The fall seasons are still months away and unless they want to seek wild hogs or coyotes whose fur isn't yet prime, there's really only one choice for reaching for the artillery. Luckily, it's a good choice. I've been hunting groundhogs (woodchucks) since I first carried a .22 which was many years ago, and down through the summer seasons since I've learned a good deal about the various ways of taking these persistent hole diggers and crop eaters. One is to seek them with a long range rifle.
Going hunting with a serious weapon is not only an excellent and challenging way to hunt chucks, but a lot of fun and a good way to spend some leisure hours. I've done more than one hunt with a local expert who specializes in shooting them at great distances! And I mean GREAT. He uses a rifle that weights over 20 pounds, has a scope made in Germany with amazing ocular powers, loads and tests constantly his own ammunition seeking the ultimate load, and has made shots many a time that passed 600 yards. That's the length of six football fields plus.
His standard technique is to go out to a likely field of alfalfa, clover, or soybeans if they're still small, places where he's had permission to hunt for long years from grateful farmers. He'll park his car in a likely spot, break out a spotting scope, place a sand bag on the hood, and settle down to glass the surrounding countryside, including nearby hills and valleys. When he spots a groundhog, he'll check wind direction, make an educated guess at where the bullet should go, and take his shot.
Downing a chuck so far away they can't even hear the rifle's report is a challenge, and he's always trying for even greater distances. I'm not in his league, but he allowed me to shoot his special rifle more than once, and I did make a shot that was my best ever. It was 380 yards. I missed a little on the first shot, and the chuck jumped when the dust puffed up nearby, but saw no danger. I adjusted, and got him on the second.
For what it's worth, I not only made my longest shot ever that summer, but the shortest, which was just three and a half feet. I made that shot at a groundhog who was busily digging under my back porch. I quietly lifted a window just above, reached out with a .22 revolver and solved his problem. Shooting groundhogs at great distances is not only a challenge that never seems to grow old, but is often useful in other ways.
Many of those landowners own good squirrel woods or prime deer and turkey acreage, and rarely let hunters walk their acres. But every chuck you shoot saves them at least $50 in lost crops, and when you return several times and bag a goodly number, they're a lot more likely to say "Yes" when you return in autumn and ask about more serious hunting. They might also have farm ponds or private lakes teeming with bass and bluegills, and you could gain access to these, too. It adds up to a great way to spend idle hours until fall. You'll gain expertise at long range shooting, help landowners get rid of crop eaters, and find new hunting grounds. Good reasons to hunt chucks this summer.
Dick Martin, a free-lance writer from Shelby, is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for more than 30 years. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• According to the Sportsmen's Alliance, language included in Ohio's two-year budget that would begin to fix a major shortfall in funding for conservation is one step closer to becoming law, as the Ohio Senate approved House Bill 166. Gov. Mike DeWine fulfilled his promise to Ohio sportsmen by including a major investment in hunting, fishing, and trapping programs when he introduced his budget earlier this year. The bill includes upgrades to shooting ranges, as well as boat access and fish hatcheries, all badly needed in the state.
• Anyone interested in learning about hunting or who would like to know more about public hunting opportunities is encouraged to attend a free informational program on Monday, July 15. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Sandusky County Sportsmen's Club located at 3950 Ohio 600, Gibsonburg. The program is free of charge and will cover hunting the most popular game species such as squirrel, waterfowl and deer. Experienced Division of Wildlife staff will share information on these topics and how to apply for controlled hunt opportunities. Questions regarding the program can be directed to 419-424-500.
• The Muskingum Watershed Conservation District is spending serious money to upgrade its various lake facilities. Among them are renovations at the main camp area at Charles Mill Lake. Once completed, 66 sites will have full hook-ups and 50 amp power service, plus a a new shower building with laundry facilities. Pleasant Hill Lake has construction underway on campsite areas A and B, and once completed will offer 46 campsites with full hook-ups, and a new playground.
• Anglers interested in learning the art of fly fishing and practicing their skills on a half-mile section of Cold Creek at the Castalia State Fish Hatchery in Erie County are encouraged to participate in the beginning fly-fishing clinics, which will take place Fridays from Aug. 30 through Sept. 20. In addition to fly-fishing instruction by Division of Wildlife staff and volunteers, attendees will be able to test their newly acquired skills by fishing for the abundant rainbow trout found in Cold Creek. Anglers may also encounter an occasional brown trout and brook trout. There are 80 slots available for the popular program. The sessions will be from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 30, Sept. 6, Sept. 13 and Sept. 20 at the hatchery, which is located off Ohio 269, near Castalia. The classes will be open for registration Monday. Participants can register at https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration/. Each person who registers may bring one guest to participate in the clinic. Anglers are encouraged to bring someone new to fishing, or someone who used to fish but has since lapsed. There are limited spots for each date and session, so act quickly to get your desired date and time slot. Anglers may only participate once in the beginning fly fishing classes as either a permit holder or guest. All anglers age 16 and older are required to have a valid Ohio fishing license. Funds generated from the sale of fishing licenses go toward conserving and restoring habitat, enforcement of fishing regulations, hatchery operations, fish stocking in public fishing areas, enhancement of research, and educational outreach. For more information on Ohio's fishery resources, visit wildohio.gov.
• Anyone interested in learning about the importance of native pollinators and how to create pollinator habitat is encouraged to attend a free informational workshop from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at the Sandusky River Coon Hunters’ clubhouse, 7575 South Township Road 131, Tiffin. It is free of charge, but preregistration is required by July 10, as space is limited. Interested individuals can register by contacting Christina Kuchle at 419-348-5073 or [email protected] Local professionals will cover topics including pollinator life histories, benefits, and ecology. Current issues facing pollinators and how to attract them to your property will also be addressed. After lunch, participants will take a tour of the Kildow Prairie property to get a firsthand look at a native prairie. The workshop will be held partially outdoors, and participants are encouraged to dress for the weather, including sturdy walking shoes. Binoculars, sunscreen or a hat, and bug spray are also recommended. For more information on Ohio’s pollinators and other native wildlife, visit wildohio.gov.