Helping my local Farmers
*** This post contains pictures of dead critters. If this gives you pause, do not continue to read. Thanks.***
Here in Western N.C., farming practices have changed quite a bit over the last two decades. No till, soybeans or corn are major crops. Well, all God’s creatures love the aforementioned crops. I have seen the aftermath when a black bear gets in a field of corn. A half-dozen coons are just about as bad. With soybeans, there are two major players that destroy/eat the crop. Deer, which are regulated by a hunting season ( unless you get a depredation permit ) and groundhogs. Known as woodchucks, whistle pigs, etc., one adult can consume 2 acres of beans in a summer.
When I was young we never had them here, just higher up in the Appalachians. As crops changed here, the groundhogs moved in. If you grow it, they will come. And they will eat it.
I stopped and talked to a farmer that showed me the damage last year. It was a bit late in the year, the beans were high and I wasn’t as effective as I could have been. This year, I scouted, glassed and saw the subtle signs of large varmint activity in several spots. I think these guys had been shot at by everyone with a rifle. They were spooky. If I so much as slowed my truck, you could seem spurting out of the beans to the woodline.
I saw that this was going to take some specialized equipment.
For a successful hunt, I feel these items are a must. If able to pull into the field ( this isn’t always an option ) a good heavy bull bag and a rear bag will work. Set it on the hood, level up and get to it. If you have to go mobile ( usually the case ) to obtain an optimum final firing position, a tripod of some type ( shooting sticks just aren’t that stable.), decent binoculars, a good range finder and some water. In the south, water is a have to have. I like a stool but if you are younger, it’s not necessary..
In order to have a good hunt, one must be stealthy, in my case camouflaged, move slowly and be patient. No different than any other type of hunting. You must be keen on subtle movement cues. Note the damaged crop areas and keep an eye on the wood line near them.
One doesn’t need to take out a custom rifle like I do. One simply needs to take an accurate one. Know your own shortcomings and position yourself within range for your shooting ability and rifle. Employing Bench Rest techniques to your hand loads will help you here. A large groundhog has a head a little larger than a baseball. The biggest only weigh around 12 lbs. 20 lbs. would be a Godzilla hog! They look fat, but it will fool you.
I like high quality, high magnification scopes, however a high quality 10x will work. The main thing is repeatable tracking, or scope adjustment. You need to learn to dial DOPE. Holdover doesn’t cut it unless you have a BDC reticle custom made for the velocity of the round you are shooting in my opinion.
I use a chronograph and a ballistic calculator to determine rough dope, then verify at the range.
Some guys like complete carnage, others just like dead. This will determine your choice of bullet. Any accurate varmint bullet will do – remember, even at 400 yards, with most suitable varmint calibers, the bullet will pass through. You need a bullet that comes apart easily to avoid dangerous ricochets. Normal deer hunting cup and core, or copper bullets should not be used. Since I am doing this for a neighbor who farms for a living, I just want dead. Here are some results of the past few weeks.
Now, before you ask, no I do not eat groundhog. Many older Appalachian folks did. I have twice; once it was awful, and once it was very tasty, much like venison. It was a young one and had been properly prepared by a master. ( Groundhogs have musk glands under each front arm that MUST be removed before cooking. ) The old timer would take big ones, like I have pictured and make banjo heads out of the skins. I don’t play the banjo either so these fellows will fertilize the fields they were eating on.
I am providing a service, helping a neighbor, and building trust. Maybe a deer hunt or two can come out of it but if not, that’s OK. I got to shoot, smell powder and get outside.
Hope this helps you with your varmint hunting!
Precision, Accuracy and Reloading are my passions. Love to hunt, fly fish and read sign.