As I have been driving down the rural county roads, I have been noticing that the local groundhog population seems to be bouncing back and now is a perfect time to be out hunting them. The late planting season this year has extended the ability to hunt them since the soybeans aren’t very tall yet and that makes them easier to locate.
Many summer evenings of my youth were spent hunting down these crop eating rodents. I enjoyed doing it and Dad was happy every time I shot one in his bean or hay fields. I am convinced that most of my stealth turkey hunting skills were from years of hunting groundhogs as a kid because I didn’t hunt them with a rifle. I hunted them with a shotgun.
Hunting with a shotgun increased the challenge as I had to get much closer to them to be in range compared to using a rifle. Using a shotgun forced me to learn how to use the terrain to conceal me as I put a stalk on one. It also taught me how to move as silently as possible and most importantly, it taught me patience. Hunting these guys is pretty easy and low cost.
All you need is your choice of weapon, binoculars or a good scope, a bottle of water, and some bug spray. Evenings seem to be best time to be out. Young soybean fields and newly baled hayfields are the best places to find them. Once one is spotted, put on a good old fashioned sneak to get into range of your rifle or gun.
Don’t be deterred if they run into their hole. If you are patient enough, they will come back out shortly as their appetite usually overrides their brains. I have shot many of ground hogs right next to their hole as they popped back out to see if the coast was clear. I always tried to sneak up on them while they were busy feeding and if one rose up on his hind legs, I became solid as a statue as I knew it was getting nervous. I’d wait until they went back to feeding before creeping towards them again.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you shoot one out of tree or on top of an old fence post, either. They are members of the squirrel family after all. These critters are better climbers than you might imagine. As always, be safe and no what’s behind your target especially if using a high powered rifle.
• The Conservation Reserve Program is an important tool for cleaning water, reducing soil erosion and increasing wildlife habitat nationally and in Ohio. Ohio lost almost 90 square miles of CRP acres after the previous Farm Bill expired in 2012. The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill opened continuous CRP enrollment on June 9. Ohioans now have the chance to enroll essential habitat in CRP.
CRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency and provides incentives to farmers who plant natural vegetation to reduce soil erosion, prevent nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from entering streams and lakes, and increase wildlife habitat. Land enrolled in CRP provides essential habitat for popular wildlife species like northern bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasants, waterfowl and wild turkeys.
The CRP program began in 1985. Ohio CRP enrollment includes the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, the Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds (CP-33), the Pollinator Habitat (CP-42) and other practices. Landowners who are interested in learning more can contact an ODNR Division of Wildlife private lands biologist or a local Farm Services Agency office. More than 12,000 acres of CRP in Ohio are set to expire in 2014.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!