I haven't done any serious groundhog hunting in well over 15 years. Back in the 1970s and 80s, anytime I had some time off from work, I would be making an effort to be in an open field or meadow with a rifle, a few rounds of ammunition, and some binoculars trying to get a shot at one of these varmints.
The woodchuck or groundhog may be the nation's most celebrated animal for one day in an entire year, yet for the remaining 364 or 365 days this rascal is simply a pest that farmers want to dispose of.
One groundhog can totally wreck a well-care-for vegetable garden in no time. They burrow underneath pastures, creating tunnels that can collapse causing harm to a farmer's livestock and farm equipment. My great uncle had to shoot a prized breeding bull because it tripped in a groundhog and broke a hind leg.
When a fat groundhog appears on television on the morning of February 2nd, they may look cuddly and cute; but to any farmer in Eastern United States, they are a serious nuisance. Hunting them today may not be as popular as it was 20 to 30 years ago, yet most farmers still welcome those who would like to shoot these little beasties that are very destructive.
When a groundhog hunter goes out in an open field for an afternoon of hunting, don't expect to do a lot of shooting. Any open meadow, no matter how big or small, may be full of groundhogs; but these little critters are more difficult to shoot than most people are willing to give them credit for. They are extremely shy and timid. When one sees the first sign of any danger, they will be scampering for a den or burrow for cover.
The early morning or late afternoon is the best time to hunt groundhogs.
The groundhog's den is anywhere from 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the surface of an open meadow. This means they usually settle in for most of the afternoon (12 noon to 6 pm), particularly for this time of the year.
Groundhogs live to eat. They are strictly vegetarians; and if they had a choice, I think they would have their den next or close by any farmer's vegetable garden. However, they do like alfalfa over most grasses.
Some people have often wondered why West Virginia has continuous open season on these critters. It's because as I stated groundhogs are a nuisance animal. Most farmers know this. When anyone has ever tried to have a garden when one groundhog is nearby, they quickly understand the picture.
While it may sound more than just a little unappetizing, groundhogs are also edible Remember, they are vegetarians, and their meat is highly prized by people living in rural areas. I think it was my boss or supervisor who told me when I worked in the lab at Memorial General Hospital, the only time when the groundhog was endangered in this state was during the great depression of the 1930s.
It was in 1974 when I got two nice groundhogs in Mason County on a friend's farm on Morrison Ridge. My father said, "let's take them to a cousin of his because he would like to cook one on his outdoor grill. The cousin's brother and I skinned and dressed them out that evening. The meat was soaked in salt water overnight.
The next day, we were out to the house for a barbequed groundhog dinner with all the trimmings. From what I can remember, everything was quite tasty.
Most gourmet wildlife cooks advise that groundhog should be roasted like roast beef. The younger smaller ones are the most preferred.
Below is a recipe for roast groundhog:
- Rub the skinned and quartered groundhog meat with olive oil. Sprinkle seasoning on the meat and place in a roasting pan or slow cooker. Then place onions, potatoes, carrots or your favorite vegetables around the meat. Add a cup of water or beef broth to the roasting pan. Cover and bake in a slow over (275-300 degrees) until meat is tender and the vegetables are done, adding more water/broth as needed.