Herding Groundhogs

Why no updates? The woodstove project is on hold until the storm passes. I don’t want to have the wall on jacks with a water load on the roof. Also with the transition from Linux to Windows there’s really nothing interesting on the technical side aside of throwing money at problems to try to make a difference. I am entertaining positions for Linux sysadmin work if anyone is offering. In the mean time…

Groundhog #7 died yesterday. He wasn’t the luckiest groundhog but he was a fat, fat freaking groundhog. He was also smart. Two of the holes he dug were just beyond the fence where I couldn’t legally keep a trap line. He had four vias under the fence. Since I didn’t want to blow $60 on traps, I had considered putting out the snare. That didn’t work so well and this guy was very good at going “that doesn’t look right” and picking a new via under the fence. He had also figured out my wifes garden plots and would move along under my porch, digging all along the way.

The conibears were good at what they did, which was to catch only things which they were supposed to catch (groundhogs). It’s a fantastic design and by that I mean the simplest design is the best design and it relies wholly on the side of the trap to exclude animals. There’s been a few times I’ve found it snapped and found some fur, but it’s pretty obvious that the trap was being tripped by something else. The mystery was always “what”? Finally one day I realized the stupid neighbors cat was hunting the groundhogs too. She would sniff around the dig under the fence, then the might piss all over it, then she found the trap and touched it with her paw. The trap would either get knocked over and go off or it went off and gave her a snap, which is where the fur was from, but never enough to cause any injury. Since she seemed to know that the trap killed groundhogs, but she wanted to kill the groundhogs, this pissed me off to no end. (And yes I realize my readership is going to go “Why not just shoot the cat?” I’m trying to get along with my neighbors this week). Anyway, point being the cat may have a hunting accident much later, because now my trap reeked of cat piss.

I went out to my porch and saw the groundhog by the gate to the park. He’s gladly chomping down on my archery target. I could see this being an illustration in a children’s book. “What animals can you name which can eat equal parts styrofoam and hay?” Another one of my wifes space-flowers was down. The crepe myrtle was chewed on. The apricot tree was once again missing foliage. The groundhog knew something was up and I automatically froze. About five minutes passed and he went back to business so I slowly sank down behind the taller bushes and crawled back into my house. I grabbed my bow and knowing it wasn’t sighted in (f’ing cheap ass plastic mount – why does no-one make decent sights for lefties?) I grabbed a few field tips. Frankly with all the destruction they cause I don’t really care that the field tips make them bleed out longer. I glanced out the kitchen window and saw he was still happily munching down plastic.

I mounted an arrow.

I slowly opened the mud room door.

I slowly opened the storm door.

I slowly drew back the bow.

I put the bead on the top of the groundhog knowing the arrows tend to fly low at this range.

One of my cats bolted between my legs because I failed to close the mudroom door. She got out onto the deck, jumped in the railing, then hissed at the groundhog. He said screw this, jumped back himself, and took off on a run down the fence. The cat didn’t give chase. Just long enough for me to move my sight pin to my cat I hear SNAP. SCUFFLE SCUFFLE SCUFFLE. I let the draw down on the bow and look over to the brush pile and see there’s little feet scurrying in the air, gradually slowing down… and stopping. Sure enough, I got really lucky and he got really unlucky and chose the dig that I set the trap over. (Why he didn’t go under the gate, I’m not sure – animals tend to be creatures of habit).

Of course, being scared by the cat, yet another animal pisses all over my trap.

Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest

The new presentation of the 2010/2011 PA Hunting and Trapping digest is tops.

It includes some new illustrations, the maps are now broken out in a much easier to read format and it has a grid of orange requirements per season per device per activity. The “handsome deer tine” illustration is still there. They still don’t explain what the difference is between a rabbit and a hare.

What’s lacking is the wording can still be goofy in places due to legalese and the hunting licenses are now 7 little thermal squares. The antlerless application still is printed on it but the paper is the glossy stuff that came out of old fax machines and thus it’s impossible to write on. To their credit, they broke out the seasons now so you have the standard “short season” listing, but later the season is in a color coded box and the box corresponds to the appropriately colored page of the digest. This makes it much easier to flip through in a hurry.

The big news for the state was that hogs are being regulated. Previously it was just hush hush over the whole thing and if you shot one you got a wink-wink-nudge-nudge pat on the back. While it’s been regulated to the back page right next to the elk permit, the green box says “yes we have a hog problem and it’s open season except where they’re being trapped”. Where are they being trapped? No-one knows! Since it didn’t make the digest I’m going to simply say shoot’em if you see ’em.

Groundhog Day

Trapped Groundhog

Trapped Groundhog

Click for hirez, even I was surprised. I also got one of the juveniles she was raising, and I intend on trapping the next one sometime this weekend. Incidentally they have amazing amounts of steam. I got a through and through on the one with the arrow and there was enough blood to know I hit it. However it still made it back to the hole.

Conibear Trap: GROUNDHOG

The groundhog snare has been setting consistently. The problem is he’s either wiggling his way out, or I find my wire cut. Admittedly I used spiderwire fishing line instead of steel, but groundhogs have excellent teeth and claws and it’s become apparent to me that snaring it isn’t going to work. I’m not around when he’s snared to see what’s going on, and it renders the snare ineffective as a result. When he’s snared, all he’s got is time to work on it.

The snare is a really simple tip up – there’s a cinder block balanced on my fence with a branch under it acting as a prop. The line is tied through the block, through one of the diamonds in the fence, tied to the prop and then went to a loop. So far it’s been tripped three times and if I haven’t gotten the hog in three tips it’s not going to happen. At least two of those had the groundhog in the snare because the loop was chewed on or frayed. The idea was the spider wire would constrict the groundhog but I’ve come to realize the fundamental problem is that it’s too near a fence and growth the groundhog can prop himself up on. He gets snared, but the funnel effect from the brush gives him enough purchase he can work on the line before suffocating, and the spiderwire is of such high quality that it won’t snag on itself either direction.

I was thinking about buying a hav-a-hart trap but frankly the one for groundhogs starts at $70. My Economics of Caring end at about $20 (about the cost of losing one carbon arrow) so the pricepoint for a live trap was well above what I was interested in. Part two was the goal really never was a live trap, the snare I set was fully intended to go around his neck and I was just going to use the maul to dispatch him humanely when I found him. If I got on him quickly enough I was going to throw him in a box and drive him to the far end of the park, but frankly I briefed my wife we were going to find a hog hanging from the fence one morning.

After two weeks and three trap tips I was largely fed up with the operation and I had taken a shot at him with the bow. The bow doesn’t track like the rifle does through brush, so I was even going to nail him with the rifle with subsonics. I wasn’t sure a subsonic 22 was going to put him down, so this was easily the most grisly of options. I happened to be browsing the internet for better snare designs and someone mentioned the conibear trap. To make things even better – the trap is designed as a kill trap. And finally it has the last requirement which is important: the whiskers for the trigger are inside the body of the trap vertically, so I don’t need to worry about larger animals (like our deer population) stepping into them and having their legs broken. The neighbors cat may end up being a casualty, but she typically jumps over the fences and doesn’t go into the earth under them, so I think we’re OK. The local sporting goods shop had the #160 which is exactly the size I wanted. They also had the trap tool, which is basically the worlds largest set of snap ring pliers. Since I figured I could use those also I purchased them.

Total cost was $25, which is a bit more than I wanted to spend but now I have a trap set I can use over and over again.

Digital Camo Dumped

Finally. Not entirely, mind you, but I had missed this article last month from military.com. Apparently the marines felt that digital wasn’t worth it and evaluated new camo patterns. You can read their take on it. As someone who hunts, the digital camo pattern was stupid. While it might look cool, there’s no 90 degree angles in nature, and I personally felt it make people really obvious. Even if your eye didn’t see the person, it was drawn to the area because you knew something “wasn’t right”. If my eye is drawn to it, you know the stuff wasn’t worth crap in the field. I think a lot of other hunters agreed, digital never made it’s way into the woods. Multicam on the other hand, is cool stuff. The whole digital craze was “lets take thousands of photos, pick the prominent color, and make a camo pattern”. It’s an OK idea, but then things become universally brown. (The 90 degree thing aside). Multicam used their heads and kept the “splotches” pattern, they got rid of black and avoided the temptation of red. Most european camo has red in it for whatever reason. Furthermore it’s made from fabric woven by faeries which reflects light, which is another cool idea, because one camo just works in many environments.

Candian camo, called cadpat, works slightly better since they put more effort into making the colors match, but the effect is still jarring with the thousand little squares.

Looks Like Scotland

Oh how I love the fog on the Scottish Moore.

Wait, this is my backyard. I wish I had found the better camera, but without the polar filter on my phones camera, it makes the fog… foggier. However it also means I couldn’t take a picture of the really cool ray of light which broke through the clouds and shown like a golden ray into the woods. I half expected an angel to walk through the back gate and to hear heavenly voices singing in the bathroom.

Foggy Forest in the backyard.

This is the archery target in the back yard.

I kind of like the funky lowfi thing and may build a shoebox camera, but where do I get the film developed?