Fried Woodchuck

1 Woodchuck
1 tb Salt
1 c Flour
4 tb Fat
1/2 ts Salt
1/4 ts Pepper

1. Skin and clean woodchuck and cut into 6 or 7 pieces

2. Put in pot, add salt and enough water to cover and parboil for 1 hour.

3. Remove meat from the broth, and drain.

4. Dredge meat in flour, salt and pepper.

5. Melt fat in heavy fry pan and saute woodchuck until nicely browned.

Serves 6 (Recipe and “woodchuck-Buddha” photo courtesy of Bert Christensen’s Weird & Different Recipes)

That’s right. Fried. Woodchuck. Better known as “groundhog” in some parts of the country.

I didn’t wake up one day thinking, “man, I’d like to rustle me up some nice juicy woodchuck – better do a Google search for a recipe!”. The idea has been fermenting in my brain, jump-started by the overnight disappearance of 18 heirloom tomato plants. The appearance of a cavernous hole in a granite boulder rock retaining wall, with a large mound of displaced dirt (retaining wall innards) at its entrance added to my momentum of putting wildlife into proper perspective.

There are those who would argue wildlife has been displaced by my home. If this were California, and not New Hampshire, I would have to invite the displaced creature into my home, providing free room, board AND a college education. New Hampshire hasn’t completely been turned over to the nonsensical liberal mind. Yet.

Yes, yes, he was here first. I. Don’t. Care.

Besides, technically, the one I’m considering stewing or frying or grinding into hamburger isn’t the poor creature I displaced with the construction of my home. I tried my best, the first time around, to do what I thought was the right thing. I paid $250 hard-earned bucks to live-trap the first “Chuckie”, my little pet name for “him” or anything that looks, moves and destroys like “him”. And I only resorted to trapping, with the emphasis on “live” trapping, after suffering his demolition antics for two years. Looking back, I wish I’d just done away with Chuckie the good old-fashioned way – the opposite of live-trapping. At the time, I would never have considered the possibility. Chuckie was my first personally experienced woodchuck. He was cute in a rodent-like way, an enlarged version of my daughter’s guinea pigs – sweet, cuddly creatures. I felt sorry for him, wanting to give him a chance to live. Anywhere. Just not in my yard.

It was only after the “live” trapping occurred, and Chuckie was relocated to a place far, far away – hopefully, not just dumped off the next block over – I discovered that live-trapping is more-than-likely a pretty cruel thing to do. Survival rates are extremely low for a relocated animal. They’re usually dumped off in the middle or latter part of a season where there’s no existing shelter and no knowledge of the new area’s particular food sources. Both of these require a great deal of physical and mental energy to acquire, setting the stage for a nasty, slow, painful death-by-starvation or exposure, undeserved no matter the perceived transgressions. It turns out that the best one can hope for, when live-trapping and relocating a creature, is the animal’s life is quickly and mercifully ended by something higher up the food chain – a hungry fox, coyote or fisher cat.

Before live-trapping Chuckie, I tried positive thinking. My version of it went something like this:
A) Woodchuck life expectancy is 3 years
B) He’s made mine miserable for 2 years
C) Therefore, he’s at least 3 years of age and I’m positive (there’s that positive thinking!) he will expire over the winter.

Winter came and went. Spring came and found me out in my yard, enjoying the interplay of sunrise colors on my daffodils, hot steaming mug of coffee cupped in my hands. Raising it to my lips, I looked over the rim and there he was. Chucky. Being a “visual” learner, I was aware that at that very moment, I saw his name being rewritten in my brain, the spelling shifting from –ie to –y. Chuckie (Rugrats – cute, pesky kid) shifted to Chucky (horror!).

Chucky, formerly known as Chuckie, sat upright balanced on his chubby little rear end, front legs resting comfortably on his woodchuck-Buddha belly, his eyes locked on mine. We’d had face-to-face encounters so many times over the past two years I am convinced we read each other’s expressions and thoughts. Chucky’s thoughts came to me, clear as a bell. “Rats. I can’t believe she made it through the winter”. He’d been practicing positive thinking, too.

Later that morning, I hired Wildlife Man – a bonafide, certified, licensed professional who told me, “trapping this guy could take most of the summer – they’re not dumb”. Weeks passed.

Chucky diligently proved his intelligence, strolling by the tarp-covered trap, eyeing me up and down with a “I can’t believe you’d think I’d fall for that” look on his face. Finally, many destroyed plants later, I heard the very satisfying snap of the metal trap door. It seems Chucky had run out of landscaping, feeling the compelling need to snatch the carrot-bait. Peering into the caged eyes of my nemesis, I’m not sure who hissed more loudly – Chucky or me.

I waved “bye bye”, wished him “good luck” without knowing at the time how very much he would need, naively throwing in a few carrots for his long ride to his new destination, and went about the business of planting eggplants, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, and oh, you get the idea. I, silly human, thought that just because I desired it so badly, life was going to return to “normal”.

Chucky, it seems, was a fertile beast. Seed of Chucky, Chucky2, has appeared. The carefully tended vegetables in the garden disappeared. Now that he’s had his fill, he’s working on my lawn, right next to the Japanese Beetles. As he grazed on my lawn yesterday, I watched from my son’s 2nd story bedroom window. Then, it hit me. I’m making a diligent effort to provide grass-fed meat to my family – grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, and grass-fed buffalo because only grass-fed meat provides the correct balance of Essential Fatty Acids, critical to we humans. There, in my very own pesticide-chemical-free organic lawn sat my very own grass-fed woodchuck.

A woman armed with recipes is a dangerous creature. Look out Chucky2.

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