Ohio native Americans called him the “little bear”, and relished his rich meat.  Many a young Huron and Sandusky made his first kill on a groundhog, and not only was the hand of man turned against this stocky creature, but bears, cougars, wolves, and coyotes ate them at every opportunity.  The only animals that survived to breed and produce offspring were the smartest, sharpest eyed, and wariest.

Life got a little better for Buckeye woodchucks when pioneers cleared the forest and killed off most of the predators, but they were still hunted hard.  When I was a kid in the hills of southern Ohio, a chuck moved in under one of our outbuildings, and word got around within hours. A neighbor was sitting close by that same day waiting for him to emerge and greet a .22 bullet.  “It was great.” I was told.  “Ma slow baked him in a little water with potatoes, onions, and carrots.  That was good eating.”

People still hunt woodchucks today, and a few eat them, but with untold acres of soybeans and hayfields, protected fencerows and woodpiles their numbers have multiplied to everyone’s regret.  Personally, I rank groundhogs with rats and cockroaches, mostly because they drive me nuts.  Two weeks ago one came into my dirt floored garage and wrecked havoc.  It dug holes all over the west side, working so powerfully that it half buried two push mowers, but I never saw the animal. 

Like its ancestors it ghosted in, dug more holes, and disappeared.  I even took a ground stand in pine branches, but it detected me somehow.  Finally, I did see the animal, gave it a No. 4 turkey load and was so angry that I gave it another just for luck.  I was tempted to jump up and down on its furry carcass, but didn’t.  And a farmer I talked to a few days ago said “I just hate groundhogs.”

Since most farmers feel the same way, hunting chucks offers an opportunity to find new deer and wild turkey spots for the upcoming seasons.  Most landowners will say “Sure” if you ask to hunt the pests, and if you kill some, putting money in his pocket from soybeans and hay that groundhogs won’t be eating, he’s more likely to let you hunt other game.

They’re good practice, too.  Hunt them with what you normally seek deer with, be it a shotgun, bow, or crossbow, and when you can consistently bag the “little bear” you’re good enough at stalking and shooting to consistently take bigger game.  Bow hunters particularly, will need to get inside 30 yards to make a kill, and anybody that can reach that range on a wary  chuck will have little trouble filling his deer tag.

It goes without saying that you’ll need camouflage clothing, soft shoes, and plenty of practice and patience to bag chucks, but there are hundreds out there to practice on.  And here’s a final thought.  Some hunters like the challenge of making the really long shots on foraging groundhogs.  They’ll carry scoped, flat shooting rifles and range finders and try for chucks that are so far away they’re invisible to the naked eye.  Local groundhog guide Mike Groff  has had clients make 700 yard shots, even more, the length of seven football fields!  “It’s like sinking a 20 foot putt.” he said.  “Tough, but it can be done.”

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