By Mark Fike
If you don’t know what a whistle pig is, count your lucky stars. A whistle pig, aka groundhog, is one of the more destructive varmints to ever venture into a garden. They can wipe out a row of beans in minutes and take out a lot of other vegetables in short order as well.
I keep a rifle handy all summer long to dispatch any and all of them that I see anywhere on my property. My father has his garden over a hundred yards from his house and he suffers from damage they inflict on his garden despite fencing it in and shooting all he can.
Fencing a garden is not worth the money unless you bury the fence at least a foot down in the dirt. Remember, groundhogs are called GROUNDhogs for a reason. They burrow into the ground and sleep there. Digging a few inches to squeeze under a fence takes them less than a minute, particularly when they have their eye on a juicy tomato or row of beans!
So, if you want to use fencing, get a tall fence, bury a foot of it and then electrify a wire around the top edge just in case you end up with some deer looking for a handout. A solar charger will handle the deer, but that is another story.
Hunting groundhogs is not hard and you can certainly get rid of your problem quickly by shooting them. A .22 rifle is all that you need and the report of that round going off won’t alarm the neighbors. A .17 rimfire is great, but very loud.
The drawback to hunting your whistle pigs is that you will never get them all for good. You might get them all temporarily. I do. I make a point to do so. However, every once in a while, a groundhog shows up before I realize it is in the area and wipes out something or a lot of something in my garden before I see it. I take that loss as part of the fact that I live in a fairly remote area and have to lose a battle or two.
If you have more than one or two groundhogs or the area is just flush with them, consider using a box trap. These traps are multi-use and do their duty to catch the possum stealing Kitty’s food off the porch, the raccoon disturbing your chickens or digging in your trash and sometimes if you have a squirrel that is pestering the daylights out of you by eating up your bird seed or something else, you can use the box trap for that too.
Catching a groundhog in a box trap is straightforward. I prefer to set my box traps in the path that the hogs are using regularly. You can do that at the perimeter of your garden or in the bushes or wood line coming from their hole as well. Leave only one door open. You can leave them both open but I have better luck with one open.
Place your bait in the very back of the trap so the hog has to step on the pan which is the trigger. At that point he or she is fully committed to your bait and you won’t have them back out in time to keep the door from fully locking down.
Use an aromatic bait. I like to use fresh peaches. My father uses a ripe banana. Both work splendidly. We rarely have any problem catching our problem in the first day or two. Other fruit will work too. Leave a few tasty morsels leading the way into the trap but don’t feed the hog to fulfillment before it gets into the trap.
If you are having trouble getting a commitment, cover the sides of the trap with brush to make it more inviting and less like a cage.
Once caught you need to have a plan to dispatch your problem. Releasing your problem onto someone else’s property is unethical to say the least. It is also illegal to transport wildlife like that. Use a .22 to humanely put the animal down. If you cannot do it, call animal control. Considering you did half their job for them by catching the critter, they should be OK with taking care of the other half of the job!
If you happen to catch a very young groundhog, give it a try for supper. They are vegetarians and eat your choicest veggies. The young ones are very tender and as much as some of you are rolling your eyes right now, I assure you that the young of the year taste like a great cut of roast beef!