Here is a news flash for you. Time passes quickly. Years ago I was told as you age; each year will go by faster than the one before. As usual I paid no attention to these words but now it is very apparent to me that this is true. Although we are now in the dog days of summer, very soon my friends we will be looking right down the gun barrel at deer season.
Most of us who think we are serious shooters have a dirty little secret. We do not shoot enough. The fact of the matter is that you simply do not run enough rounds through your deer rifle in the course of a year, the rut comes around in November and you are no better prepared than last year.
We talk about it; we make a lot of grandiose plans and maybe spend an hour on the bench all summer. You need a reason to get out there and shoot, something that will get you off that shooting bench and away from the air conditioning.
So, my brothers and sisters in camo, I submit to you the whistle pig.
This varmint’s proper name is woodchuck (probably a Native American derivation); some call him groundhog, and he is also known as whistle pig. This large rodent gets the moniker “whistle pig” from the trait of emitting a shrill whistle when he sees danger.
Groundhogs are found over much of the eastern United States, and are usually seen around fields and farms in agricultural areas. Most farmers and cattlemen have no love for the groundhog and see him as a destructive pest. Groundhogs are voracious diggers and their dens are considered a threat to livestock, machinery, and the farmer’s general peace of mind. Here is where you come in.
This isn’t rocket science. Sight your rifle in and go groundhog hunting. A great by product of a July or August groundhog shoot is the landowner that welcomes you to take care of some groundhogs may invite you back when buck season starts. Find a good vantage point to begin glassing with binoculars. Open areas next to brushy fence rows, rocky protrusions in pastures and lush hay meadows are all good areas to find Mr. Groundhog. Try to relate everything to your deer game. Do you spot and stalk for whitetails? Groundhogs are great practice for this and a lot of fun to boot.
What is the shooting position you have the most trouble with in the deer woods? Standing offhand? Prone? Work on that in the groundhog field. This is the way to prepare for the fields of November. A big part of this is you are familiarizing yourself with your rifle, you will know where the buttons are, how the safety operates and working on your trigger squeeze. When
you are consistently taking whistle pigs at 200 yards, you are going to be deadly in the deer woods my friend.
Think about it. This is where you get all the kinks out of the system. Everything from sling swivels, shooting sticks (if you use one), bullet drop, and “running” your bolt gun. How adept are you at firing three quick shots with your rifle? A groundhog running at 75 yards is going to give you some answers. (as well as a lot of fun)
Once upon a time I traveled with some pretty fast company in the varmint shooting world. These guys shot heavy custom rifles with scopes almost as long as the barrel. They could shoot a gnat’s left wing off at 300 yards with some consistency. These were specialized “varmint” rifles they would never have deer hunted with. The idea here is to use the rifle and sights that you will carry in deer season, this going to get you ready.
Did I mention that this can be heck of a lot of fun? If you get the groundhog bug you are going to be shooting and buying a lot more ammo. Wasn’t this our goal from the start?