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Prime time for groundhogs

By DICK MARTIN • Jun 16, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about groundhogs, pro or con.

With Norwalk area farmers, it's almost invariably con and therein lies an opportunity. Groundhogs or woodchucks have one track minds, and once they decide to dig a few holes under a barn, outbuilding, back porch, or garage, you simply cannot discourage them. And I should know because I've tried everything, including boxes of moth balls down their holes.

Last summer I killed four chucks that persisted in burrowing in my detached garage, animals that dugs with real abandon, once nearly burying my push mower under a mound of dirt. And I've seen barns and outbuildings that actually were tilting because so many groundhogs had made a home inside. So, it goes without saying that when you ask a landowner with a problem if you can shoot them, he's extremely likely to say "Yes."

And if you're a cautious, polite, and persistent hunter who at least partially solves his problem, when you go back this fall and ask about deer hunting or in spring about wild turkeys, he's likely to say "yes" then, too. So, chucks have a good side, for hunters, at least. Then, there's the old study that shows one groundhog eats an average of $50 worth of soybeans each year, so farmers who don't have a problem with barn chucks are still losing money and happy to have you kill them.

They're out there right now munching down rows of small, young, and tender soybeans, which makes now a good time to hunt them since they're highly visible in short foliage. Do the animals have other uses beside cementing farmer-hunter relations? Sure. They haven't survived in Ohio fields and woodlands by being stupid, and with cougars, bears, wolves, coyotes and native Americans seeking them constantly, survival of the fittest has made them super wary.

So, if you're looking to hone hunting skills for fall, try going after these sharp sighted and cautious animals with a bow. If you can bag some, you'll have little trouble with deer. Seek them with a hand gun too, which means shots of 30 yards or less. Even with full camouflage, this brand of hunting will test your skill. And if you're a target shooter, long, long shots can produce plenty of satisfaction. I know a professional groundhog hunter whose clients make shots out to 500, even 600 yards. If you can do this too, you've a good rifle and a good eye.

There are other uses for groundhogs. When I was a kid, a big one moved in under our pig pen, and I mentioned it to a neighbor. He picked up a rifle, headed for the pen, and two hours later I heard a shot, then saw him walking home carrying the animal. Next day I asked the man How he was.

"Mighty good," I was told. "Ma baked him slow with onions, potatoes, and carrots. Tasted just like prime pork."

Which is why some call them "groundhogs."

Obviously, many readers would not eat a young and tender this year’s fryer even if they found it at the golden arches listed as "McChuck" on the menu. But, if that's out, your dogs would love the meat and it saves on food bills. Some use tough old animals for turtle bait too, and I knew one old timer who filled a burlap bag with stones and cutup groundhogs, and tossed it in the Big Scioto River, then fished for catfish just below it. It sums up to lots of reasons to hunt these furry pests, and now is a good time to do it.

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Hooks & bullets

• Many readers like to visit South Bass Island via the Miller Ferry on the tip of Catawba Island. The company reports that it has done new construction on their Miller Marina A in Put-in-Bay. It is on Bayview Avenue, is family friendly, has a great view of the harbor, and a pavilion. Clubs and private boats are welcome for day and overnght dockage. They also noted that readers who check http://.millerferry.com can get an ideal view of the bay and Perry's Monument on their live cam.

• Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris is challenging families to put down their digital devices and get outside this summer to discover the joys of fishing. To help connect more kids to the great outdoors, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's is donating 50,000 rods and reels nationwide to nonprofit organizations. The nationwide movement, GoneFishing, will hold family friendly activities June 16 and 17 at shop locations cross North America. The closest, just a modest drive away, will be at the Cabela's located at 110 Cabela Blvd East in Dundee, Mich., just across the Michigan border. It will feature free Catch and Release Ponds, fishing seminars, a kids craft table, and more. For hours and details, visit Cabelas.com/GoneFishing

• Currently, 17.1 million women participate in recreational fishing, a number that continues to increase. To better meet the needs of this fast-growing segment and equip even more women to join the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation the RBFF has announced its list of Top Mom-Approved Places to Fish and Boat. This list is made for moms, by moms. In Ohio, the top mom-approved place to fish is listed as Mohican State Park.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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