SHOOTING WOODCHUCKS A NATIONAL PASTIME
SHOOTING WOODCHUCKS A NATIONAL PASTIME
By Maurice H. Decker.
EACH season that witnesses a decrease in the numbers of our regular game birds and animals registers an increase in the importance and popularity of the woodchuck as a target for American shooters. There are, I believe, more new guns and rifles tested and targeted upon the woodchuck than any other animal, as there are no game laws, closed season, or two to three days' journey to intervene or embarrass the hunter. The humble woodchuck occupies an important niche in the history of American rifles and ammunition, as it is directly responsible for the new type of high velocity rifles now being placed upon the market by the Savage and the Newton Arms companies. The .22 Savage high-power cartridge was expressly designed as a woodchuck load and from this size the development of the .250-3000, .30 Newton, etc., was' an easy and logical step. When we consider that some of these new cartridges develop the enormous velocity of 3,100 feet per second we can more easily appreciate the value and importance of the every-day woodchuck, perhaps the most abused animal we have in the matter of being hunted with rifles of inadequate power.
Personally I do not believe it is humane or proper to shoot the woodchuck with anything of less power than the .25-20 rifle. To make a satisfactory kill the animal must be hit so he is not able to crawl down his hole and die and the .22 is positively not powerful enough to do this. Even with a rifle of the energy of the. .32-20 one has to hold with good aim, or the game will be lost. Among the rifles the writer has used in shooting woodchucks may be mentioned the .25 and .32 W. C. F., .32 rim-fire, .32-40, .351, .30-30, .35 Remington, .45-70 and .30 U. S. '06. He is fortunate in having close at hand an ideal hunting ground for woodchucks. This is a young peach and apple orchard which is each year sown to clover. It lies upon a hillside with a thick woods at the top, which makes an excellent place to lie in the shade and wait for them to appear.
Last summer when with a friend I was testing out a Winchester. 30 model '06, a Savage model 1914, a Remington .35 auto and three Colt's revolvers and pistols, we could only obtain one day off each week in which to shoot, so we went early and stayed late, carrying along plenty of lunch and a light silk conical tent fitted with netting to ward off mosquitoes and flies. Here we experimented with and fired large numbers of the Ideal gas-check bullets in the rifles and I will say right here that woodchuck hunting is an ideal method by which to get acquainted with a gun or rifle. Also if one can put in a season shooting these animals with any certain gun and not learn its good and bad points and all about it and all about its ancestors, then that one is not a shooter, or a sportsman. We rounded up a dozen holes all within sight and varying distances from our shooting blind, measured off the exact distance and figured the range of each for every rifle with its various loads, so it really was plain suicide for a chuck to stick his nose up above the edge of his hole.
In the Winchester .30 we used the Ideal bullet No. 308334 with 25.5 grains of DuPont No. 21 powder, which makes an excellent load for all ranges up to 500 yards. This load is extremely accurate, can be prepared by the shooter for about one cent each, gives one all the benefit of practice with the regulation factory shell, possesses less recoil and just simply makes the "chucks" turn up their toes and easy to pick up even if sitting upon the very edge of the burrow.
It was while shooting woodchucks that the excellence of the Remington .35 auto-loading rifle was impressed upon me. For hunting medium and large game this weapon suits my fancy better than any other I have ever used. This of course is just my personal preference, as I have talked with sportsmen who could simply see no good points about it whatever. The killing power of this caliber can be fully appreciated after one shot some dozen woodchucks with the 200-grain soft-point bullet. When hit fairly in the head the animal has practically no head left at all when picked up. The .35 caliber bullet of 200 grains weight traveling at the velocity of 2,000 feet per second seems balanced so perfectly in all particulars as to gain the maximum killing effect from the ordinary soft point. A greater or lesser velocity or density would be of inferior value. The average rifleman does not realize that a cartridge must be perfectly balanced in every particular to gain the greatest speed, accuracy and killing power. A glance over any list of modern weapons will show that this weight of bullet and rate of speed is the most popular and common in big game caliber. For extreme high velocity the ordinary soft point bullet is of uncertain performance. The pointed spitzer projectile is the bullet of the future and present developments point to the copper wire insert soft point as being best. This is merely a soft point—pointed bullet with a short piece of copper wire set in the tip to prevent its becoming battered out of shape, or deformed.
Many shooters have a specimen of the old Springfield .45-70 musket and to such I would like to recommend a short range load which we used last summer with great results upon wood chucks. This was the regular .45 Colt revolver 255-grain bullet backed by a charge of 20 grain of black powder. This proved a powerful load for up to 100 yards and the heavy, large caliber bullet dropped the chucks neatly. If you have one of these fine old rifles whose breech mechanism is unquestioned for strength you can get a great deal of pleasure by experimenting with the .45 Colt bullets and various charges of black powder. We started in with 20 grains, loaded the next batch with 40, some with 60 and the rest with 80. This last charge made an ideal express load and one that certainly traveled with some speed. It was not as accurate as the 20-grain load, however, and we had difficulty b making hits with it. One chuck only was shoot with the 80-grain charge and the bullet we found mashed out to nearly twice its original size upon the opposite side of the animal just inside its skin. Often in late afternoon several animals would appear at once above their dens and here was when the quick, deadly work of the Remington automatic asserted itself. To shoot two woodchucks in such rapid succession that the second would not have time to duck down at the report of the first shot required a steady aim and 2 quick handling gun. We had tried out several other autos, but this .35 was the only one which would accomplish this feat. A great aid in rapid work is the smooth, clean trigger pull of the Remington, a feature lacking in most of the other self-functioned arms.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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