Spring Time To Go Gunning For Groundhogs

Written by Dick Martin of the Mansfield News Journal April 16, 2000

It's officially spring. Daffodils and tulips are blooming, willows are sprouting catkins, and the
redbuds and dogwood are in full fig.

For some, that means fishing time. But for others, it's time to gather up the artillery and go
seeking early groundhogs. The reason?

There's no better season to hunt them than now – while grass is short, leaves mostly absent and
the stocky animals are highly visible.

Groundhogs – or woodchucks – have been hunted for a long time, which makes survivors smart
and unusually wary. They were here tens of thousands of years ago, but their numbers in Ohio
then were just a fraction of what they are today.

Most of the state was heavy forest, which offered little for woodchucks to forage, and they were
forced to live along stream banks, little meadows, and in bits of prairie. They were a favorite
food of bears, cougars, wolves, and Native Americans too, who savored their succulent flesh. So,
life always was tough for 'chucks in those days.

When Settlers came and cleared the land and grew a cornucopia of food items for foraging
groundhogs, their numbers jumped astonishingly. Today, there is hardly a farm that doesn't
have a few (or lots of them) along fence rows, outbuildings, hay fields, or soybean fringes. And
that means good hunting for area gunners.

One primary reason for hunting 'chucks is to hone shooting and stalking skills. If you like long-
range shooting, this is the sport for you.

Last summer, I hunted with Mansfield resident Mike Groff, a veteran long range 'chuck shooter,
and was first shot. It was 265 yards away and my animal dropped like a rock, although it wasn't
a great hit. I was shooting his "super rifle" from a sandbag on the truck hood, and a 10-year-old
could have turned that trick.

The rest of the trip was spent watching Mike and a partner make almost impossible shots of up
to 500 yards – even more – and that's real accuracy. Anyone can do it with almost any flat
shooting rifle, a .243, .270, .222, or whatever with a good scope and spotting gear that gives
accurate range.

Some like to take the sport even further by hand loading shells, experimenting with different
charges and bullets, working on windage and more. It's a challenge, and very exciting at times.

There are other ways to go, and one is to hunt them with a handgun. More and more gunners
are using handguns of various caliber for fall deer hunts, and too many don't really know what
their particular weapon will do.

Firing a couple of shots at a range isn't the answer, but a spring and summer spent hunting
'chucks with a handgun will tell exactly what that weapon will do at various ranges, hone
shooting skills and do even more for your stalking ability.

There's hunting with an ordinary .22 too, and because such a lightweight bullet demands fairly
close-range shots, this little rifle also will improve stalking skills. Or, you might go the route and
seek them with a bow – something several friends enjoy and I've tried, myself, more than once.

That's hunting as tough as you're likely to find, and my hat is off to anyone who can take as
many as two groundhogs a day with an arrow.

Again, 'chucks are found all over north central Ohio and elsewhere. Still, the country around
Butler, Bellville, Lexington, and thereabouts is tops.

There are huge hayfields here that allow long-range shooting, and farmers often are willing to
allow hunters to thin their groundhog supply.

But when you down some, don't just let them lay. Old 'chucks are rough enough to make great
snapping turtle bait, and the young ones can be skinned and fried just like chicken.

They have a taste reminiscent of pork, thus the name "groundhog." These creatures live on
alfalfa, clover, soybeans, and other greenery, which makes them clean-meated as well as tasty.
They are well worth bringing home.

For more information on guided groundhog hunts, Mike Groff can be reached at 419-756-1640.  His e-mail address is info@ncovarmintexpress.com.  Also visit www.ncovarmintexpress.com.