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Yes, you can hunt in the summer


Pest Control...





Woodchuck hunters prepare for long distance accurate shots by practicing shooting form at the range. Kenny Darwin photo

July 01, 2008
If you are looking for some good hunting don't miss out on summer woodchuck. They are found throughout Michigan, landowners eagerly give hunting permission to reduce booming chuck populations and summer hunts hone shooting skills needed during regular season.

Chucks are simply fun to hunt. More often than not I'm usually chasing summer chucks that have become nuisance animals. Landowners who are plagued with countless chuck dens found around buildings, barns, horse stables and homes, are pleased when I show up with chuckin' weaponry. Just about any weapon can be used but around buildings and near farm animals I prefer a .17 caliber scoped rifle. The .17 cal is a great house gun, somewhat silent, accurate and deadly.

I've had horse owners serve me morning breakfast after eliminating problem pests that could cause a prize horse or cow to stumble in a chuck hole and break a leg. Of course, around buildings you need to be very careful about where you are shooting, properly identify targets and make certain the background is clear of machinery, livestock or anything you do not want to hit while shooting.

There are plenty of animals to be found in the surrounding open fields that need trimming too. As sportsmen and conservationists I feel we should do our part to keep woodchuck populations under control. Some landowners feel it is our responsibility to shoot chucks and do our part to keep damage to a minimum. This is a task. Believe me, southern Michigan populations are at a point that control requires plenty of shooting. Don't make the common mistake of thinking by trimming a particular farm that the problem is solved. Chucks from adjoining properties will quickly fill the void.

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While they are fun to hunt, chucks are not easy prey. Sure, young pups are vulnerable targets but old, mature animals are sharp critters. Once they know you are hunting them, they disappear from plain view and are constantly on alert. Some migrate to dens found in open fields that provide a sanctuary for wary animals. That's when smart hunters make the switch from .22 caliber rifles to those with flat trajectory and long-distance killing power. Some hunters prefer .223 rifles, or .22 Hornet and others, but my best rifle is a .22-250 Remington bolt with a powerful variable power scope. This weapon makes sharp shooting chucks at long range an easy task. My hunting partner, Edward Carlin from Grand Ledge, prefers a Ruger number one .220 Swift. I've seen him dust plenty of chucks at distances over 150 yards.

Perhaps the best part of hunting chucks in open fields is the shooting skill needed to get good bullet placement on such a small target. Summer chuck hunting requires accurate shooting using a solid rest, controlled breathing and gentle trigger pull. Show me a shooter that consistently dusts-off chucks at long yardages and I'll show you an accurate deer hunter. In both cases, the idea is to hit the target and summer hunts provide the golden opportunity to practice; and shooting practice inevitably leads to accurate shooting.

Some hunters wear camouflage to match the green environment, which assists them to get into close range. Chucks have excellent eye sight and you can increase your shooting opportunities if you use camo to conceal your human form. Other hunters will take stand where their outline is concealed: on a rock pile, deer blind, hedge row and wait for roaming chucks to appear.

Savvy hunters strive to make every shot count. When it comes to woodchuck hunting the idea is to drop the critter, not shoot a lot and destroy opportunities to control pest populations. I've seen hunters shoot an entire box of shells without missing the mark.

Michigan farmers are pleased to have the pests removed from their property. While Michigan law prohibits shooting close to dwellings, most landowners exercise their right to protect properties from animal damage and allow chuck shooting near homes, barns and other buildings. Large dens with mounds of dirt and multiple holes ruin prime agricultural fields and holes can be dangerous for farm implements, people and livestock. Folks who own cows, pigs, sheep, lama, horses and other livestock do not want chucks near their prized animals. If livestock stumble into a chuck hole it may cause permanent damage, sprains, severe pain and in some cases a broken leg. I've been offered money, fresh produce and baked goods, just for eliminating the problem, but I usually barter for hunting rights come fall; although it is tough to turn down a home-baked apple pie.

Smart hunters spend time at the gun range, sighting in rifles and practicing shooting skills for upcoming outings. Part of the challenge with chuck hunting is to take the animal with a well-placed single shot. The great thing about shooting during summer is gone are the crowds seen during fall. You have the range to yourself and it is an excellent opportunity to develop your shooting skills when temperatures are more conducive to a relaxed trigger pull and solid unshivering gun rest.

Chuck hunting is the perfect summer shooting sport. Farmers love chuckers and give permission to hunt private land at the drop of a hat and it is an ideal way to practice shooting, hone shooting coordination skills and develop accurate shooting skills that carry over into all other hunting.n

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