Hot Spots

Best Varmint Hunts in the East

When you think of boom towns for varmint shooting, nothing in the East comes to mind. The rolling prairies and grasslands of the Dakotas and Montana are the perennial hot spots. Prairie dog shoots out West can use up thousands of rounds and leave a shooter’s arm bruised. Though you won’t find the same varmint numbers here, the groundhog, distant cousin of the prairie dog, is in abundance. Many farmers are more than willing to let you onto their land to take care of the varmint nuisance. Here are three areas full of sharp-shooting opportunities.

1. Upstate New York: Non-New Yorkers often forget that a huge state exists beyond the confines of the city. In fact, much of the state is used for small agriculture operations. From Pulaski north to Watertown on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, the rolling hills are perfect for picking off a few woodchucks. On a good day hunters have taken 40 to 50 varmints. Hunting usually takes place in the evening. Contact Region Six of the New York DEC, 315-785-2261.

2. Central Pennsylvania: There’s good varminting in the parts of central Pennsylvania known as “Amish country.” The Amish have done much to shape the landscape into endless farmland. From Harrisburg to State College, numerous farms along Highway 22 are full of the nuisance varmints. Be sure to ask for permission first.

3. Northwestern Pennsylvania: Farms in Erie and Crawford counties aren’t large (a tract of 1,000 acres is huge for the area), but that makes scouting for groundhog dens much more manageable. Visit the Game Commission’s Web site,