Chuck hunting heats up with recent nice weather

OUTDOORS

May 01, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

Spring chuck hunting has been excellent from one end of the county to the next. Last Saturday's afternoon hunt was the only ho-hum day I have had yet.

Still, I managed to collect two monster-sized Carroll groundhogs with three shots while spotting a half-dozen others that were either out of range or situated against an unsafe shooting backdrop.

My chuck hunting pal, Wayne Albaugh, lives across the road from a series of large farms in the Uniontown area. This luxury allows him to go out for an hour or so after dinner during weekdays, whereas I have been confined to Saturdays.

"I've been going out maybe an evening or two a week for about a month," Albaugh said. "But until last week, I was having only limited success. In fact, until we had those nice days last week, I had only got six. Then, on Tuesday evening I got seven in a little less than two hours. Wednesday got me five inside of an hour."

A couple of weeks ago we scouted a sprawling farm near Union Bridge.

"Wayne," I proclaimed after a couple of hours of counting chuck holes, "we have found the mother lode of groundhog hunting."

For two Saturdays running, we have set up shop at this hot spot and have added to our totals in a respectable, though not spectacular, fashion. We have certainly seen groundhogs. Well over 100, in fact.

Our first two trips out were marred by very high winds that made long-range shooting very difficult. Every shot we missed the first visit was wide due to wind drift. The next time I put the blame on the wind after missing two fairly easy 250-yarders wide.

The week before we had split up and hunted separate areas of the farm and that method seemed to work best because of the large numbers of chucks to be found. On smaller farm plots we usually stick together and alternate shots.

I had picked a rolling hilltop overlooking a large hayfield to my front and was bordered on the left and back with an overgrown, thicket-choked fence row.

On our previous scouting trips I had marked four holes in the hayfield, 23 in the fence rows. Far to my right, the ground swelled to a ridge separating crop fields. This ridgeline contained no less than 29 holes. Every one of these holes was active.

Less than 30 minutes into the hunt I spotted a huge gray-haired chuck napping on a sunny log pile alongside the fence row. Without a good pair of binoculars this chuck would have easily escaped my attention because it's color blended with that of the old log posts.

I adjusted my bi-pod rifle rest and nestled behind the accurate Ruger 1V rifle chambered for the .220 Swift cartridge that I had chosen.

The range was 225 yards and my 10x scope was sighted to put a 45-grain Sierra traveling at 4,011 feet per second an inch high at that distance. I put the scope's cross-hairs at the base of the neck and at the sound of the rifle's unique whip-crack muzzle blast, had my first chuck of the day.

Minutes later I heard Albaugh's .22-250 Remington varmint rifle crack twice. At the sound of his second shot, I noted a movement on the back end of the hayfield. My 9x binoculars confirmed a blonde-colored chuck.

I readjusted the shooting rest, put the range at 375 yards and held with just a tiny amount of daylight between the cross-hair and the chuck's head as it stood on its hind legs.

Dirt flew a little in front of the groundhog and it scurried out of sight. Moments later I spotted it upright again, but maybe 10 yards beyond my first opportunity. I held at what I guessed to be six inches high and squeezed the trigger. Chuck number two was in the bag.

And that's the last shot either of us got that afternoon.

We believe the shooting ended for two reasons. First, we had been picking mid-day to hunt but now that the weather has warmed, the chucks are laying up at this time and active morning and late afternoon/early evening. Albaugh's recent experiences seem to confirm this.

Secondly, our experiences indicate that shortly before the year's young are born and for maybe two weeks after, activity is sharply curtailed. The first should be born over the next two weeks.

The best time to chuck hunt from now through the end of the summer is until about noon and then from 4 p.m. to dusk.

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