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Varmint Hunting: How to Call Ground Squirrels

Andrew McKean Avatar

I’m a skeptic, so when I saw a gopher whistle for sale at my sporting goods store, I snorted. But I was intrigued enough by the promise of killing more ground squirrels that I bought it.

Pied Piping
To operate the Varmint Call, a machined aluminum tube made by King Tool of Bozeman, Mont. ($15; ­king-​, suck air through the brass mouthpiece. It supposedly imitates the “all-clear” call sounded by gophers and Columbia ground squirrels. Really? In my experience, high-pitched whistles remind ground-dwelling rodents of raptors, and the sound sends them scurrying to their burrows. I decided to test its efficacy over the course of several ­gopher-​shooting sessions last spring.
Field Tested**
I established the same pattern: I shot until the easy squirrels were dead and the survivors were wary. Then I sounded the call for varying durations.

The call worked wondrously on calm, overcast days, bringing rifle-shy gophers into the open. On windy or sunny days, the call had the opposite effect, putting dogs down. My most revealing result: I got the same sound by blowing across the mouth of a spent .22 shell.