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Posts Tagged ‘still-hunting’


A flock of Red-winged blackbirds and a few European starlings were chanting and flying around from tree top to tree top, through the pine and cedar woods to the north. Then following a strong breeze that blew in from the west, they would fly over to the nearest barn, as if they were being scooped up by the wind. You could hear their claws gripping the aluminum sheets on the roof as they slipped down its side. And then down they went to the lower brush to the east changing direction in flight with incredible agility allowing them to land directly where there was grain spread out on the muddy ground.

It was a beautiful day out in the country and the temperature was at about sixteen degrees Celsius with a strong breeze coming in from the west bringing along with it some dark grey clouds, that would momentarily hide the sun. Once the clouds had passed you could feel the heat on your face again, the sky then had a light blue color to it. The change of colors in the fields as the clouds cleared was stunning with the sun breaking through and this is a very important time to try and spot game.

On the drive in to the farm, I had noticed quite a few groundhogs all along the highway on the earth mounds on each side of the road and in and around the barns scattered over the countryside. I knew that the “Siffleuse” were active. In Quebec groundhogs are also known as the “Marmotte Siffleuse” because it stomps its feet and whistles if you get too close or when danger lurks.

After having spent the most part of an hour talking to the farmer about the local news over a nice hot cup of coffee, I decided to sight in my rifle scope taking a few shots into a safe shooting pit using a target that I built using Styrofoam. Using a modified sighting technique similar to that which Stephen Archer demonstrates on his Internet instructional video. Now that my grouping was nice and tight, I was ready for the days hunt. The fact that there was no varmint activity beside the cluster of barns to the east, made me change my plan and move toward the larger field to the west staying close to the northern tree line.

The farm consisted of a total of six barns and the network of holes all around them including the very large rock pile to the east had seen no groundhog activity for the past few weeks.

So I set off and was still-hunting for about thirty minutes to the west, until I came up to the wired fence, so I unloaded my rifle, jumped over the small creek and then got down on one knee and lifted the wire with my left hand and pushed my unloaded rifle under the fence and then using my right hand I pushed myself underneath the wire to the other side making myself as low as could.

On the other side of the fence there was dark mixed forest vegetation in the shape of an island between the east and west fields. Immediately to my front was one of the largest hay fields split in two by a ravine and at its top there were clusters of rocks with a network of groundhog holes where I had harvested some varmint last summer.

I also remember seeing some groundhogs hidden on the tree line on the other side of the field toward the south. So, once I made it past the wired fence and stood up in a standing position, I started to still-hunt across the field, loaded my rifle and placed it on safe. About half way across the field I noticed the groundhog sun-bathing on one of the largest rocks on the south side of the tree line.

He was looking right at me and had a great field of view to the north. So, I crouched down and moved across the field in the low ground. At this point I was almost kneeling and it was hard work making it across the field without my head and shoulders going over the crest. I was studying the trees to see which one had the widest trunk, so that I could use it to close in. I found a tree just wide enough to conceal me from the groundhog and I was able to close the gap between us. I would stop quite frequently get down and move slightly to my right towards the west as I was now heading south and I could still see the varmint sun-bathing on the large boulder just inside the tree line.

Once I reached part of the distance for my shot and was just meters from the cluster of rocks, I placed my left hand on the damp ground and moved forward some more than placed the rifle stock using my right hand onto the ground ensuring my movement was stealthy. I then moved into the prone position and started inching forward using the leopard crawl, placing myself in the perfect shooting position.

My heart was racing for several minutes now and I was practically out of breath from all the movement across the field, meanwhile the whole time I was also watching out for the cattle herd and its large bull just over the crest of the ravine.

Now in position behind the rocks on the edge of the forest only twenty-one yards out with my T-Bolt stock and barrel facing the large boulder in the south. Even though I was in position, it did not feel quite right and I had to reposition myself without setting off the groundhog into a whistling alarm causing him to retreat into his den.

So, I moved back inching myself backward using my entire body, I was practically slithering almost lifting myself off the ground using my forearms and the ball of my feet and then moving myself forward back into what I thought was the best shooting prone position.

I started to take my deep breaths and hold my breathing for a few seconds and then release and then breathing in again, this way I was controlling my chest movements. I did this three more times and on the third breath I released half of the air and steadied the Browning T-Bolt like a solid rock.

Once I reconfirmed my cross hairs were perfectly lined up with the groundhog’s vitals, I slowly released the trigger with the tip of my finger and the shot rang out “Snap” then I heard the thump and the varmint tumbled off the boulder near its den entrance.

This was the first groundhog harvest of the season, within minutes of returning to the barn to show the farmer my harvest, all the cattle started moving toward the boulders and rock formation and soon the entire herd filled the western hay-field.

I know that cattle are naturally curious animals but I have never fully understood why the cows always come over to the spot where I just harvested my groundhogs as long as there is no obstacle preventing them from doing so.

It was a great day to be a Varminter indeed!

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Fresh dirt in front of the den

I slowly adjusted the diopter setting wheel on my Bushnell binoculars all the while taking in the heat from the engine on my chest and elbows. The driver side door was wide open and I had just come around the front and was now resting on top of the hood in order to stabilize my body providing me with a better focus base.

The weather network had predicted around three millimeters of rain but it never came, and although the sky had a slight overcast, it was still very clear. The temperature was at about twenty degrees Celsius above zero and every few minutes there was a very refreshing north-easterly breeze that swept across. This helped with the bugs but only for a short time; therefore I had also sprayed myself with some much-needed bug repellent.

I had a full panoramic view of the eastern hayfield which included its trees, the wired fence with its old wooden posts, and the dense brush on its south side. I started scanning the northern part of the field and then tediously moving my way to the right towards the southern edge, examining every dark object and anything that looked out of the ordinary.

It was now early in the afternoon and it would be feeding time soon for the woodchucks as they often feed on average about three to four times a day. An experienced varminter would focus on known openings of their dens looking for fresh dirt that had been pushed out from under their claws. This could be seen from quite a distance unless it was hidden behind tall grass. He or she may even inspect the nearby boulders to check and see if they were sunbathing. But would you think of looking up?

At the top of the seventh post there was a large brown object perched in a ball and it looked like a wet piece of dark wood. So, I opened my eyes as wide as I possibly could, adjusted my eye relief behind the lenses and noticed some slight movement. I remember reading in one of my books “Mammals of North America” that woodchucks can be accomplished climbers. Well this is true!

There he was: a large chuck on picket duty keeping a watchful eye on his territory. I now had to come up with a plan to flank the woodchuck from the north-west, and the hunt was on.

Now that I had a plan in mind and had located my first chuck of the day, I took my time to analyze my approach. It does not necessarily matter if you scare the woodchuck because it might often come right back out within a few minutes or sometimes it can take several hours. It becomes more of a personal challenge to get as close as you can without causing them to scoot and it also depends on if you want it to be a quick hunt.

Almost every time they come out of their dens, they will sit back in their holes about three or four feet deep from the entrance and listen for danger. Then, if there is no further un-natural sound, they will inch out and come out to feed or sun bathe.  I have also noticed small insects will hang around the entrance of the den on very warm days and normally shortly thereafter the woodchuck will appear. Just like flies in proximity to cattle or horses.

I like to let them come right out, so that I may get a clean shot because they have a very tough layer of fat and fur later in the spring and summer.

So, with this in mind I stowed away some of my unwanted gear, took a drink of water, locked the car and set off across the field to my left heading north. The field was extremely wet, quite similar to that of a rice patty and I placed my boots very carefully into the water so that I did not make too much noise nor did I want to trip and fall.

I took my time cutting across the field, taking everything in and picking up every scent in the air. There was the musky smell from the woods, the pine, cedar and the odor coming up from the creek. The grass all along the fence was about knee-high, so once I crossed the creek separating the east to west fields, I hugged the fence line and moved my way closer to the seventh post.

If you are able to tell when the woodchuck is eating or when he is watching, you can attempt to still-hunt until you are close enough for a shot. I once got within ten meters. I got right up close and the woodchuck climbed down the post and made his way through the wire and down his hole.

I moved away from the den entrance and stood still for several minutes then advanced toward the hole. Sure enough the chuck slowly inched forward exposing just his head and shoulders.

I carefully took the Savage off safe then squeezed the trigger and the woodchuck tumbled back into his hole. I had harvested the eastern field Picket Chuck.

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