Not many hunters think of hunting woodchucks (groundhogs) as an interesting hunt.  They probably have not tried; therefore, they do not know what they are missing.  When you are sitting in the recliner feeling sorry for yourself because you have more months to go before you can deer hunt why not give a go at hunting woodchucks.

Just as hunters pattern deer for deer season, you also have to pattern groundhogs and other varmints.  By arriving at the peak time of activity, normally late in the afternoon, you can make hunting time more productive.  However, it is possible to kill a groundhog any time during the day.

Groundhogs do not live in large groups.  A good day of groundhog hunting would only be 2 to 4 a day.  And that is only if you have a high concentration of the critters.  Like hunting any animal, hunters need to learn the habits and the habitat of the groundhog to be successful.          

The first thing to do when scouting for groundhogs is to visually scan the field and then walk the perimeter.

Once you finish walking the perimeters, walk the interior of the field.  When the groundhog dig their burrows, they often leave large mounds that are visible from a distance, but some also have burrows with no mounds, making them hard to see.  Only by walking the field will you see any hidden burrows.  Then, too, unless you take the time to check the interior of a field as thoroughly as you checked the perimeters, it is possible a number of possibilities might escape you, including deer and turkey sign which might come in handy down the road.  By the time you have finished, you should have covered every inch of the field.

After you have walked the field, turn your attention to any drainage ditch.  Groundhogs love these ditches.  Take the time to locate any burrows in the ditches early in the season before the grass starts growing as a number of holes become hidden once the grass gets too high, search for burrows in the ground and holes along the bank on both sides of the ditch.

Many farmers place concrete blocks and slabs in ditches adjoining fields to reduce ground erosion.  Woodchucks love to climb onto these blocks to sun themselves.  Deer hunters prune the branches and limbs away from their tree stands to create shooting lanes so they have a clear shot at their quarry.  Groundhog hunters can do the same thing.  Cut down all the tall weeds that would prevent you from making a clean shot.  Do not hesitate to do this again should it become necessary later in the season.

Vantage point is everything when hunting groundhogs.  Usually, the best place is the highest point in the field.  Terrain feature’s and various safety issues dictate the vantage point, and there may be more than one.  The primary vantage point covers the most real estate and the most burrows within shooting range.

When you locate a burrow, mark it by using a piece of marking tape onto an overhanging branch or nearby fence post.  Because it is very hard to range the distance of a groundhog, measure the distance of the marked burrow and your vantage point and log the information in a notebook that you can carry in your pocket.

Woodchucks are often located in farm country, with homes, barns, roads and livestock to consider.  Upon establishing the ranges from your vantage point, focus on the angles of fire and any safety issues, real or perceived.  Make the angle if fire is really safe.  Make sure you have an effective backstop, and know what is behind the backstop.  There are four safety rules that you need to abide by.

1.      Treat every firearm as though it were loaded.

2.      Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target.

3.      Know your backstop end beyond.

4.      Do not point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to shoot. 

By following these four simple, safety rules, you should never have an accident.

Pre-season scouting and preparing an area to hunt should not be considered a hassle.  Find a system that works for you and use that system every time.  Familiarize yourself with the field, locate the burrows, establish the ranges, check the safe angles of fire and then go home and get your rifle ready.

Here is an informative article and video explaining how to skin a groundhog.

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Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.