Hooty and Rattler….

Farmers and gardeners have been doing this since the beginning of time. Hunters have enjoyed many successful days afield or on some cold body of water using the technique in a slightly different way. I am speaking of the decoy. My favorite turkey decoy is a Flambeau collapsible hen that fits nicely in a pocket and is secured on a metal stake, designed in such a way that any breeze will cause it to move ever so slightly, thus sealing the fate of an errant, randy tom turkey on the prowl. Our conservation agents have used a tattered old deer mount, shot through by lazy road hunters, to bag game of another description commonly referred to as poachers. This line of reasoning led me to what has so far been a very rewarding association with a pair of characters that I have named Hooty and Rattler. Here is the story.

We were a little behind schedule this spring when I made the trip to our RV storage area to retrieve the TazMaHaul for our first trip of the season. As I backed under the hitch, I noticed that a careless bird had failed to exercise a reasonable degree of hygiene, thus depositing what appeared to be a quart of waste on the front of the shiny, aluminum surface. No problem, I intended to power wash the winter’s dust and film from it anyway. When I got it home, I hooked up the washer and climbed a step ladder to begin the rinse. It must be the white, enamel paint they put on the top of these things. The birds had begun coating the top of the RV with droppings and started a nest in each of the air conditioning units. A shaky hour or so later, I had removed the evidence of their presence, not without an occasional oath, mind you. Something had to be done, as fully enclosed storage is rare in Springfield. I was fortunate enough to secure covered storage, close to home.

The owner of the storage facility had hung an occasional plastic owl from the corners of the covered areas, but they were not having much of an effect and I knew that I would have to do better. I started shopping, with Amazon being the source of my inspiration. A couple of days later the UPS guy delivered Rattler, a rubber snake that must invoke terror in the birds, even though in appearance he does not live up to his colorful name. In fact, he resembles no snake that I have ever seen, but I love him anyhow. His curly tail drapes nicely over some feature on the roof of the trailer, looking very much like he is on the hunt for a careless feathered, flying sewer system. I knew it would not be enough though, as his area of operation was 28′ long and the protrusions on the roof would conceal him from birds flying a left pattern onto the roof. I then began looking for an owl with something extra. It was love at first sight. Hooty was sitting quietly in a local hardware store, his carefully balanced head slowly undulating in the breeze from a ceiling fan, looking very much like the real thing. I mounted Hooty on a board for stability, located a cheap rubber mat, and immediately pressed him into service.

The pictures with this piece tell the story. Our unit is parked next to a nearly identical unit just a few feet away. You can see the disaster that is awaiting our neighboring owner when he retrieves his trailer. It is important to note that both trailers had not been heavily targeted when I first noted the problem with birds. I had posted Hooty and Rattler upon returning from a short venture and the birds then double downed on our neighbor and have stayed away from my team. As recommended by folks who know, I slip out to the storage area and move my team around every week or so, thus creating the illusion of sentries on patrol. We have enjoyed success with this approach. I am convinced the softly floating head of Hooty is disconcerting to even the cleverest of birds, thus enhancing his effectiveness. I intend to procure yet another snake to complete my team, probably one that is a bit longer. I’ll likely name him after another fearsome reptile, perhaps Cobra or Copperhead.

As a side note, another RV owner had noticed Rattler and laughingly suggested it had scared the daylights out of him. He appears to be a sharp guy and his experience only confirms the effectiveness of a well placed team of decoys. Scared is what I want!

If my ruse fails to impress over time, I intend to secure a mannequin, dress him appropriately and pose him on the roof of my unit! I’ll put a little signage up, as I doubt everyone will see the humor in my ongoing battle with the feathered poop meisters!

It is on my feathered friends…….round two!

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