Shooting Chucks Can Be Challenging

 

Written by Dick Martin, Mansfield News Journal

 

In the world of gun sports, there seems to be three types of individuals.  Hunters are one, shooters another, and a very few are both.

 

Mike Groff, who works at Grahams Auto Mall in Mansfield, is both.  I’ve known Mike for several years, and he has told me more than once about making shots at woodchucks from over 600 yards away.  I’ve always wanted to try that brand of shooting, and last Wednesday I did.

 

We met at a gas station south of Mansfield, and headed for territory between Butler and Jelloway, and a few of 24 farms that Groff has hunted for up to 30 years.  He knows the landowners well, keeps their groundhogs trimmed, and they’re happy to let him shoot all he wishes.

 

Another top shooter, Tom Teeter, who works at Armco Steel, came along too, and by 5:30 p.m., we were glassing an alfalfa field that usually had a chuck or two.  It had one this time, a heavy adult that was down at the far end filling his stomach on hay.

 

Groff set up one of his two rifles with sandbags, checked the range (326 yards), and turned the rifle, a custom made Gibbs that weighs 44 pounds, has a 2-ounce trigger pull with Stole action, and a 16-power inertial scope, over to me.

 

I lined up on the animal, touched the trigger and dropped him, the longest shot I’ve ever made.  But with that rifle, it was easy.

 

“I love making long shots,” Groff said as we went to retrieve my woodchuck.  “It’s challenging, like sinking a 30-foot putt, and great practice for fall hunts when I go after caribou or elk, Wyoming antelope or Colorado deer.

 

“Usually, I shoot chucks with my .270 Weatherby magnum, 6x scope, and 130 grain Sierra handloads, because that’s what I hunt with.  If I can hit a chuck at 600-plus yards, the bigger animals are no problem.”

 

We drove to the next field, crossed a creek that ran below a high-rising hill of alfalfa, and almost immediately spotted a woodchuck feeding.  It spooked before we had time to set up, but another showed almost on the hilltop, and Teeter took the shot.  It was 567 yards away, according to the Bushnell rangefinder, and he literally parted its hair, missing by a couple of inches.

 

At the third field, I finally saw one of Groff’s “Super Shots”.  The binocular turned up one feeding far across the valley below, and up the other hillside past three large strips of field corn, with grass between.  Above the final strip was meadow to the top of a tree line, and the chuck was just outside that tree line.

 

It was 636 yards and Groff missed by inches the first time, probably due to wind drift.  But the surprised chuck saw no danger, heard no close sound, and stayed put.  On the second try he shot him, and I still can’t believe it.  We bagged more chucks at various ranges, and Groff noted that October is peak month for these animals.  The beans are off, the hay is short, and the animals totally exposed.

 

“It’s not unusual to see 30 to 40 a day then,” he said.  “And you can get in lots of long shots.”

 

Teeter agreed, and added: “Mike introduced me to this sport in 1978, and I’ve been shooting chucks ever since.  It’s fun, exciting, and challenging, and like he said, good practice for when I head west on elk hunts or whatever.”

 

Both men made it clear that rifle hunting for groundhogs is ideal for introducing kids to the shooting/hunting sports:  something that provides steady reinforcement and teaches basic skills.  Groff has taken out a number of youngsters down to age 8, and they’ve made hits.

 

He’s also wondering if other outdoorsmen might be interested in guided hunts for chucks.  He’ll provide the rifle and ammunition, or hunters can use their own, and take gunners on half day or full day trips for reasonable prices.  It this perks your interest, give Mike Groff a call at 756-1640, and learn what it’s like to drop a woodchuck that you can’t even see with the naked eye.