Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 29: The Real Groundhog Day

The wily woodchuck is an inoffensive yet challenging target. While normally harmless, the woodchuck can become dangerous when aroused. It is frequently hunted at ranges of 200-400 yards. Although many people believe that this is because they are shy and easily frightened, quickly disappearing into their burrows, experienced hunters know that the extended range is for personal safety. It is critical to move cautiously when encountering groups of woodchucks, as they are known to engage in cooperative behavior and react explosively.

I was searching for a picture of a groundhog - also called a woodchuck - and came upon this at Yankee Artifacts. It was so appropriate that I felt I had to use it, but you can check out more of this site here.

The reason I was searching was because I heard a great story about groundhogs last night which I want to re-tell. And I wanted my Aussie friends to have a sense of what these creatures look like. I should caution you, though, if that picture is your only guide. Most do not wear battle gear in the wild.

It seems a certain favorite in-law of mine, whom I will call Dave for this tale, was having a terrible problem with groundhogs which were burrowing close to the house and causing leakage problems in the basement. Dave decided to get rid of those pests, but his choices were limited since - among other things - he lives in a neighborhood which, for some reason or other, discourages the use of firearms in your backyard.

Being an (accomplished?) archer, Dave decided he would nail the little buggers with his trusty bow and razor-tipped arrow (that's an arrow used to hunt deer, which are about 400 times the size of groundhogs).

All of this is prelude to three tales of Groundhog Hunting - Dave Style.

The first was a fairly routine episode. Well, initially. It seems that Dave flooded the burrows. Sure enough the pest emerged and Dave let the arrow fly from a fairly good distance.

One snap of the bow. One target hit. Unfortunately, not every shot is a kill shot, and this arrow went through the fatty part of the groundhog's neck, meaning that the animal was suddenly about three times wider than it usually is.

The animal ran for its burrow, but its newly aquired accessory proved to be quite a bit wider than the hole, proving that Dave's plan had not taken this aspect of physics into account, as the illustration shows.

Finishing off the job was awkward, difficult and traumatic. For the groundhog, too, I would guess.

But the second episode shows how quickly skilled hunters learn. This time Dave's wife, whom I will call Sandy, spotted one of the groundhogs in the backyard. Dave instructed her to stand stock still since they were easily spooked. He grabbed his bow and arrow and snuck around the house. One can only speculate what went through the mind of passing motorists who may have seen him.

Sneaking around the corner, he aimed, drew back the bow. One shot, one hit. And one more groundhog with an arrow in it trying to get into a burrow hole that just wouldn't accommodate the hardware.

This time Dave knew what was needed and went to the garage for the correct tool.

In the meantime, a neighbor had pulled into the driveway next door. This neighbor is a gentle soul - perhaps best described as a "peace love and happiness" sort of guy - and Sandy felt the need to make sure Dave's hunting in the backyard wouldn't disturb him.

She walked over to tell the neighbor that they had groundhog problems and, in her words, "were trying to eradicate them as humanely as possible." It was at this moment that she and the neighbor turned the corner to see Dave finishing off Victim #2 by whacking it with a 4-iron from Dave's golf bag.

Let's skip further gory details and move directly to the third and final tale. This one is simple, and it does show how much each episode taught our intrepid hunter.

Groundhog spotted. One arrow flies, one groundhog hit. One groundhog running around the backyard with an arrow in it.

I'll let Dave teach you the final lesson. "This time I was prepared. No more 4-iron. I took out my driver."

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