Are You a BAD ENOUGH DUDE to… Kill a Groundhog?

This was the guy who made the HUGE PILE in the back of my property. Looks like his digging days are over.

Size comparison. Just fill in the rest of it, they stink too much to take out of the bag.

Big teeth are pretty standard on these guys.

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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.

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.

Hunter Safety and Arms Dealing

I AM SO PSYCHED UP FOR HUNTING THIS YEAR.

I’ve possibly taken it beyond general interest and approached rampant fetishism.

Part of this is because my wife is interested in hunting. She’s also decided that she wants to make wine, which on some level overlaps the brewing hobby. However unlike beer, winemaking is a lot less involved. So as a “together” hobby, that one doesn’t really pan out since there’s a surprisingly minimal time investment for something that is going to age for six months plus.

On the other hand, it’s really nice that she’s interested in hunting, which is a fantastic “together” activity. Men who read this blog – take your wives hunting.

She wants a bow, but they’re marginally expensive ($300 buys you a midrange compound) and the accessories can be insane ($100 for expanding tip graphite arrows, twelve of them). There’s cheaper alternatives, but like bullets it doesn’t behoove you to hunt with match bullets nor does it work to shoot targets with expensive hunting bullets. But, bows are on sale right now, and if she catches the hunting tradition, then maybe that’ll be for next year. I would like to know where people go to dump their used bows – there’s nothing like bowbroker.com (gunbroker, but for bows). To further complicate things, we’re both left handed, and not a lot of second-hand lefty stuff is floating around out there. Unlike guns which are generally ambi-, bows are almost entirely single-handed.

Anyway, the point is that it’s just nice to have my wife involved in something I’m interested in. It certainly means that our family will continue the hunting tradition. I’m also dragging my friends into it – both Travis and Jon are taking or will have taken their hunter safety courses, so now you guys need to get your women into it also. Women don’t seem nearly as turned on as men are at the prospects of DIY BBQ potential though.

Everything is cyclical – one family enters the tradition as one family leaves it. A guy here at work hadn’t hunted since 1991 and was a fairly typical “drop out” of the hunting scene. He hunted with his father and went through the motions when his dad stopped hunting and never seriously pursued it past a “together” activity. His Remington 700 in the popular caliber of 270 hadn’t seen the sotto light of the woods since then, and he was looking to sell it. A hunter safety instructor is interested in buying it where once again it will be reborn into it’s purpose.