Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box
Many of you remember the groundhog hunts between myself and my hunting buddy Jack. There was one time of the year that we looked forward to more than all others and that was springtime. Because springtime was when we got the most “dust clouds.”
Now, I’m sure more than one of you guys is wondering, what do ‘dust clouds’ have to do with groundhogs? Well, in the spring groundhogs clean their den out and do some spring cleaning in general. If this is done right just after a rain, and the ground is a little muddy, then they will get a good coat of mud in their hair. (And yes, a groundhog has hair, not fur.) Now, when the mud dries on them, in much the same way wild hogs get mud caked on them, you usually have about 36 to 48 hours before a lot of this dried mud comes off naturally from the groundhog going in and out of his den. If you hit him with a 22-250, 243 or any number of other varmint calibers, you get a nice dust cloud upon impact.
In our area, between about mid-April until mid-to-late May was prime “dust cloud” time. If we were lucky, we would sometimes get four to six dust clouds in a day of shooting. Naturally catching the groundhog at just the right time with plenty of dried mud on him was just a matter of luck.
I’ll admit, the best dust clouds came in areas where the soil was light in color. When dried, this kind of soil gave a lighter colored dust cloud that could be seen easier and farther.
The best dust cloud we ever had came from a field on Dan DeVine’s place. The field was orchard grass and clover with a light colored soil. It was my turn for the next shot and a good sized chuck came out from a den at about 275 yds. in a terrace. Looking thru my scope showed a nice light colored dirt mound just in front of his den. I took the safety off my .243, took a breath and let half of it out. When the cross-hairs settled in the center of his chest, I sent a Sierra 75 gr. hollow point on its way. When that bullet connected, we heard a loud “WHOOP” and a dust cloud that was huge drifted away on a light north breeze.
“DID you see that?!?” I ask Jack.
“Yeah, I seen it alright. It looked like a miniature Hiroshima.” Jack answered.
When I went out to get the groundhog, he was covered in heavy dried mud. The rest of that year Jack called my rife the .243 Hiroshima.