Woodchuck 0003

The dark fur ball shuffles along with the characteristic waddle of all rodents.  He appears dark in the grey of pre‑dawn.  Holding his draw the archer must be sure of the shot.  The “thunk” of the string release is a warning too late for the woodchuck.

There are no exact figures as to what the seasonal harvest is in number of animals taken by hunters.  Most of the woodchucks fall to hunters with firearms.  Each year some fall to hunting archers in search of summer hunting warm up for the fall deer season.

An adult woodchuck will be 20 to 25 inches in length from the tip of his nose to the end of his short bushy tail.  In the early part of the year, they will weigh 6 or 7 pounds.  By the end of hunting season, in the fall, they could weigh twice that much, as they gain weight to make it through the hibernation period.

Woodchucks vary in color from yellowish brown to a dark reddish brown.  Their coat has a grizzled effect due to the lighter tips of the hair.

They have a stout body with a broad flat head and eyes located near the top. The location of the eyes enables the animal to look out of his burrow for danger without exposing much of his body.  It is a defense frustrating to hunters.

Woodchucks are one of the few game animals pursued during the summer.

Many of the skills and much of the tackle, necessary to take whistle pigs are the ones required for hunting deer.  To begin, one needs a bow of hunting weight (40 pounds or greater pull), a full camouflage suit with facemask or camo make‑up, and hunting arrows with broadheads.  The broadheads must be razor sharp.

One must be able to stalk without being seen by the quarry and must be able to shoot accurately at a spot on an animal.  Many beginning bowhunters make the mistake of shooting at the whole animal and not a spot on the animal.  If one can shoot at the kill zone on a woodchuck, then it is even easier to find the kill zone on the much larger deer.

With the aid of binoculars, one can spot a chuck in a field and then plan a stalk.  If a field does not have nay sign of woodchuck activity through binoculars, then there is little sense in wandering all over it.  One can just go on to another area in search of the quarry.

Woodchucks are particularly wary animals.  The bow is a silent weapon but if you miss the woodchuck, he is the one that is gone.  Usually he will stay there for a rather long time.

However, if one uses a turkey call softly, they will come back up to see what is happening.  Often they will come completely out of the den.  No one seems to know why this technique works.

If woodchucks are in an area, it is usually not difficult to find their dens.  They make a den on a hillside with good drainage.  The mouth of the den is generally about a foot in diameter and is in the root system of a large tree or under a rock.  That makes it more difficult for a predator to dig into the burrow.  The mouth of the burrow will face the rising sun as if to catch the warming morning rays.

Living alone, woodchucks seldom stray more than 100 feet from the mouth of the den except during the breeding season.  By late summer, their trails to the den site are rather pronounced.  They use then to go to and from feeding areas in the early morning and late afternoon.  During the hot parts of the day, they stay near the den entrance.  Nevertheless, generally during the day, they tend to stay in the cool protection of the den.  The exception to this practice seems to be just after a rain or on a cloudy day. Then they will come out at almost any time.

Being creatures of the edges, woodchucks often locate their dens in hedgerows with trees or on the edge of a woodlot that is next to a meadow or grain field.  They feed on such plant life as alfalfa, clover, and soybeans.   Their favorite foods are dandelion and plantain.  The woodchuck’s fondness for grain crops helps the hunter find landowners willing to allow hunting.  A woodchuck will sit in a field and shear off young grain plants, and sitting upright, eat them while watching for danger.  When possible they prefer to feed uphill form their den entrance so that they can run downhill to the den for safety.

The whistle pig defense mechanisms that lead to flight are very keen.  That makes him an interesting and challenging quarry for the bowhunter.


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  1. Why no mention of dining on your havest? Young groundhogs, about half grown, are twice as large as squirrels, a lot more tender and legal year-round. Prepared like squirrel they are really quite good. To good to just throw in a ditch.

    • The only reason I left out the dining part was space. The piece was getting oo long for a blog. They are good eating especially the young ones. Thanks for bringing up the subject.

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