By Chris Henderson
In the most recent issue of Pennsylvania Game News, there was an article about eating groundhogs. The purpose was to convince people to eat these critters in lieu of poaching, if the virus has caused them to be short of food. The article took my taste buds on a trip down Memory Lane. While I have neither eaten nor hunted groundhogs in a long time, I know that, when properly cleaned and prepared, the meat is as good as any, with the exception of porterhouse steak, which is the king.
Old Bub’s mother and aunt had a knack for cooking anything, including groundhog. Sadly, they took the recipe to the grave. You know, that happened with a lot of women of that era, including my mother. The recipes were not written down. They just had them in their heads.
The chances are pretty good that you already have a suitable woodchuck gun. In my own case, I have, over the course of my life, bagged more of them with a 22 LR than any other. It requires you to get rather close, but that hones your stalking skills in the process.
Probably the ideal groundhog guns are the centerfire 22’s. I have always had a fondness for the 22 Hornet. If you stay within about 200 yards, this little cartridge will certainly do the job. Years ago, old Bub and I were hunting groundhogs on a local farm. We had my H & R 22 Hornet with a variable power scope and a bipod. It was his turn to shoot, while I watched through binoculars. Bub fired. For a couple of seconds, nothing happened. Then, the groundhog just tipped over. I have never seen anything like that since.
For awhile I did my ‘chuck hunting with a Savage bolt action 222. It was a good gun, but, for some reason, I just didn’t like it, so I sold it. I used the money to buy a single shot 223 with a heavy barrel. This is the most accurate gun I have ever owned. I like to say that it shoots better than I do.
A lot of deer rifles will work quite well on groundhogs. My dear old friend, the late John Gershak, hunted them with a 270. I have known guys to hunt them with a 30.06. In fact, I once shot one with my pet caliber, the 7.65 Argentine Mauser. The problem with such rifles is that they vaporize the woodchuck. There is nothing left to eat. In fact, John once shot one with the weirdest teeth I ever saw. About all he had left was the head. To get it mounted, he had to get the head put on another body.
I’m sure that all of this begs the question of why I don’t hunt groundhogs anymore. The fact of the matter is that, as I have gotten older, cleaning warm blooded animals in warm weather is just too much for my stomach to handle. Also, with age, I have become an “if it dies, it fries” type of guy.
If, however, you are up to the task, here is some info that you might find useful. Be sure to remove the glands when you clean the ‘chucks. They are light brown and easy to spot. Then, soak them overnight in salt water, along with onions, garlic and whatever you might like. Parboil them, then finish them off in the oven or on the grill, preferably with barbecue sauce. You will find that you are in for some great eating.