Snaring out one at the end of a dig.
Not the biggest groundhog ever, but the season is still young!
Sunday was a beautiful day in field and forest.
It's still very early in the season though, and most groundhogs are only moving around once a week or so. What happens is that groundhogs first start to stir in early February, but their activity is mostly limited to popping out for a quick poop and pee after three months of hibernation. After a quick evacuation, they generally scoot back in, wall up the den with dirt, and nod back off back to sleep. Right around now, the males will stir a little more and begin to look for mates, but once they have mated a female, she will generally lay up underground as her pregnancy develops. Pups are delivered in mid-April when real foraging starts.
During hibernation, groundhog heart rates will drop from about 80 beats a minute to about 4 beats a minute, and during the time they are underground they lose about 30 percent of their body mass. The result is that after a winter of wet ground that has settled, and with most den pipes still blocked by dirt, this time of year is a real challenge for terriers and diggers as fewer groundhogs are to be found than later on, and those that are found can scoot into some pretty tight pipes.
Isaac and I found a lot of den pipes, and the dogs went to ground and stayed under for quite a while, but we only heard a real bay three times.
The first was a find by Gideon (Mountain went to find us with her classic "come her Timmy" routine) but we had to pop in a lot of holes as the dog moved past dirt blockages and wall-ups erected by the groundhog. Mountain evetually found after we swaped her in, but we let Gideon work it at the end of the dog, as she had found it and bayed it at the start.
The second find was a field sette and pretty deep. I could only hear Mountain when my ear was pressed flat on the ground. The box said she was about 5 feet down, but the sound was not traveling very far. Instead of ruining this farmer's field digging a five foot hole for a groundhog that was sure to dig away in this soft earth, we waited for Mountain to exit which she eventually did. We moved on.
The next sette was found as we headed back to the truck. Mountain found in a nice location and worked it alone for about 15 mintutes before we located her. This place was shallow, but with a lot of rock, and as we dug and shifted some stone, the groundhog either managed to dig away or perhaps it had bolted just before we got there. Either way, we lost this groundhog. Next time.
A highlight of the day was spooking several wild turkeys in two locations. They did a pretty credible job of treeing and then flying some distance to get away from us. I may have to take up turkey hunting as we have great opportuities around here. Shotgun recommendations welcome!