Archive for the ‘animals’ Tag


Winter 0003

Recent responses to a varmint hunting article have caused some introspection as to why in this modern age we still hunt them.  Some sportsmen, and others, question the shooting of animals that we do not intend to eat.

Varmint hunting is more than just shooting animals.  Besides the fact that some, such as crow and woodchuck, are edible there are other reasons that varmint hunting is an important part of wildlife management.

The most common varmints hunted are the dog species, fox and coyote, and smaller mammals such as woodchucks and ground squirrels.  The raccoon, although usually considered a game species, also can be a serious problem predator.

It is a fallacy that wild populations if left alone will find their own balance.  The myth itself is based on the fact that such a balance was maintained prior to the appearance of man upon the scene.  Man has appeared on the scene and changed the environment in such a way as to drive out the larger predators that kept varmints in check.

With the destruction of wild habitat, those animals left are crowded into ever decreasing areas.  In turn more competition for the remaining food supply increases.  The varmints lower on the food chain are forced to starve off or move into areas where they come into conflict with the human population.  This creates problems for mankind.

Starvation is nature’s way to control wildlife populations but it is a cruel and painful way to die.  If government and landowners have to move into control of these populations, the usual method selected is poisoning for it is cheap and effective.  Poisons provide a usual slow and painful death.

So what is the alternative?

Regulated hunting with seasons and bag limits provide a method of controlling the numbers of animals removed from the wild and provide a quick humane dispatching of the animal.  Hunter license fees provide necessary dollars needed for studies of management needs and accomplishment.  Non-hunting public never thinks of this problem.  Only hunters provide those funds not the non-hunting public.

On a more personal level, varmint hunting is an outdoor recreation which is usually available in the periods when ordinary sport and meat hunting is not available.  It provides the family with a chance to experience the outdoors and combine hunting with other outdoor recreational experience such as camping, fishing, hiking, etc.

It also provides a method of controlling damage to crops, pets and livestock.


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.



The familiar sound of a crow in winter is a caw, caw, caw.  The often annoying communication between birds is a sure sign of the flocking birds’ presence.  Hunting season is winding down but crows still offer some fine wing shooting.  Crow hunting can be an interesting a challenging end to the hunting dog days of winter.  They, like ducks, come to a call.  Crows are a challenging target like quail, and hunting them lessens the withdrawal for the hunting addict.

Any weapon used for upland birds or ducks will work on crows. It is sometimes illegal to hunt crows with air guns, rifles or handguns.  Shotguns are the most popular choice with loads of 7 1/2s or eight’s being preferred.  As with dove hunting, it is a good idea to take extra ammo as hitting these rascals can get tricky.

Aside from the weapon, an additional investment of about $35 will put you in business.  This is for an owl decoy and a couple of crow decoys and a single reed crow call.  A pair of painter’s coveralls works as camo clothing in the snow.  A stocking cap or ski mask and the rest of the equipment is found in most homes.

A blind can be made of old sheets and a pillowcase stretched over your head with holes cut for eyes and mouth.  Construct a blind out of natural materials found in the area.  Gloves can be black or dark brown, as they will help decoy birds.

The call of a crow in distress is a sure way to sucker birds into range.  Commercial call on the market all work well and contain easy to follow instructions.  With a little practice, almost anyone can call crows.  A crow call is probably the easiest game call of all to learn how to use effectively.

Once in the field, the owl decoy draws in crows because the owl is the main nemesis of the crow.  The crow decoys help to lend a little reality to the situation.  An incoming crow assumes that some of his brothers have already begun harassment of the owl.

Place the decoys in the open.  The hunter remains in his blind or just sits motionless in his camo in any cover available.  He blows on the call and continues until winded or crows respond.  The longer the hunter remains concealed, the longer the birds remain in the area.  You can entice them back, even after shooting begins.

Crow hunting sounds simple, and it is, but crows are sharp‑eyed and intelligent.  To illustrate just how intelligent these birds are, think about all the hunting of them that goes on and how their populations continue to enlarge.  One expert has said that a crow can distinguish between a man with a gun and a man with a walking stick from a distance of one half mile.  One represents danger and the other does not.  To a crow, that is an important difference.

Give crow hunting a chance this year.

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