By far the most beautiful location off the grid that I have ever had the privilege of working with, was what can only be described as a natural “Arena” or horseshoe shaped property. A side road ran along the front of the property and there was a driveway up to the house, placed conveniently close to the road.
The remaining three sides had gently rising slopes, lightly forested, up to clear ridge lines, with nothing but open field filling the “arena” or inner portion of the horseshoe. I knew this place as a child oddly enough, and only because my brother and I had the biggest scam in the world going.
While the whole idea is less than appealing to some people, groundhog happens to be among one of my favorite meals. The meat is exceptionally lean, almost like buffalo (though substantially smaller) and being as how the groundhogs subsist on a diet mostly of hay, grasses, and in this case, purely on natural growth timothy, it is some of the cleanest … and healthiest meat available.
Add in the fact that none of the artificial additives or preservatives are present, or even the chemical, often toxic remnants of veterinary approved and government mandated medications are present, and the healthy benefits are even greater for those of us who do bow in to our more carnivorous nature.
My brother and I could often get local farmers who believed these wondrous meals to be nothing more than pests, to actually pay us per head and even occasionally, to throw in a box of .22 shells for the sake of ridding their fields of these mighty morsels.
Now hunting groundhogs can be challenging, as they will duck back down into their holes never to be retrieved if one takes a bad shot. Thus it was that my brother and I learned to become very good shots so as not to go hungry.
Mind you, it was a different world back then, replete with a rifle rack behind the driver’s seat on the school bus … though we generally carried our pistols with us into school as there was no place to store them on the bus. Hunting on the way home was often necessary in order to provide for our meals back then.
Understandably, it is a different world today, but groundhog still tastes just as good. Anyhow, we thought that this was just the most amazing thing in the world … these people would actually pay us, and sometimes even throw in a full box of shells so that we could do what we would be doing anyhow.
This is relevant merely because the groundhogs were the only thing anyone was ever allowed to hunt on this property.
Hunters and others could not help but notice the fields filled with deer, turkey, grouse and virtually every other game animal found in the area packed into his fields. (Apparently, over the course of the years, these animals had discovered that this was sacred ground and they were safe here, despite our occasional forays into the open field to gather groundhogs and the even rarer pop of the .22LR we used)
The owner of the land it would seem, kept salt licks and other attractants on his property in order to draw virtually every one of the local creatures into his field of vision. He and his wife had great stories about the sites they had seen and the feats that these animals had performed in front of their eyes over the years.
When people who are unfamiliar with the woods move out into the country, they tend to lean towards this kind of habit. In the case of the people I am referring to, they understood the consequences and knew when to feed and when to withhold feed from the local wildlife populations. Some people who are not quite so familiar with wildlife and life in the wilderness, will not be quite so acutely or keenly aware of the consequences of not knowing when to stop.
In the minds of some people, feeding the animals is a good thing. But there are ramifications for every action and as the old adage goes, good deeds never go unpunished. Feeding at the wrong time of the year or feeding too much to the wildlife, can interrupt migration patterns for birds and cause literally hundreds or thousands of birds to die merely because they are not aware that it is time to move south, because local food sources are readily available still. In the case of larger wildlife, such practices can inhibit breeding habits and even dormancy patterns for bears and their hibernation.
Furthermore, if the people feeding the local wildlife are not careful, there are severe legal ramifications for these actions in the world today. Unscrupulous hunters and others may be tempted to hunt on these fields, either not knowing or caring that the fields have been “baited”. This is an illegal practice in most (if not all) states and could result in severe legal consequences, not only for the hunter, but for the landowner as well.
While it may be idyllic to sit and watch the natural wildlife as it meanders across the property, it should happen, as implied here, naturally. The potential for legal and criminal prosecution in the world today should serve as a constant reminder that, no matter how far out in the country we may live, there are still legal responsibilities and ramifications for all of our actions, though not only to the courts, but also the course of nature itself.