My living room opens a window of opportunity for urban wingshooting.
I spend the large part of my days sitting at the dining room table, working on my computer. For a retired guy like me, “working” could be anything from playing Spider Solitaire to watching baseball to cruising the Web to writing a blog post that maybe 18 people might read. Our spacious dining/living room is very well lit, thanks to a wall-to-wall, six-sliding-panel window that measures 7 by 20 feet.
My apartment is on the ninth floor, and the building across the street has only seven stories, which means I don't gaze out my window and look directly into somebody's den. Instead, I can observe the abundant bird life found in Copacabana. Scissortail hummingbirds, bananaquits and blue tanagers come to sip nectar from the feeder at our window, kiskadees shriek from rooftop antennas, and frigate birds spiral upward on thermals before gliding out to the Cagarras Islands.
And them freakin pigeons... sky carp... rats with wings... They're everywhere! Flying past my apartment like ornery pilots buzzing the tower, swarming around patrons' feet at the sidewalk restaurants, puffing their chests and cooing while dancing in circles on window ledges, and doing whatever else them freakin pigeons spend their days doing—all of which only serves to cheese me off.
Every time I notice a plump pigbird plop down on a perch, I think, “Dang! The Squirrel Eraser would love this target-rich environment.”
But my beloved Squirrel Eraser (a Marlin .17 HMR fitted with an Alpen 6-24x50 scope that drills targets out to 125 yards) is in the gun safe at a friend's hunting camp in South Carolina. Besides, no matter how carefully I chose my backdrops, the residents and police wouldn't take kindly to some nut blazing away with a rimfire rifle in a neighborhood where the population density is measured in people per square meter.
I had to find a way to show them freakin pigeons that I would no longer put up with their cheese-me-off antics. I also had to find a partner in crime because ALS has rendered my arms and legs nearly useless. My aide Luiz was the perfect candidate for the henchman job. Like me, he harbors no love for them freakin pigeons; when we're out, Luiz often steers my wheelchair toward birds on the sidewalk and accelerates.
So I bought a slingshot. Nothing fancy, just a handmade El Cheapo I saw in a crafts market. A few days later, while grocery shopping with Luiz, I asked him to buy peanuts.
“Peanuts?” he asked, knowing I have difficulty chewing them.
“We're gonna have a party,” I answered.
When we got home, I asked Luiz to open the peanuts and get the slingshot. He followed my gaze out the window and needed no further encouragement. A solitary pigeon loafed on the roof across the street. Estimated range: 35 yards.
Luiz nonchalantly slid open the window and pretended to check the weather. He was really guaging windage and looking around to make sure the coast was clear. “I feel like a sniper,” he said. “I don't want to give away my position.”
We had to keep our activities discreet. The building across the street is lower than ours, but it's flanked by taller ones. We sometimes see neighbors at their windows having a smoke; surely somebody would notice a guy leaning out with a slingshot at full draw. It would only take one grouch with no sense of humor to blow the whistle and force us to abort the mission.
Standing slightly back from the window for better concealment from prying eyes, Luiz loaded up and took aim.
Slingshots don't emit a muzzle flash, but they make a hell of a racket upon discharge. The pigeon didn't even blink. It smirked at us.
“Wide to the right,” Luiz said, keeping his eye on the target as he reloaded.
“Low and away.”
“To the right again.”
“Over his head.”
The startled bird leapt up, flew several feet, and settled on the roof again.
“That one hit right beside him,” Luiz reported.
After four more shots, Luiz came close again. Our quarry flapped away to safety.
Ha! We showed that freakin pigeon!
Twenty minutes later, a dozen birds milled about on the rooftop.
“What are they doing?” I asked.
Luiz glanced over. “Eating peanuts.”
CHOICE OF AMMUNITION
We knew coming into this assignment that peanuts would be lousy projectiles. Their aerodynamics, or lack thereof, cause them to veer at freaky angles, making each shot's trajectory impossible to predict. (I know, I know: What can you expect from a legume that ripens underground?)
Structural integrity/cohesiveness is another issue. Luiz watched a few peanuts, unable to withstand the G-force of a high-speed launch, burst into fragments as soon as they left the slingshot.
And even when they do hold together, peanuts don't have sufficient density to carry any significant energy downrange. In other words, they're too light to pack any kind of a wallop.
So why did I choose peanuts?
First of all, it is not our intent to kill pigeons, only harass them.
Flinging empty rum bottles at birds would probably upset the neighbors.
Biodegradable projectiles quickly vanish, leaving no evidence of our activities.
Errant peanuts won't shatter windows.
Evaluating the results of our initial barrage, we realized we had to find a better type of biodegradable, glass-friendly ammo to harass, not kill, them freakin pigeons.
Stay tuned, this battle ain't over yet.