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Grounded in my trapping technique

September 20, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

Accomplishments are funny things. Once you have engineered a grand success, subsequent successes of the same nature fail to be quite as special.

These successes can become old hat, then boring and then even bothersome.

I know that catching a groundhog in a no-kill trap is not winning the Super Bowl, but to someone such as myself - a man with limited goals and even more limited possibilities - you take what you can get.

And I was pretty pleased with myself when I lured the first critter into the wire cage with a peach. They weren't even good peaches, so the experience was all profit.

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Like a detective, I'd considered the matter to be "case closed." It never occurred to me there could be more than one offending animal on the premises - a lot more.

All right, maybe I'd figured on two. Elderly couple. Assisted-living borough. Snag 'em both and you're done.

But mom and pop had no more been dispatched, than I spotted another who was still equipped with his freedom and a set of Stonehenge-size teeth.

I've never seen anything like it really, the property which these critters have established residence. It's on a rather severe slope, and no kidding, there are eight holes in an area of about 100 square feet.

Fearing I was up against some kind of groundhog cult, I redoubled my efforts. I popped three apples into the trap and snuck out to the Woodchuck Waco with a quickness.

I teetered down the bank, looking to place the trap right at the gates to the city, so to speak. But it was bad judgment. At least it was to try to set the trap when there was still dew on the ground.

I could have handled the fall. I could have handled the scraped legs. I could have handled the mangled cage. But what really sent me over the edge was the fact that all three apples rolled out of the trap - and right down into one of the groundhog holes. I try to inflict mayhem and wind up giving them room service.

That did it. I started playing hard ball. I got good at trapping.

The first one was sweet. I trucked him up the mountain and set him loose on the Appalachian Trail. I reckoned that if the through-hikers wanted to see wildlife, I'd give them wildlife.

But pretty soon the catches began to get monotonous. I amused myself by studying their personalities. I know you don't think of a groundhog of being George Burns or anything, but they do have their individual color.

One seemed almost sad to leave the trap. He was kind of a Zen groundhog, I suppose you could say - totally at peace with the situation. When I released him, he bounded off for a couple of feet, then turned and looked at me. Another couple of feet and another backward look. Like, "You sure you want to do this? We could make it work, you know."

Another was the Tasmanian Devil himself, throwing himself against the walls of the trap, snarling, swearing and promising revenge.

I don't know what this Walton clan of a groundhog family thought about the disappearances. Perhaps dinner time would roll around, and one of them would say, "Hey, has anyone seen Stanley?" Or maybe the sheer numbers mitigated any subtraction. For all I know, one groundhog sister might have been happy to discover that she suddenly had her own room.

But even woodchuck sociology can grow old after a while.

The final straw came last weekend when I was afflicted with a bad cold and could barely move. Reluctantly, I parted the curtain, looked across the yard and, sure enough, the trap was populated once again.

At this point, I happily would have swapped Hav-A-Heart for Hav-A-Gun, but our neighbor Walter said you need a .22 to effectively pop a cap in their tuchases while they're still in the cage. All I have is a 20-gauge, and a blast from that would have sent the groundhog, trap and all, into the next county.

So I mustered what little energy I had to drive him up to the family reunion site on the mountain. Then I threw the trap in the barn.

They win, at least for the rest of this year. Thanks to the draught, there's nothing left to eat in the garden anyway. So I'll "rest my case" on this year's accomplishments and let them think about it over the winter. This was just a warning shot over the den. Next year, I'm bringing in the tanks.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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