George Block

Column George Block

George Block is a sports columnist who loves the outdoors.

Groundhog numbers seem to be down

Groundhog numbers appear to be dwindling

August 17, 2013

Over the course of my long life, I have never had an aversion to saying something stupid or controversial. Here’s another one: It seems to me the groundhog numbers are lower than usual this year.

I know I am seeing fewer than usual.

Of course, landowners are having difficulty cutting their grass because of the rain. When they do cut, the window of opportunity is brief. It doesn’t take long for the alfalfa and timothy to get high again, and groundhog hunting becomes difficult or impossible in those instances.

So when judging hog numbers, you have to take field conditions into account.

Still, I get the feeling when hunting familiar fields that groundhog populations are down. I have opinions about why and have heard opinions coming from my circle of friends and some hunters and landowners.

That’s the way life is. Everyone has an opinion.

A farmer who drops the front of his tractor into a groundhog hole would swear there are too many, while a hunter watching an empty field for hours would swear they are extinct.

Somewhere in the middle is probably the truth.

One theory for the low numbers is the heavy rains of spring drowned many of the young. To nonhunters, this might bring a chuckle, but it is possible for a groundhog to become trapped in its den. This is particularly true of the young.

If you doubt this, think back when many low spots were covered by water running like a river through clover fields.

Over the years, I have found groundhogs like to burrow in the lower gullies in a field, making them more vulnerable. I have seen holes completely filled with water.

In other words, there might be some validity to the drowning theory.

The other common theory relates to the region’s greatest predator – the coyote. For a long time, the northern tier of Pennsylvania was famous for its groundhog hunting.

The center of this activity was Potter County. I know at least two groups of hunters who would go to Potter County each summer to spend a week shooting groundhogs.

Now, the locals there will tell you not to bother coming up. The coyotes have decimated the groundhog population.

In this happening here? Are those stories true?

I believe a small number of coyotes can make a dent in the groundhog numbers. After all, dogs catch groundhogs and coyotes are even better than dogs at hunting. Coyotes have to hunt. They don’t have somebody feeding them.

Just because you don’t see coyotes doesn’t mean they aren’t present. They could be living in your backyard and not be seen.

• I can’t help but comment on the question of purchasing a firearm over the Internet. I am computer ignorant, but did manage a gun shop and am familiar with the rules of purchase.

It is illegal to buy a gun through the mail or via an independent company, unless it goes through a Federal Firearms License holder to another person who holds an FFL.

In other words, the purchases must be made dealer to dealer.

When the firearm is picked up by the buyer at the dealer’s place of business, proper paperwork must be completed. It’s the same paperwork that must be completed for an over-the-counter sale.

In most instances, there is a fee charged at both ends of the transaction. To ignore these rules is a violation of law.

If you purchase a firearm on a web site, it cannot be shipped directly to your home. You must have it shipped to a dealer, who then has to complete the appropriate paperwork.

This rule is also in effect if a relative or friend are shipping firearms to one another.

There are no exceptions to this rule.

George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.



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