Thursday, March 3, 2011

Groundhogs Down!

Way back when I spent large amounts of time chasing the wily groundhog. I would travel many miles for a chance to shoot them at long distance, up close, whatever. I had several farms in Adams, TN that I could hunt anytime I liked since whistle pigs were so thick permission wasn’t a problem. I seem to remember them having gas grills and picnic tables in front of their holes, partying down while herds of them denuded the fields, that part might just be me but there were lots of them. Anyway, farmers loved to see me coming to thin them out. Over time I took several people there to hunt and it was always a blast, I don’t think I ever went and didn’t get shots. Here is an early summer trip with my future ex brother in-law, Jeff.

As summer rolled around we would start to get ready for our chasing of the ground pig. My shooting buddy wasn’t a fisherman but loved pulling a trigger, either punching paper or groundhogs, both worked fine for Jeff. Oddly groundhogs were the only thing he hunted even though his brother was a big time deer hunter. We would head out to tune up our tools of destruction, burning more rounds at the range than we shot all summer at pigs. Jeff shot a scoped AR-15 but I am a bolt gun fan and had found a model 1500 S&W in .223 with a heavy, free floated, parkerized barrel, beautiful 2 pound trigger pull and oiled stock to which I added a good scope and a Harris bipod. Jeff’s AR was good but that Smith was a tack driver, one hole at 100 yards with 5 rounds was common. I seem to remember many 55 grain boat tailed hollow points and soft nosed running through that gun.

After we got tuned up we would head out to the fields. Adams, famous for the Bell Witch, has plenty of fields where you can see hundreds of yards, this part of Middle Tennessee starts to level off as you near the Kentucky line. Fields of soybeans and grass for hay separated by tree lines make a perfect home for pigs. Around the end of May we began our assault. Groundhog hunting is a matter of glassing till you find one then either shooting from your location or stalking to get into range or slipping along fence rows till you see one. This is a great reason to do this when you can’t deer hunt, your hunting skills really increase with this kind of practice. These guys are alert, live where there isn’t much cover to use in stalking and require skills to hunt.

We arrived at the farm, parking in front of the old brick house we got ready and simply walked around the to the backyard to start our hunt. The yard turned into a field which dropped down into a flat then rose again to end around 500 yards away where a barn sat on top of the next hill. The pigs liked to live down in the bottom where they were harder to see. We started glassing, looking for movement. After just a few minutes I looked to our left, there was a pig about 120 yards away halfway down the hill where we had never seen one before. I poked Jeff, pointed to the pig and told him to take the shot. He turned, got a rest on a fence post, as I watched through binos I heard the distinctive sound of his AR going off as pig number 1 dropped in it’s tracks.

We picked up number one as we moved down to a fence that ran down the middle of the field then up to the barn. Fence posts make great rifle rests for those longer shots. We saw our next one just about 300 yards out, since we had no cover and couldn’t get closer I decided to try a shot. I dropped the legs on my bipod, laid down in still damp grass, settled into the gun just to realize all I could see was grass. The hill was in the way and the grass was just too tall for me to see. I got up and quickly found a post to rest the rifle on, got on the scope only to hear,
“Too late it’s running.”
I settled the crosshairs, took lead and touched one off in one of those Zen moments of shooting. I just knew it was right without even thinking about it. Dust flew up in an expanding cloud where the pig had been as the rifle pushed back and I lost sight of the target.
“You missed.” Jeff says as he looked through his binos.
I got the scope back down, checked my spot and said, “Really? Then what is that laying down there with it’s feet in the air?”
Jeff says, “Oh Shit!! You hit it.” as dust settles where he can get a better view.
I stood up and we headed down to pick up hog number 2 after ranging the shot. 320 yards, slight downhill, zero value wind at a running groundhog. When we got there it had gotten to within 3 feet of it’s hole. The round had hit exactly on the left shoulder then exited the right, I am still proud of that shot.

As the day got on we drove around to some of the fields farther back on the property stopping to scan for pigs or the areas they had mowed down. By now it is midday, hot and the pigs have mostly gone underground. As we drove along a farm road at the edge of the field to check a new spot we, in a ditch about forty yards from us there was one sitting up in a scanning pose looking at us. Jeff stopped the truck, eased the door open to get out since you can’t shoot from a vehicle here. I looked to see if he had his AR but got a surprise when he chambered a round into his 1911 .45. He eased to the left front of the truck, got a rest on the hood and touched it off. I watched as the pig did a back flip and disappeared into the ditch. Jeff couldn’t see because of the recoil as the 220 grain soft point went to work and thought he missed.
“Nice shot.”
“Did I hit it?”
“If you didn’t kill it, it isn’t real happy right now.”
We walked over and found the pig had flipped in the air then fell right back down it’s hole headfirst. Hole in one. A .45 caliber bullet at 40 yards makes an impression on an 8 pound groundhog. He had hit it center mass with a frontal shot, other than the back flip, it never twitched.

We drove around to find places where pigs were feeding so we could watch them on our next trip since we had to head home soon. We were out of Cokes, Mountain Dew and beef jerky which pretty well ended the trip, well and the women folk waiting to go out that night to eat. We were lucky in the fact that our wives were very understanding about these trips and never once complained about them. Good times.

Some young ones taking a look around.

We got home, got the pigs cleaned and soaking in salt water with a few new stories and great memories to add to our list. After getting ready we headed over to Camden for catfish and steaks at the Catfish House, what a great way to end a day hunting plus we had pigs for barbecue later.

I still love hunting groundhogs but don’t get to go as much as I did. When summer rolls around fields green up and as I drive back roads I always find myself watching fencerows to catch movement telling me a groundhog is around. Maybe this year I can find a few spots close to me to get some trigger time.


larryb said...

Another fine post Tommy. I felt like I was right there with you and bud, hunt'n them hogs. What a killer shot at that long distance runner too! Maybe this year, buddy will want to do it again and you can show him some more cool hunt'n stuff dude. All the best big fella.

Yer bud,


Chris said...

Great story Tommy. Do you eat those little bastards or just fur 'em out?

Tommy Ellis said...

Hey Chris, Yes we eat them. They are in the same family as squirrels and make good bbq. We boil them first so the meat isn't so tough and then crockpot and sauce.

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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