Early Bird Fishing Tournament, woodchuck hunts mark spring

OUTDOORS

April 14, 1996|By Lonny Weaver | Lonny Weaver,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The trout are biting, the woodchucks are out in droves and we have the annual Early Bird Fishing Tournament under our belts. It must be spring in Carroll County!

Reasonable weather, which isn't always a sure thing when the Early Bird Fishing Tournament holds court each year at Piney Run Park, helped pull anglers from around the area to participate this popular event.

The top prize winner was Robert Nichell's 17.75-pound, 37 1/8 -inch striped bass, which netted him $700 in prize money. Nichell's fish was caught from a boat, but Patrick Heilman's 14-inch, 1.46-pound catfish (worth $600) was taken from the Piney Run shoreline. Tim Cave won $250 for hooking the largest perch of the tourney.

Other winners included Jim Paul's $200 catfish, Doug Bauerlein's $250 trout and Don Dorsey's $100 tagged bluegill. In all, more than $3,000 in prize money went to 11 winning anglers spanning a variety of fishing categories.

On land, early woodchucks are visible throughout the county as they try to regain the weight lost from their winter's sleep. Because of the unusually cold March and early April, my chuck hunting pal, Wayne Albaugh, and I have only managed to team up for a single hunt. Normally we would be sporting a double-digit tally of the farmland rodents by this time of year.

Albaugh and I confine our early spring chuck safaris to spots that are inaccessible later in the spring and into summer, as well as those spots that are impossible to shoot over later because of plant growth. One such spot is "The Condo."

"The Condo" is a briar-, vine- and honeysuckle-choked hillside on a farm in the area of Union Bridge that is impossible to shoot by early May. We know of a hunter or two who also shoot this hillside and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that more than 50 chucks are eliminated from it each year. But, according to the owner of the property, we don't even scratch the surface of the resident population.

Shooting a pair of .22-250 chambered varmint rifles from an estimated 150 to 200 yards, we collected three Condo residents. Earlier, as we were walking to our shooting spot, I eyed a big reddish chuck at about 225 yards, but was unable to get off a shot before it spotted us and disappeared down its hole. Moments later, Wayne collected his first groundhog of the year with a perfectly placed shot on a big old gray-haired boar at about the same distance.

The Condo is located on one of three large adjoining farm properties that we have permission to chuck hunt, so after the above flurry of action we decided to split up and meet at the middle farm at a set time. Wayne moved his truck to the arranged meeting spot and I began to work my way across two of the farms.

Inside of an hour my pockets were carrying three more empty cartridges, but my tally sheet showed only a single additional chuck. The unlucky critter was taken from a kneeling shooting position at about 150 yards. One miss was my fault all the way, the other was a rushed shot.

I saw five more, but was unable to get off shots.

Wayne had added three more chucks to his tally by the time we rejoined and, like me, reported seeing a half-dozen that were too quick to allow a shot.

Earlier this week I switched my rifle for my ultralight spinning rod and managed to put enough trout in my creel to fill a couple of dinner plates. Beaver Run, Piney Run, the Westminster Pond, the Farm Museum Pond (in Westminster), Piney Run Reservoir and the Patapsco River from Route 32 at Sykesville downstream to where it meets the North Branch of the Patapsco are all popular Carroll County trout waters stocked liberally by the DNR for put-and-take fishing.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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