THE OLD SAYING that foxes are sly is not a misnomer.
Red foxes, in particular, are crafty, patient and persistent and when left unchecked can wreak havoc on farms.
“The foxes will come in and start taking out my chickens and ducks and then we start noticing our swamp rabbits on the property disappearing,” said Josh Slone of Deweyville.
“That’s why we always do our best to manage them with a little predator calling-which is effective and fun.”
The Slones’ property near the Sabine River is inhabited and visited by everything from foxes to coyotes and mink and many other varmints.
“Hunting varmints is part of what we have to do to manage not only our farm but the deer lease we manage as well. And it’s great off-season fun for me, my son and family.”
Most animals considered varmints in Texas fall under the category of “fur-bearing animals”.
According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials, a person who possesses a hunting license may take a fur-bearing animal (furbearer), provided the furbearer (or any part thereof) is not to be sold or exchanged for anything of value.
“There is no bag or possession limit on furbearers.”
Legally-defined furbearers are badger, beaver, fox, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, otter, skunk and ring-tailed cat.
The CZ 457 Varmint Precision Chassis comes in .22 LR and pairs heavy-barreled 457 action with an aluminum chassis of CZ’s design.
Equipped with an adjustable Luth-AR stock, an AR-style grip, QD sling sockets and plenty of M-LOK slots, proper fit and customization are easy to accomplish for those hunters wanting to make precision shots at varmints.
For most varmints a well-placed shot from a .22 LR is effective and being cheap to shoot and essentially recoil free is a great way to get kids involvement in hunting and managing game and stock.
“We always keep a .22 LR around for varmints and have drawn down on many coons, foxes and other critters trying to take our animals,” Slone said.
CZ officials said they have made some modifications to the Varmint Precision Chassis that make it even safer for the young and young at heart.
“If we were to pick one thing that our previous rimfire platforms were lacking, it was an American-style push-to-fire safety — something Hunter’s Education instructors and 4-H shooting coaches have begged us to incorporate for years.”
Squirrels are a highly sought after game animal in East Texas with a long fall season and a May 1-31 spring season. In most other counties, there is a year-round squirrel season with no seasons or bag limits and many hunting opportunities.
Squirrels are a nuisance around pecan farms where they cause major damage and many property owners welcome hunters to thin the population. The Varmint Precision Chassis gives hunters a truly precision tool to take out spooky squirrels in often open terrain where shotguns can limit success.
Another class of varmint in Texas is “nongame animals”. A hunting license is required for the taking of nongame species. There are no closed seasons, bag limits or possession limits; and, they may be hunted at any time by any lawful means or methods on private property.
These include coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, armadillos, porcupines and prairie dogs.
“There are lots of opportunities to take varmints and not only help out a farm like ours but a place like our deer lease where we hunt whitetail.
Coyotes can have an impact and then when you think about wild turkeys that are coming back in the Pineywoods thanks to TPWD and the National Wild Turkey Federation you have to look at the impact of predators there too,” Slone said.
According to Kip Adams, a wildlife biologist with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), a significant decline in fawn survival has occurred in the last 15 years.
“Overall, fawn recruitment rates have declined from an average of 0.81 fawns/doe in the U.S. in 2000 to 0.58 fawns/doe in 2015. That’s significant,” he said.
As of 2015, the Northeast U.S. averaged 0.48 fawns/doe, the Southeast averaged 0.50 fawns/doe, and the Midwest averaged 0.82 fawns/doe.
“I believe the main cause is increased predation on fawns,” Adams said.
“Deer herds with high fawn recruitment rates are very resilient to severe weather, disease outbreaks, and over-harvest. This provides a nice buffer in deer management programs. Significantly reduced fawn recruitment rates remove this buffer and make deer herds more vulnerable to the above factors.”
A 2007 Texas A&M study showed significant damage to wild turkey nests by varmints when setting remote cameras on turkey nests.
“We found that 19 of 22 (86%) wild turkey nests with cameras failed as compared to 17 of 20 (85%) wild turkey nests without cameras in the Edwards Plateau study area and 4 of 5 (80%) wild turkey nests in the South Texas Plains.”
“The most common nest predators photographed in the Edwards Plateau study were common ravens, raccoons, and feral hogs, in that order, and each predator species had a different preference for particular nest types.
The most common nest predators photographed in the South Texas Plains study were green jays, crested caracaras, and armadillos.”
While the birds are off the list for predator control considerations, the rest are not.
And while predator control is not the be-all-end-all of wildlife management, it does have a role and is a choice individual hunters, landowners and wildlife managers have to make.
It can also be fun.
Noted wildlife photographer Gerald Burleigh has been involved heavily in hog and predator management on an Upper Coast ranch for five years and said it has revitalized a love of hunting.
“Varmint hunting keeps you in practice and is a great reason to stay out in the wild hunting, shooting and enjoying life,” he said.
Burleigh who has trapped and shot more than 500 hogs on that property and has taken everything from melanistic (black) coyotes to bobcats said it reminds him of having to keep predators in check on the farm he grew up on.
“All of these animals have a place in our ecosystem but we have to manage them properly and varmint hunting is a fun way to do that and in Texas, we can do it 365 days a year.”
“How fun is that?”
PRECISION RIMFIRE rifle competitions have been gaining steam in the last few years and CZ rifles have been go-to equipment for the sport.
Expanding on their premium offerings, the Varmint Precision Chassis pairs our heavy-barreled 457 action with an aluminum chassis of their design. Equipped with an adjustable Luth-AR stock, an AR-style grip, QD sling sockets and plenty of M-LOK slots, proper fit and customization are easy to accomplish.
CZ officials took the opportunity to tweak a load of small things at the same time. In addition to the receiver-mounted, push-to-fire safety, they chopped almost an inch of length from the action and slab-sided it to reduce its footprint and weight.
To make scope fitment easier, they ditched the 90° bolt rotation in favor of 60°, allowing for larger ocular bell diameters with lower ring heights. To top it all off, the 457 now features a trigger adjustable for weight, creep and over-travel.
With the same swappable barrel system as the 455 and the same reliable polymer magazine system, the 457 is without a doubt the best rimfire platform CZ has ever fielded.
—story by TF&G STAFF REPORT