As I rounded the corner of the tractor path, we saw a small rise on the edge of the corn field. I wanted to charge ahead to look over, throwing everything I knew about stalking game out the window out of shear excitement. Alan put his hand on my shoulder and reminded me to walk slow and look down the edge of the grass. Don’t want to be silhouetted and spook them out of there.
Sure enough, right on the edge and off to the right, one was feeding maybe 35 yards away. Too far, better sneak a little closer. I crept forward, staying low, until I was 25 yards and I could see that my presence was noticed. It was now or never. I drew back, anchored and released. Unsurprisingly missed, but pretty darn close!
Like everyone else that shoots traditional, I can’t get enough! Can’t get enough bows, arrows, broadheads, time to shoot, objects to shoot at… the list is ever-growing for me. It’s always fun when you figure out a new way to put your skills to practice. The one struggle I had was that most of the time, my practice had to be stationary, shooting at a foam target. Of course, that has its purposes and we’ll always do that, but how could I break up my practice time?
I have never been much of a small game hunter, but that passion is growing. I enjoyed the times I went out but it wasn’t something we did a lot of. We practiced shooting indoors and when deer season came around in Pennsylvania, it was time to get serious. Like I said previously, when you shoot a tradbow, it’s never enough. I am learning more about small game hunting and I am loving it. As anyone who has hunted eastern cottontail with a tradbow will tell you, it’s not impossible, but it’s far from easy. It’s also an absolute blast!
One day at church, I was talking to my friend Alan, who is a Pennsylvania mountain dweller. He hunts all types of game, fishes, traps, forages… and of all of the things he is, he is a groundhog hunter. Groundhogs (also called whistle pigs, wood chucks, land beavers, marmots, prairie dogs, gophers, ground hackees, etc.) are public enemy number one to most, if not all, farmers. They are abundant and destructive to valuable farm equipment and crops. After showing me a picture of a big one he shot the day before, I had an idea. I asked Alan if he would take me out whistle pig hunting. Alan was pretty quick to agree to let me tag along with my recurve and shortly thereafter we made plans.
My mind instantly went to well-manicured greens of a golf course with gophers dancing to the sweet sounds of Kenny Loggins. It was much better than that. We roamed the rolling farm hills of central Pennsylvania. Alan took me to a local farm where he has been helping the farmers keep the ground hackies out of the fields for several years. The farmer was happy for the help! Like all good stories, the setting was picture perfect. A thunderstorm just rolled through, the clouds were beautiful, and the mountains of PA were on full display on that summer evening. What a great time to get out and just partake in the outdoors!
We walked the edges of the fields and walked up and down the hills with our eyes peeled, enjoying the conversation too. When we would spot one, we would determine if it was in a position we could stalk to. If it was, it was on me to put my skills (which are not that great) to work. If it was in the open field too far, then Alan’s .17 would do the trick.
You want to talk about fun! It combined the fun of stump shooting with the added pressure of making that shot count. Hunting groundhogs with a bow is not a common activity, certainly not one that I have heard of, but I would encourage you to ask some friends or farmers for permission to take a walk through the fields with your bow. See if you can help the farmers out and hone your skills at the same time.
I will never be satisfied with where I’m at in my traditional journey, but it sure helps when you can have some fun going out in the field and releasing some arrows at some critters. I know I will be enjoying some more time putting the stalk on some prairie dogs this summer.
Some parting advice, farmers appreciate the removal of groundhogs because they dig large holes in the fields which damage their equipment and crops. If you’re like me and do more missing than anything else, it would be smart to take a gun every now and then and shoot a few because that’s still fun too. It will also make the farmers happy, and who knows what doors that can open up for hunting other game.