Honing Your Prairie Dog Hunting Skills

Groundhogs are tricky rascals to hunt!

Summertime provides few hunting opportunities. In fact, it can get pretty boring when we get into the “dog days” of summer. However, that is when groundhog hunting can provide the perfect remedy. The soybeans are up, the clover is thick and the groundhogs are plentiful!

Early morning is the best time of day to locate and hunt woodchucks. The heat is not yet unbearable and groundhogs are most active. They typically return to their holes during the heat of the day. It’s just a matter of finding them and obtaining permission to hunt them.

Typically, farmers approached by woodchuck hunters often grant permission to access their land in pursuit of chucks. They may refuse you permission to deer hunt, but when it comes to groundhogs, they are quite cheerful granting you access to their cash crop. And, you never know, by removing some of their woodchucks, you may build a relationship with them that eventually will gain access to other hunting opportunities.

Locating Groundhogs
Groundhogs are best located near soybean and clover fields. These fields are a chuck’s favorite food. Sign is readily apparent when they set up home near a soybean field. They will graze bean plants down to stubs before moving to a new location. So, if you see a soybean field missing a section of beans, or a clover field that has a “bald” spot, rest assured you have probably found your groundhog.

Locating the groundhog is the first step towards success. (Photo by John and Vikki Trout)

The next challenge is to figure out where the hog has set up home. The main hole will be strategically placed in an area where the groundhog can slowly come out and survey the situation before exposing itself to the elements. It will be clean of all vegetation around it and the dirt will be smooth from the hogs’ daily usage.

Usually, walking the edge of the field will reveal the chuck’s main hole. If there is an embankment, look for the hole near the edge. Another possibility is under a tree root. Groundhogs often dig their home near trees that have exposed roots.

I remember an occasion my husband John and I were trying to find the groundhog’s primary hole. It took considerable time and distance before we located the hideout. The primary hole was located beneath the floor of an old abandoned barn. This barn was very close to the soybean field and the hog had a great way to sneak out and peek before exposing himself.

Keep in mind, woodchucks do not settle for just one hole. They sometimes have emergency holes where they can drop into the ground in the event a predator is spotted. They often dig escape holes in the open soybean or clover field where they dine.

Bow vs. Gun
John and I enjoy bow and rifle hunting. We find the challenge of getting close provides an exciting hunt. The bow can help you prepare for the upcoming deer season.

As mentioned previously, John and I had located a primary hole just under the floor of an old abandoned barn. We had access to an upper loft in this barn and it proved quite successful for bowhunting. It is a tremendous challenge to get the bow drawn on a “nervous” woodchuck, regardless of where you are hiding. Sometimes they seem more skittish than the Eastern wild turkey!

Don’t get me wrong. Hunting chucks with a .22 caliber rifle is not easy. Even when a groundhog is out in the field dining on vegetation, you will notice it does not stay down to feed for long. It comes up consistently surveying the area. You may raise the rifle only to have the woodchuck drop back down into the thick vegetation and disappear while you sit there with your gun shouldered wondering where he will pop up next! Then, you also have to contend with a scope that may fog up because of heat and high humidity that is common in summer.

Setup is crucial to success. We prefer to setup close to the main hole, usually no more than 30 yards. When setting up by a field, natural cover, such as honeysuckle and other vegetation, and strategically placed limbs can be used. When opportunity allows, we prefer a tree behind us for back support and build our natural blind off the side of the tree. There also are several companies that manufacture small pop-up blinds. Most hunters use them for deer and turkey hunting, but they provide a quick and easy setup for woodchucks.

Regardless of which weapon you choose, groundhog hunting is a great way to get out in God’s beautiful creation, breakup the summer monotony, and provide a means to help prepare for the upcoming fall hunting seasons.


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4 Responses to “Honing Your Prairie Dog Hunting Skills”

  1. Kevin

    Hey Vicki, looks like you had to spend a lot of time washing John’s shirts.

  2. Kevin

    During John’s lifetime he probably got hit in the chin with more balls than Johnny Bench.

  3. George

    Hunting chuck can be a great distraction and are surprisingly challenging with a small bore rifle.

  4. jakey

    Best rifle to shoot groundhogs with is a 17 cal. just after sunrise early morning and two hrs. before evening time. find their holes early spring. Get a chair and blind sit and wait. Have fun.