Rockchuck Hunts are Around the Corner
By Gary Lewis
For big game practice on a small scale, head east of the Cascades and hunt rockchucks, also called yellow-bellied marmots, in and around agricultural land.
Rockchucks populations, without grain and grass irrigated and cultivated by humans, do not grow out of balance. They live in small groups and are kept in check by hawks, coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. But give a rockchuck an alfalfa field and life is good. In time, food becomes so plentiful that they don't have anything left to work at except bringing forth offspring. Soon there are more rockchucks than a farmer can feed.
The marmot armies tunnel pastures, weaken dams and multiply rapidly, decimating farmers' crops, and competing with cattle and horses for food. However, they are a part of the food chain and populations should not be eradicated, just kept in check. Hunters who are safety conscious, courteous, and good shots, can help control rockchuck numbers so that landowners won't have to resort to poisons.
Rockchucks, while they like to graze in the open, prefer borders for their dens. Fence lines or pasture boundaries offer the raised mounds of earth that rockchucks like for cover and close proximity to forage. They will build several entrances to their burrows. Because they can weigh up to fifteen pounds, these entrances can be large. Big enough that a galloping horse can put a foot down one and break a leg.
Spending time afield in the spring is a good way to sharpen your shooting skills for fall seasons, whether you shoot a handgun, rifle, bow, or muzzleloader.
Whatever you bring, hunt as a team. Two hunters working together can take turns spotting and stalking. Alternate shooting and calling the shots. Such practice makes both of you more proficient shooters.
Binoculars are essential for long-range spotting without alarming them. Getting within close range is the hard part. As with larger animals, check the wind before beginning your stalk. Camouflage clothing will help you blend into your environment while you wait for the shot.
April, May and June are the prime months for shooting as crops sprout and grow through last year's stubble. Landowners are often happy to let you shoot, but permission must be obtained. For the best opportunities, establish relationships with landowners prior to the hunt, or contact an outfitter that offers springtime hunts on private land.Gary Lewison