by Steve Sorensen (Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, July 20, 2013.)
you’ve missed any shots at deer in the last year or two, you may have blamed
your rifle, scope or ammunition, but it’s likely that none of those are the
reasons for inaccuracy. It’s probably the fault of the guy who shoots your
you plan to hunt deer this fall, now is the time to do something about that guy.
Tune his shooting skills by heading to the woodchuck fields.
Knock on some farmhouse doors and
request permission to thin their woodchuck population.
people advise making your deer rifle your woodchuck rifle. I don’t, mostly
because it’s way overkill on woodchucks. A .30-06 is loud, punishes your
shoulder, and its bullets are much heavier than necessary to kill a woodchuck.
recommend a rifle that handles much like your “loudenboomer” deer rifle, but
shoots a lighter bullet. If you shoot a bolt action deer rifle, use a bolt
action for woodchucks. Lower recoil is a plus. That might mean a .22 rimfire,
but beware – .22 rimfire bullets ricochet more than others so make sure you
have a good backstop and never shoot into rocks.
it might mean a classic varmint cartridge, like the .223 or the .22-250. Those
reach out to 300 yards and beyond – much farther than typical deer ranges. I’ve
been using the tiny .17 HMR because it’s quiet, accurate, and its bullets tend
to disintegrate when hitting the target – they don’t ricochet like heavier
the trigger pull weight on your deer rifle, and use a rifle with a similar
trigger. The weight of the trigger can have a big impact on accuracy. Thanks to
corporate lawyers, most new rifles today are shipped with fairly heavy triggers.
If your rifle has a heavy trigger and you don’t want to lighten it, it should
break crisply and cleanly.
hitting the woodchuck fields, shoot a few rounds at a target. You’re looking
for headshot accuracy, and a woodchuck’s head gives you little margin for
error. Most deer are shot inside 100 yards, and woodchucks are easy to find at
that range (give or take). So, either sight in for 100 yards or know exactly
where your bullet hits at that range.
you’re satisfied with how your gun shoots, knock on some farmhouse doors and
request permission to thin their woodchuck population. Woodchucks may look cute
and innocent, but these warm-blooded machines do nothing but eat, excavate, and
replicate. The alfalfa they eat costs farmers a little, but the cost goes way
up when they dig holes and pile up the dirt. No farmer likes damaged farm
machinery, wasted time from dulled mower blades, and injured cattle from
stepping in the holes.
these hot, stifling mid-summer days, the best times to hunt them are mornings
and evenings. Of course, you’ll never see as many woodchucks as there are. For
one thing, they can easily flatten themselves to hide in grass that’s just a
few inches high. Once mowed hayfields turn green again, you’ll see them when
they lift their heads to periscope for danger. (Binoculars are a must, and good
practice for using them in the deer woods.)
doesn’t take much strategy to hunt woodchucks, but you do need a plan. Don’t go
traipsing out through a hayfield and expect much success. For one thing, woodchucks
have an uncanny ability to locate their holes where they can spot danger from
almost any direction. Besides, open expanses of field don’t harbor as many
woodchucks as the tall weeds along the edges, the fencerows, and the brush around
trees or other structures. So, concentrate on those features -- woodchucks sneak out into the hayfields from them, and and you can approach them
from directions where you’re less likely to be seen.
here are the benefits. A live target doesn’t give you endless time like a paper
target does, so you have some pressure to get the shot off. Also, you’ll squirt just
enough adrenaline into your bloodstream to increase your heart rate. If you learn how to cope with those two pressures, you'll gain confidence that you’re going to hit what
you shoot at.
betting that if you send a few woodchucks to their happy grazing ground this
summer, you’ll be less likely to miss a deer this fall.