Spring, my second favorite time of the year. It brings sunlight to my back yard, robins to my lawn, chickadees and flickers to my bird feeders... and starlings.
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I hate starlings. I hate them because often, especially in cities, the beautiful songs of native American bird species have been replaced by the groaning leafspring-like call of the interloper. I hate them because the aggressive little illegal immigrants have managed to greatly diminish the populations of home-grown species like the bluebird and many other hole-nesting species. I hate them because they are ugly, churlish, and have few redeeming qualities. Starlings truly live up to their Latin name, sturnus vulgaris. They are avian rats (English Sparrows are avian mice, and don't ask what I think of crows) and reducing the starling population helps native birds. Starlings were placed on this earth for just one purpose... they make great targets. What other species abounds that can legally be killed, year-round, without limit, in all 50 states?
I have shot starlings with a twelve gauge shotgun... overkill, yet somehow quite satisfying. I have stalked them with air rifles, a truly challenging sport second only to the stalking of the wary English Sparrow (now that is a sport that only an expert rifleman in every sense of the word can master, and if you have never tried it, don't knock it). I have sniped them with super-accurate .22 rifles. And I have ambushed them in the manner of tiger hunting from machans in colonial India, crouching behind an improvised hide as the unsuspecting quarry alighted in the bread-filled kill zone, easing my weapon up, trembling in anticipation as I slowly drew a bead on my nonchalant victim. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, feathered rat; it tolls for thee. Even now, as I sit at my dining room table writing this, I have an old favorite air rifle by my side, and my bay window is open to provide a line of fire to the suet block hanging yonder in fevered anticipation that yet another foolish starling will make the fatal mistake of alighting after frightening a favored flicker away. Oh, hope springs eternal in the human breast!
I have been dreaming lately of the perfect gun for small game and varmints. How about a four-barrel set, with .17 HMR, .17 Mach II, .22 LR Match, and .22 WMR? Use the .22 barrel for squirrels and other small game within 50 yards. The Mach II is a great starling gun out to 100 yards. The HMR works great on small varmints out to 200 yards, and the WMR works for turkey (where legal) and small predators out to 150 yards. Yes, I know about the new Sako Quad. If it's anything like other Sako products I'm sure it's brutally effective. But it has a synthetic stock, a matte blue finish, and in my opinion, no personality. It's a tool... a very fine tool, but just a tool. I don't want a stock designed by the same people who design race cars, and made out of the same materials. Real guns that a man can bond with must have wood.
Start with a single shot rifle action. Pick a series of chamberings that will allow the use of the same extractor. Modify the action, if needed, so that barrels can be easily interchanged, in the field. Hmmm... I've got a takedown BSA Martini Cadet action. Or, what about my High Wall Winder Takedown Musket? Perhaps based on a T/C Contender?
Nope, to all of those. Instead, I'm going to build it on a new USRAC/Miroku Winchester Low Wall rimfire action. Modern metallurgy, lots of 'em around, won't offend any collector's sensibilities... and just much more aesthetically pleasing than the butt-heavy, hard-to-open Contender. Smooth the action so it cycles like ice sliding over ice. Tune the trigger to a crisp 2.5 lbs. Lighten the hammer and stiffen the mainspring to decrease lock time. A beautiful feather crotch walnut stock and forend, half-octagon barrels, and a Leupold 6.5x20 EFR scope to top it off. Then, it must be decorated with the appropriate talismans. A starling peering into a nesting box. A squirrel scrunched up in the crook of a tree branch. A perched cawing crow. Each vignette surrounded by oak leaf scroll. I had better stop now before I am completely overtaken by lust.
Forget the 72 virgins, Mohammed. My paradise would be twenty acres in the country (east Texas, or northern Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama), with a fishing pond loaded with bream and bass, and an upstairs library/office with a high ceiling and ceiling fan, and a balcony facing north where the shooting light is always good, overlooking oaks or pecans and a safe backstop, where the starlings and crows would alight unsuspectingly. It needs to be near state or federal land for more hunting opportunities, and put a small airport within 10 miles, so I could fly my plane to and from the big city as necessary.
And I'd have the perfect rifle. Hey, a man can dream, can't he?
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