acre field has about $100,000 to be protected. The ground squirrels only raid the edges.
Farm managers in the Yuma area are very careful they use the latest techniques and track all expenses. If Leo, his partner and their model 88 shotguns were not cost effective, they would not be there.
I was impressed with Leo. He was knowledgeable, polite, and well spoken. He handled the model 88 with the casual confidence of a workman with his tools. Muzzle discipline was excellent, just as I expect from American shooters. The muzzle never crossed me, and it never was pointed at the road.
Leo was quietly enthusiastic about the job. He got to hunt things all day and get paid for it. He and his colleagues do not use shotguns all the time. Much of their days are spent managing the irrigation flow. It is their efforts, and those of farm managers organized around a market that produces the abundant and inexpensive food supply in the United States.
We should encourage them to protect their crops against animal mauraders, be they bird, rodent, deer, horse, or burro.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.