Defending livestock with a firearm

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by jgconnor, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. jgconnor

    jgconnor In the Brooder

    I am a nationally certified firearms instructor and I teach many courses, including "In Home Self Defense". I certainly understand that defending livestock against predation is very different from defending yourself and your family from intrusion and/or assault.

    Some principles applied to self defense, however, can be applied to defending your animals. If I may, I'd like to share some techniques and tactics on how to deal with a predator using a firearm.

    "Telegraphing" is the display or communication to the adversary of your presence and/or intentions. When your adversary becomes aware of you and your intention to confront, you immediately loose your advantage of the element of surprise. This is critical when dealing with predators because animals do not have the ability to reason. When a predator becomes aware of the presence of what they instinctively know as a threat, they react in defense by running to escape.

    If you decide to use deadly force to protect your livestock, be prepared to do so with very little time to react. When you become aware of an attack, you may have only seconds to react. You will NOT have time to look for your gun.

    Find a place in your home to stage a firearm where you will be able to get to it in short order. Hold a meeting with all residents of the household, communicate your plan to all concerned and BE ABSOLUTELY SURE that EVERYONE completely understands the plan. If there are children in the home that are too young to understand the dangers of improperly handled firearms, BY ALL MEANS, take this into account concerning your plan and deal with this accordingly. If you are unsure of how to do this, contact me by email or my website and I will do my best to assist you in developing a plan. SAFETY WITH FIREARMS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL!!


    There are many variables that may affect the decision you make concerning the type of firearm you decide to use. Your proximity to other residences, local ordinances and even your ability to deal with recoil may all have a bearing on your decision. If you are able to choose what you want, a shotgun is, by far, the best choice.
    The shot column from a shotgun does not carry nearly as far as a projectile from a handgun or rifle. Because the pattern of shot spreads as it goes down range, the chance of hitting the target from a distance is improved. A shotgun shoots a cluster of pellets as opposed to a single projectile from a handgun or rifle. Imagine the difference between throwing a hand full of gravel versus a single stone.
    If you decide to use a handgun or rifle, you need to understand that power is not the deciding factor. Your accuracy with the firearm is much more important. Predators as large as large dogs can be efficiently dispatched with a firearm as small as a .22 long rifle. If you feel that you are not proficient with your firearm, find a place to legally use it and practice.


    If you decide to use a shotgun, number 4 buckshot is the best choice for dispatching predators. You may think this is quite severe, but #4 buckshot pellets are only 1/4 of an inch in diameter. Also, because this size is relatively small concerning buckshot, there are many more pellets in a shell than the larger sizes. This gives you a much better chance of making the first shot successful. #4 buckshot can be found for gauges as small as 28 and up to as large as 10. Make sure you specify BUCKSHOT if you need help in finding your choice. There is a #4 small shot and it is different. If you have a .410 shotgun, look for number 4 or BB size shot. BB size may be quite hard to find but #4 is quite common.
    If you decide on a rifle, the .22 caliber rimfire is quite popular, relatively inexpensive and cartridges are available in different power levels. The Long Rifle size is powerful enough to stop an animal as large as a large dog, but the lower power cartridges can be used successfully if the shot is properly placed.


    You will hear many people say "Shoot for the head!". If you are an accomplished shooter and can hit a target as small as a golf ball from a reasonable distance, yes, the head is the best kill zone. When you shut down the entire nervous system, everything comes to a grinding halt. However, if you wound the animal, you may have a very serious situation on your hands. Wounded animals quite often go from defensive to offensive mode. The last thing you need at that critical moment is to find the animal charging you. This needs to be taken very seriously. A wounded animal as small as a raccoon can cause extremely serious injuries, not to mention the possibility of being infected by rabies.
    The best tactic is to first demobilize the target. If you eliminate the target's ambulatory abilities, it cannot charge. The best place to hit an animal to accomplish this is in the shoulder. It has been proven time after time by many hunters that an injured animal can still move. However, if you damage or destroy the shoulders, the animal will no longer be able to move. I myself have seen many animals run off after being hit as long as the shoulders are not injured.
    Shoot for the joint where the upper leg connects to the shoulder. The object is to disable the animal's ability to use or walk on it's front legs. Once you eliminate that ability, you can proceed to completely dispatch the target if that is still necessary after the first shot.


    At the instant you become aware of an attack, IMMEDIATELY ACCOUNT FOR THE WHEREABOUTS of all residents and any guests that might be on the premises. It is absolutely critical that this is done FIRST!. Once you know that all personnel are accounted for and in a safe location(out of the line of fire!), you may proceed with your plan of defense. If you discover that someone is outside in the vicinity of the livestock, QUIETLY tell them to return to INSIDE the house IMMEDIATELY. If they question your request, tell them simply "This is an emergency. Get inside NOW!".

    Announce to anyone that is not already aware that there is an attack in progress and that you are going to use a firearm. Make sure everyone understands that they are to remain where they are until you announce that the situation is has been dealt with and the firearm has been restored to it's storage location. Acquire your firearm, chamber a round and IMMEDIATELY ACTIVATE THE SAFETY! It is human nature that you may become nervous. This is not the time to be handling a loaded firearm with a disengaged safety.

    DO NOT TURN ON OUTSIDE LIGHTS IMMEDIATELY. This is the fastest way to telegraph your presence and intentions. If it is at all possible, determine the situation without the use of lights. If that is not possible, the use of lights will be required for you to proceed.

    Check the area of your livestock for visual and/or audible evidence of what is going on. Try to determine the location of the predator. BEFORE YOU PREPARE TO FIRE, make sure there is nothing behind your target that can be injured or damaged by gunfire. You have no idea how much property is damaged or destroyed or how many people are injured or killed by careless shooting.

    When you have POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED your target and you are sure it is safe to fire, Bring your firearm into shooting position, acquire your target and SQUEEZE the trigger. Jerking the trigger only disrupts your aim and results in a missed shot. You may only get one chance.

    If you are successful in eliminating the threat, IMMEDIATELY activate the safety on the firearm. Your senses and adrenalin will still be at maximum level at this time and the chance of an unintentional discharge is very high. NEVER leave a loaded firearm unattended! If you find it necessary to be hands free, return the firearm to it's safe storage location or hand it to an adult THAT IS FAMILIAR WITH IT. NEVER hand a firearm to a child or untrained person.

    If you are not successful in eliminating the threat with your first shot, the likelihood of a second chance is slim, but not altogether impossible. If you miss your target completely, it may be necessary to allow the target to retreat. Shooting at a moving target under the circumstances could prove to be very difficult as well as very dangerous. If you feel that you are able to acquire the target again with all assurance that it is still safe to fire, do so quickly. Animals that are being shot at go into high gear and tend to vacate rapidly.

    If you feel that you have eliminated the threat, CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY approach the target to determine that it has been COMPLETELY eliminated. This is a critical time. Be prepared to fire again or retreat, depending on what you determine. NEVER ASSUME that the threat is eliminated until you are ABSOLUTELY SURE. A wounded animal can be extremely dangerous.

    Once you have the situation completely under control, IMMEDIATELY remove any remaining live ammunition from the chamber and return the firearm to it's safe storage location. Do not allow anyone to approach the eliminated target. You should immediately take steps to contain the target and dispose of it before allowing anyone to approach. Never touch or allow anyone to touch the eliminated target with bare hands. The remains may be infected with rabies.
    Use gloves to handle the remains and wash your hands and lower arms thoroughly after disposal. Use a strong soap and hot water solution to do so. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a cleanser, NOT a disinfectant. Liquid dish soap, however, will kill most common bacteria.

    If you feel it necessary to notify any authorities of the incident, do so at your own discretion. I will not suggest that you do or do not. This is a decision you will have to make.

    Read, study and communicate with others that have experience and/or knowledge in defending livestock with deadly force. Develop a plan that best suits your situation and communicate with members of your household. It is NOT silly to hold a drill. If you decide to hold a drill, do so with your firearm UNLOADED.

    If I can be of assistance in helping you with this subject or any subject concerning firearms, please contact me. I will be happy to help you as best I can.

    Thank you for allowing me to share with you!

  2. Ibicella

    Ibicella Songster

    Nov 13, 2009
    Everett, WA
    Thank you for posting! We have a lot of new gun owners here, including myself. I haven't been able to start my collection yet, but definitely a .22 is first on the list.

    It was recommended to me that I also get an over-under of some kind. What is your opinion of this?
  3. bakerjw

    bakerjw Songster

    Apr 14, 2010
    Johnson City, Tn
    A good write up for people unfamiliar with having a plan on dealing with firearms and predators.

    The only things that I can add would be addressing muzzle control i.e. keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and never sweeping it past people. And Keep your finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot.

    Still a good write up.
  4. jgconnor

    jgconnor In the Brooder

    Quote:Over-under shotguns are generally used for competition skeet shooting and are usually more expensive than other types. There are over-unders with single triggers and selector levers on the top to choose the barrel to be fired. This can be complicated and confusing for a new shooter. That's NOT what you need in a high adrenalin situation. My suggestion would be buy a single barrel, a side by side double barrel or a pump action type. All of these are easy to learn to operate, the single barrel being the easiest to master and the pump action being the most complicated of the three I listed. There is also an automatic shotgun, meaning it reloads itself after every shot. I would not recommend that for a beginner.

  5. jgconnor

    jgconnor In the Brooder

    Quote:Thank you for the compliment. Firearm safety is most certainly a very serious topic that needs to be covered. I did not bring that up because of the time and space that would be required to cover this extensive subject. I suggest that anyone that purchases or owns a firearm that they are not comfortable and/or confident with should seek out training from a competent and qualified instructor.
  6. Great points, I'll try them next time. [​IMG] Now I only use rule #2..... be prepared


  7. jgconnor

    jgconnor In the Brooder

    Nice rifle, Steve!
    Rule numbers 2 and 3 should be one time applications. Rule number 1 should be employed every time.

    Drop by my site and shoot me an email. I'd like to discuss your rifle and choice of ammunition.

    Shoot safely!

  8. mmpb1

    mmpb1 In the Brooder

    Feb 10, 2010
    Great post JG- my favorite varmint weapon is a .410 that I bought many years ago for $10.00. The single shot .17 my husband bought for "my birthday", not so much. You give great advise. My daughter and grandsons are hunters and respect the weapons they use. Please keep sharing your knowledge.
  9. Quote:Sure thing Jim [​IMG]


  10. 33yardbirds

    33yardbirds Songster

    Jun 15, 2010
    Southern New Jersey
    Since I watch my Grandson 3-4 days a wk all my guns are locked in the safe along with ammo. I have introduced him to the .22 rifle, of course with no ammo. When he goes home out comes the scatter gun packed with #4 Buck Shot. A load that has served me well for night preds from cats to coyotes.

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