Hunting groundhogs is the sporting clays of the rifle world. As a tune up for the fall hunting seasons, Mr. Chuck offers plenty of stalking and shooting challenge. Long-range shots require pinpoint accuracy and usually a rest from such hunting-scenario supports as a tree, stump, or fence post. Groundhogs, like whitetails, are an edge animal and you’ll often find a series of dens along fence rows and timber lines, terrain that forces offhand shots at 30 yards and beyond.
Groundhogs are always vigilant, alert, and wild, the kind of varmint that is challenging to hunt and will keep your shooting kills honed to a razor’s edge. Unlike some game, they seldom take vehicles or human contact for granted. Their one Achilles’ heel is an overactive sense of curiosity. Even after they’ve spotted you and dashed down their burrow, a slow approach and a sharp whistle will often lure the chuck above ground for one more look. Mistake!
A late summer hunt with your favorite big-game rifle is an excellent tune-up for big game, yet during spring and summer, varmint calibers are inexpensive, safer, and more challenging. A host of new rifles and bullets make varminting lots more fun. My favorite caliber is the .17 HMR in a Browning A-Bolt topped with a Zeiss 3-9. This tiny bullet combo is very accurate and will take chucks out to 150 yards. A hit in vitals will drop the animal on the spot and the polymer tip of the tiny 17-grain bullet creates immediate expansion. Thompson/Center’s Benchrest .22 provides tournament-style accuracy from a bull barrel and a 10-shot clip. Henry’s Golden Boy in .22-magnum adds Western ambiance to the chuckin’ experience through the lever action and buck-horn sight. Finally, Ruger’s .204 is the ultimate long-range caliber with recoil so light, you’ll see the bullet strike.
Varmint loads that expand or fragment on impact greatly reduce ricochet potential. Wearing an orange baseball cap is a good idea as well, and it won’t spook the pigs. Before heading out, double check your regulations. Do you need a license to hunt groundhogs in your state? What about a public land stamp? Finally, dispose of a carcass naturally by laying it near the den in plain sight for buzzards, foxes, coyotes, and a host of other animals. Lots of wild creatures would like to eat a groundhog, but aren’t able to kill one. They will consume the remains, perpetuating their species on the pig’s demise – the natural cycle of life.