NBS Outdoor Fall Issue 2020

Gunning for Groundhogs. I started hunting groundhogs as a kid, ambushing them as they raided the family garden patch. After moving to town in my senior year of high school I didn’t have the need or opportunity until years later when I moved back to the country. I’ve since found myself back at it, and find the pursuit just as fun and challenging as ever. Most states consider groundhogs pests or varmints, so they allow hunters to target them year-round without bag limits and, in most jurisdictions, without a hunting license. Since legal hunting options are slim in late summer and early fall, groundhogs fill a void and give hunters an opportunity to hone their marksmanship skills. Most groundhogs are about 16 to 20 inches tall, including the tail, when sitting. Targeting groundhogs as they scurry from burrows to feeding sites, their bodies hugging

hunting pressure, they’ve learned to adapt. In areas with light hunting pressure, you can reasonably make close shots of 30 to 50 yards. Where hunting pressure is high you may be challenged to make 100- to 200-yard shots. In either case, the sight of a human typically sends them diving for their holes. I’ve learned to hunt them with the same respect I do whitetails and turkeys: I dress in full camo, carefully glass an area before entering it, and once I spot a groundhog or burrow, I make a Active burrows are typically located on high, dry ground or next to cover. When you’re scouting, walk along shaded field edges and hedge rows to reduce the odds you’ll be spotted. When you finally set up to hunt, take advantage of shaded locations and choose a spot with cover in front to obscure your presence. A shooting bipod or shooting stick is helpful to stabilize your shots. You’ll usually only get one chance to pull the trigger; make it count! The reason you’ll only get one shot is that groundhogs seem to have unusually good recall or, at the very least, they’re overly cautious — especially if they see you. When they do, they’ll typically make a mad dash for their hole. Often, they’ll pause before they dive into their safety zone — as if they’re getting a final fix on your location. Instead of firing off a last-minute pot shot as you may be tempted to do, a better strategy is to wait them out. During prime feeding periods, groundhogs will emerge quickly, often within half an hour. When they do, they will do so very cautiously. The first place they’ll look is the spot you were at when they dove into their hole. As you’re waiting them out, change location, ideally move 180 degrees to the left or right (again choosing a shady stealthy approach hiding in shadows and natural cover.

“ Groundhogs are diurnal, meaning

the ground, provides a prime opportunity to hone your hunting and shooting skills. Hunting them regularly has definitely made me a more patient hunter and a better shot. Success depends on taking your time choosing and making your shots. Not only are groundhogs small targets to hit, they’re formidable adversaries. They have excellent eyesight and in areas with heavy they’re active during the day ... and they don’t require a relaible water source for survival... ”

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18 • NBS OUTDOOR • Fall 2020

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