Managing Crops and Ground Hog Control

Franklin Sides shares his experience with ground hog control when trying to protect his crops from the hungry garden invaders.

| July/August 1988

As MOTHER's gardeners found last summer, when a ground hog raids the plot you need ground hog control, something's got to go! 

Managing Crops and Ground Hog Control

I never dreamed I'd get excited about shooting a ground hog. For that matter, I never dreamed I'd ever try to shoot one. Oh, I used to strap on my toy six-shooter and cowboy hat when I was six or seven and go hunt birds or rabbit with my dad. (I was really the retriever—still, I'd always pull out my gun and bop the prey over the head before handing it to Dad.) That was about the extent of my involvement with firearms. After all, for 10 years I was a vegetarian.

But we all change, and our ideals occasionally have to adjust to reality. After my wife, Susan, and I had lived in the country for a few years, I dropped vegetarianism altogether. In fact, I began to think that having a gun would be a good idea. I figured I could use it to kill homegrown meat animals, fire over the heads of any dogs that got into the chickens and maybe even hunt a few squirrels. It just so happened that MOTHER's editor, Bruce Woods, had a Savage over-under combination (a 20-gauge shotgun on the bottom with a .22-magnum rifle on top) that he wanted to sell. We worked out a deal, and I brought the weapon home.

Then Susan and I had our first encounter with that fabled garden raider, the woodchuck (better known in Southern circles as the ground hog), and I knew that having a gun was a great idea for ground hog control.

We had just moved to a new home way up on top of a mountain, at a spot my sister, Nan, had lived. Both Nan and our landlord warned us they'd often seen ground hogs. Sure enough, during my fall plowing, I unearthed two burrow entrances and spotted three more along the fence, hidden among the poison ivy. I knew trouble was ahead.

I bought some targets and began to practice. My sister looked on in dismay. She remembered the years when I wouldn't eat animals, much less shoot them, so she couldn't imagine me killing a ground hog. I did consider alternatives, of course. Fencing was out; burrows had been dug under the fence that was already there, so why put up another? A live trap might work all right, but I didn't have one of the contraptions. And since, as MOTHER's staff gardeners, our garden is our livelihood, we couldn't experiment with a lot of "maybe they'll work" home remedies. No, I decided that I had better go the sure, quick route.

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