Airgun hunting for one of the largest North American pest species is a challange. Unlike hunting them at 200 – 300 yards with a centerfire, the airgunner needs to work his way inside 50 -75 yards and achieve perfect shot placement to anchor this member of the marmot family. In this article, Jim Chapman will present his experience and views on hunting ground hogs in the midwest. These animals are found all over North America in one form or another; groundhogs, woodchucks, rockchucks are members of the marmot clan. They are a large rodent that can cause a fairly substantial degree of damage in farmlands, undermining roads, buildings, and damaging crops. In agricultural areas or family gardens, the animal will destroy great quantities of forage and vegetables, and its burrows are also dangerous to both horses and cattle. There is a definite need for control of the woodchuck in such places.
The woodchuck has a coat of silver gray and brown with underparts of a lighter hue. The head is dark brown and the feet are so brown as to be nearly black. His chunky body is carried on squat, sturdy legs. The animal has small economic value because of the low quality of its furs. However they are very wary and a lot of fun to hunt, creeping inside of 50 yards to get a clean shot is quite a challange, especially if they have experienced any hunting pressure. I typically do my woodchuck shooting in the border areas where fields and woods meet, if there is a strip of grass seperating them all the better.Other area that have proven productive are along railway right of ways, and in the lawns and fields around industrial areas.
While you can see these animals out at any time of the day, I’ve found that it is hard to beat a sunny fall day at five or six in the afternoon. In some areas large numbers of whistle pigs can be found creeping along grazing, while keeping a sharp eye (and ear) out for danger.
Groundhogs can move quickly over short distances, but can’t sustain the burst of speed for very long. For this reason it is unusual that they will move too far away from their system of burrows. One time this does not hold up is when the young are being driven from the den by the mother, the young hogs can sometimes be found wandering in search of a new home.
When you find a burrow, search the area and you’ll likely find his escape hatch. I have found a number of guns that are suitable for groundhog shooting; I like a .22 or larger caliber, finding that out of a high power pcp they have both the terminal performance and flat shooting accuracy that allows pinpoint delivery of the pellet.
The three most productive guns I used this season were the .22 Prairie Falcon, .50 Career Dragonslayer, and the .22 vanix AR6. Between the three I managed to bag close to thirty whistlepigs in a dozen outings. The shared charcteristic of these guns is that they were all tack driving accurate!
Second to accuracy (within reason) is power. The Falcon and the AR 6 generate over thirty fpe, and the Dragonslayer around 150 fpe, but if you are reasonable with range selection you don’t really need more than twenty fpe. Certainly a less powerful gun can be effective, but the shooters margin of error is greatly reduced.
For my style of shooting, I find a 3-9x variable scope the right optic for groundhog hunting The Defence Industry XP pellets proved very effective, very accurate with great down range enery retention. The target above is a five shot group at fifty yard which can be easily covered by a dime. This groundhog was dropped with ahead shot at 80 yards. He roled over stone dead. I hit this guy at 50 yard as he poked his head up for a quick look around Typically I let them move away from the burrow so I can reclaim them after the hit. But I missed this guy the first time by a hair, and he didn’t want to come back out.
The two on the right were hit one after the other as they popped up for a look around. Sometimes they can be wary and other a bit stupid. This is especially when the young start moving about.