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Clearing crops leads to fine woodchuck hunting


Haymaking operations went into high gear throughout Carroll County last week and that is sweet music to the ears of any chuck hunting fanatic.

Wayne Albaugh and I had to knock off our pursuit of woodchucks a couple of weeks ago because of high grasses and crops.

Our last hunt took place on a cornfield hillside overlooking a lush alfalfa field near Union Bridge. This is a spot that we had shot over on and off throughout the spring, but as soon as we cleaned out a hole, another groundhog would move in within a day or two. So far we have accounted for 12 chucks from that field.

"You go ahead and set up here. I think I'll check out those fields across the road for awhile," Albaugh said.

One of the reasons I elected to stay put was that I already knew the locations of most the holes from past hunts.

Thanks to a good deal of spring rain, the alfalfa had grown to a height that would make it nearly impossible for me to spot a chuck feeding on all fours.

The other reason was that my 27 1/2 -inch barreled Remington 40XKS varmint rifle hits the scales at a shade under 13 pounds and is not a joy to lug up hill and dale on a hot, humid morning.

Albaugh was barely out of sight when I spotted my first chuck as it raised up on its hind legs at a distance I knew to be about 350 yards away.

The extreme distances common to shooting over this particular field was the reason for the heavy stainless steel barrel Remington target rifle at my side. It shoots my favorite long-range chuck cartridge, the .220 Swift, which I handload to a shade over 4,000 feet per second. This first-rate varmint rig makes long-range shooting just a little easier.

I rested the wide forearm of the 40X on my old tripod shooting rest and when the crosshairs of the 18x target-style scope rested on the top of the marmot's flat, wedge-shaped head, I gently squeezed the trigger.

By the time Albaugh worked his way back to my shooting spot to check on how I was doing, I had connected on two more groundhogs and missed one. The two unlucky critters had fallen at single shots from the Remington Swift at 300 and 225 yards, respectively.

The miss was at an estimated 175 yards and because the .220 Swift handload shoots so flat, the 52-grain benchrest target bullet I favor in this rifle was still a inch high. I went right over top of him -- probably clipped a couple of hairs in the process.

"I missed one and got two," Albaugh said. "The grass is so high, though, it's really hard to see them unless they stand."

We managed to spot a chuck for Albaugh to take a crack at that showed itself within feet of the first one I had shot that morning.

With me spotting through 9x binoculars, Albaugh got into position to make the long shot with his .22-250 Remington Model 700 Varmint Special. At the shot the chuck dropped to all fours and dove for the entrance of his hole.

"Just barely missed right," I said, "but the elevation looked OK." A few minutes later the chuck reappeared and this time my pal did not miss.

In all, I took seven chucks out of that one field and know that many others escaped my view due to the height of the young corn I was shooting over and the height of the lush crop holding my intended targets.

Now that those grasses are mowed, expect most of your shots to be long. This is not the time to attempt stalking within bow or .22 rifle range, but rather time to dust off the .223, .22-250, .220 Swift, the .243 or 6mm.

Turn your deer rifle into an acceptable long-range chuck rifle by switching to varmint loads.

A popular choice for .30-06 shooters would be the Remington Accelerator load using a 52-grain, .22-caliber bullet in a .30-caliber plastic sleeve that drops to the ground a few feet from the muzzle. Many rifles shoot this load very accurately. Or, simply switch to a lighter bullet, such a 110 grainer in .30-06 or .308, a 75 or 80 bullet in your .243, 257 Roberts or .25-06. The 100-grain bullet makes a fine choice in most .270 chambered deer rifles.

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