Farms open for woodchuck hunters

OUTDOORS

April 24, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

Whenever a hunter decries the difficulty in gaining access to private hunting lands I usually suggest diving into off-season woodchuck hunting.

Woodchuck hunting is the easiest way for a hunter to get onto game-rich farmlands. The sport allows you to prove your responsibility to the landowner, make friends, learn the property and have a whole lot of fun in the process.

Spend this spring and summer ridding a farmer's precious crop and pasturelands of these burrowing pests and you just may find yourself sitting in one of his trees on the opening day of the deer season.

Chucks are pretty busy right now. They are stuffing themselves on tender green grasses, cleaning out old den holes and digging new ones. In about three weeks the sows will be giving birth to litters that average triplets. By late June these yearlings will be setting out on their own. So much for green grasses, too.

As soon as young shoots of soybeans, alfalfa, clover, corn, beans, peas, lettuce and other farm crops poke above ground, you can bet they will attract groundhogs like a magnet. Chucks seldom drink. They get most of their necessary fluids from the dew and succulence of the plants consumed.

Most dens are alike in that they are about 4 feet deep, often consist of two chambers connected by a tunnel and feature an easily spotted main entrance and well-concealed escape holes. It is these escape holes that account for broken farm animal (and farmer) broken legs.

The average woodchuck weighs 10 pounds, measures around 26 inches in length and stands maybe 7 inches high. Its coarse hair ranges from light tan to black, with a lot of red thrown in. I have bagged two albino chucks and plan on eliminating at least one 15- to 20-pounder each summer.

Chuck hunting is a lifelong passion of mine that began on summer vacations to my grandparents' farm in mountainous northwestern North Carolina. It was nothing to sit on the side of a mountain pasture and pick off a dozen or two in a couple of hours.

Last Saturday, Glen Burnie resident Chuck Myers and I spent a windy afternoon sniping over more than 300 acres of farmland. The spot I picked to set up my long-range shooting rig allowed me to keep tabs on no less than a dozen holes spread along a vine-choked fence line bordering a sloping hayfield.

We had shot over the place late last summer and my hilltop spot was chosen to allow me to take advantage of the custom target-quality Remington 40X-KS chambered for the .220 Swift cartridge and topped with a target-grade Redfield scope.

From noontime to three hours later the Remington's trigger was squeezed 10 times. It eliminated nine chucks, missed one. The closest shot was 75 yards, the longest was paced off at 412 yards. In all, I saw 12 (plus 14 deer and a red fox).

Fishing report

Trophy-sized rockfish are being reported around the mouth of the Potomac and Choptank rivers. Choptank Fishing Pier is the spot for big catfish. White perch fishing is excellent on Tuckahoe, Blackwater and Millington.

Use bloodworms at high and outgoing tide for big white perch on the Little Magothy. Mackerel fishing is very hot at the Jack Spot, off Ocean City and the wrecks are offering big tautog. Use shallow running lures and 4-inch plastic worms for largemouth bass on Dundee Creek.

Big largemouths also in lower Potomac area including Chickamuxen Creek, Fox Ferry, Mattawoman, Nanjemoy and Marshall Hall -- Rat-L-Traps, plastic worms and grubs are hot baits. White, yellow perch, crappie are reported at Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge.

Boating & hunting safety

Two boating safety classes have been scheduled for Annapolis High School next month. The first will begin May 17 and continue through May 26, the second is set for May 31 to June 9. Call Anita Murray at (410) 757-4848.

The Stoney Creek Hunting and Fishing Club will conduct a certified hunter safety course May 16 and 21. Call Earl Zoeller at (410) 360-0872.

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