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.

Tanning Groundhogs

It was time for the groundhog tanning. I had caught these puppies in a trap and promptly frozen them. The two big ones, the ones I was really hoping to taxidermy, were both write offs. They had spent too long in the trap and they were absolutely foul. I simply caped them and tossed them in the compost bin. The two young ones were too small to taxidermy (I’m not building a form) and thus were skinned whole and tossed. Bottom line is the reason why people gut deer immediately is because the meat spoils immediately. The reason why people trapped beaver instead of groundhog was because killing a beaver underwater kept it cold and preserved until you came to pick it up. The hair slip on the one groundhog was enough to give me pause, but the two juvenile groundhogs seemed to be OK.

As far as eating them is concerned, I probably could have cooked up the smaller ones but I wasn’t really keen on trying it since the two adults which I attempted first were so gross and far gone that I wasn’t going to risk cross contamination to the younger ones. They all had been frozen and defrosted together.

Now, I am a huge fan of krowtann 2000. Other tanning products are either a mess to use or nothing more than battery acid with a neat label. If you’re reading it and the ingredients call for salt, iodine, veggie oil and basically anything but salt it’s simply battery acid with a neat label. Krowtann, whatevers in there (it’s acid, mercury and god knows what else, but it’s oh so pretty), just requires noniodized salt.

I’m tanning in a plastic bucket from home depot, and I made up enough to do a “fullsize bobcat”. This is more than enough to do four groundhogs so I’ll save it in the bucket until hunting season and maybe do a few squirrels too. This stuff, for anyone interested in it, works awesome. You dump the rough pelts in there, the meat just sloughs right off in strips after a day, and the pelts themselves come out brilliant white after just one day in the solution. I’ll be neutralizing the pelts this weekend and post pictures but this krowtann stuff is amazing.

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.