Gopher-Shooting, Anyone?

A treasured Montana pastime.

Sure, any joker can lay down a pile of bucks to harvest a giant bull on the Flyin’ D, and there are more than enough “grip and grin” shows on cable outdoor channels. However, in Montana, one of the most sought-after game critters of the spring season happens to be the lowly gopher. In these parts, “gopher” refers to the Richardson’s ground squirrel. Though it’s not present in the Boone and Crockett record book, numerous hunters credit this little critter as the catalyst for their lifestyle and recreational commitment.

Generally considered a pest by ranchers and other rural homeowners, gophers are a good source of food for birds of prey, badgers, coyotes, and foxes. They also help aerate grassland soil. But above all else, they’re loads of fun to shoot. Shooting gophers requires a minimum amount of planning, effort, and firepower, and hunting these miniscule rodents is an excellent way to hone your skills and aim for larger game.

The most common weapon for “gophercide” is a .22-caliber. Relatively inexpensive and widely available in both rifle and pistol configurations, the .22 is the go-to gun for numerous types of small game. This common caliber is also a great “Rules of the Rifle” tool to introduce young shooters to hunting.

In this area, most gophers live on private land. Always get permission before hunting, shooting, or trespassing on private land. Just because gophers are pests doesn’t mean that the law and the neighbors won’t frown on you shooting them from the roadway. Treat gopher hunting like any other privilege; respect will garner respect. Looking for a challenge in your subdivision? Try gopher hunting with a pellet gun, archery gear, or even a blowgun. The possibilities are amazing for these little buggers—just remember the old adage: “Be good, be careful, and have fun.” 

Editor’s note: Although gophers abound around Bozeman, keep in mind that all shooting is prohibited within city limits, including pellet guns and archery equipment. Check city boundaries before blasting the little varmints to oblivion.