Before we know it, Memorial Day will be upon us; and to me, that means one very important thing - it will be time to hunt groundhogs in earnest throughout Carroll County!
Regular readers of this column know that I simply cannot resist keeping the local groundhog populations down to a manageable level throughout the summer months. Oh, I do "jump the gun" from time to time, but that's not "serious chuckbusting," but rather what I call "control hunting," which involves going after chucks that will be obscured by brush and various vegetation as the weather grows warmer.
I figure that once Memorial Day rolls around, the year's young chucks are able to take care of themselves should I happen to knock off mom or pop. Some dedicated varmint hunters with more willpower than me wait until well into June before kicking into high gear.
Despite suffering a stroke in 2010 that has limited my mobility, I have still managed to collect a few groundhogs each summer by combining modest ranges, a folding lawn chair and my trusty old tripod shooting rest.
The last really memorable shot I made was late into the summer of 2009. I was sitting over an elevated, south-facing fence row near Uniontown. The fence row was choked with honeysuckle vines, weeds and briars. But earlier scouting in the spring had revealed a large entrance hole and on subsequent trips to that site, it was plain to me that a very large groundhog was in residence.
I was set up at a laser-ranged 129 yards - what should be a fairly easy shot from the Cooper single shot bolt action rifle I was carrying that day. The rifle was chambered for the "wildcat" (non-factory ) .17 HeBee and it was splendly accurate - it would have to be because I would need to thread a needle through an opening in the heavy brush surrounding the chuck's hole.
I had made the cartridge that I closed the Cooper's bolt on by necking down a .218 Bee case and then "fireforming" the case. I was using a 22-grain, .17-caliber Berger moly-coated hollowpoint that left the 24-inch barrel at a sizzling 3,900 plus feet per second.
On the rifle's front sling swivel I had attached a Harris Bipod and when I put the chuck's head under the Bushnell scope's crosshairs, I was almost 100 percent certain that this big old grey tipped chuck had chewed its last clover. The sound of the shot was barely louder than a handclap and instantly, the big chuck made it's way to that great clover field in the sky.
Everything had gone perfectly as planned and I don't know how many dozens of times I have relived the shot on some of my darkest days.
On Memorial Day, I plan on hunting with my long-time chuck hunting partner, Wayne Albaugh. I'll be using a very stable shooting seat designed for handicapped individuals like myself. The padded seat rotates in a full circle and there's a very stable "V" rest for my rifle. I'm not sure which of my treasured varmint rifles I'll take on that first day. A beautiful little Finish Sako Vixen sporter has an inside chance, but I haven't, as yet, had an opportunity to zero it with the load I'll likely use. Then there's the above mentioned .17 HeBee, but I'm not sure if I have a supply of ammo loaded, yet.
The favorite at this moment is my Cooper Jackson Varmint chambered for the .204 Ruger cartridge - a round that is fast becoming a favorite of mine for use on Carroll chucks.
Dug Hill Rod and Gun Club events
On May 17, a 20-gauge still target shoot will take place at the Dug Hill Rod and Gun Club, located off of Wine Road, outside of Manchester.
Then, the club invites the public to its regular trap shoot set for June 15 beginning at 12 noon. Other events include a .22 rifle match on July 16. Anyone interested in joining this great little club should attend the regular June 9 meeting, which begins about 7 p.m.