The Woodpile Woodchuck


Woodchuck, Vermont, Grilled Woodchuck

This woodchuck had tormented me for weeks. Ever since I received the text that said a woodchuck had been spotted at the office, I’ve amounted to next to nothing. His stomping grounds were within sight of the window next to the printer, and I made an above average number of trips to it to see if I could catch Woody out basking in the sunlight. He was a wary critter – the type that make the hunt challenging and drives a guy insanely unproductive. Twice before he had avoided certain death, but not this time. Not this time.

I’ve been on a mission to redeem myself after the grilled chuck fiasco from last year. If you recall, I was in such a hurry to cook it that it resulted in the toughest piece of meat I’d ever bitten into. There aren’t many recipes online for grilling woodchuck. There’s probably a good reason for that, but I’m bound and determined to cook this woodchuck on the grill in a way that will satisfy the taste buds of any human being. But it’s good for a guy to know his limits, and my cooking abilities have long been known to have a low ceiling. That’s why this year I have enlisted the help of my good friend, Daniel, who happens to be the chef extraordinaire for Coventry Catering to create a recipe for grilling woodchuck that will please even the finickiest of palates. That’s for another day, however.

Trendy foods, such as woodchuck, need to have a story that brings the taste to life. It’s a well documented fact. You could feed a foodie ground up concrete on a traffic cone if the story of how it made it to the dinner table is compelling enough. “You foraged for this concrete from a building originally constructed at the turn of the century?! Oh, I can just taste the history! And the traffic cone? You found that where? On Main Street in Windsor, Vermont while waiting thirty minutes for traffic to resume moving? That is so naughty, yet so incredible how you were willing to risk other’s lives in order to blend the taste of history with the naughtiness of new and never ending road construction. It’s so good I could pass out.”   *Passes out.

See what I mean?

On to the story. Rumor had it that Chuck was living under the woodpile. How ironic for a woodchuck, right? I was standing at the window, err….I mean printer, one day and spotted him standing in the eight inch high grass surveying his surroundings.  For some reason he dropped to ground and bolted. I’m still not sure why, but it was obvious this guy was a wary one. It took three reams of paper and an entire week before I spotted him again.

My second encounter with Woody was a few days ago. He was spotted on the edge of the parking lot and in front of a pallet of material – far from his home under the woodpile.  The approach angle for the stalk was as obvious to me as the day is long. I worked my way around the back of the shop and storage bays. As I approached the end of the building, I decided it was best to use a work truck as a yet another screen between me and Woody. However, as fool proof as my plan was, I blew it. Instead of getting real low, I kept my head just high enough to see above the truck, which was ultimately the biggest contribution to my failure. 

Woody was facing my way when I made the move from the back of the storage building to the truck. Catching my movement, he bolted for the backside of the pallet of material and out of sight. Except, I kid you not, he climbed to the top of the material and gave me one more half second look before taking off again. If woodchucks could give middle fingers, that was it. What a hit to my pride. I returned to my desk with a renewed determination to succeed.

Fast forward to the third encounter – I was standing at the printer and spotted Woody again! He was headed east, which was the perfect direction for a successful stalk. I’d learned from my previous attempt that staying low to the ground a having a spotter was necessary. I belly crawled under the truck, shielded from Woody’s view from a plow and front left tire. I waited and waited. The intensity of the situation was palpable – too much to bear, even.

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My spotter in the office informed me that he was still coming my way, and my heart raced as the seconds ticked away. I convinced myself of the importance of removing Woody from the premises so I felt less irresponsible for stalking him during the middle of the workday. It worked. I held firm in my position under the truck and soon saw movement not fifteen yards away. He’d protruded from the middle of a different pallet of material, foolishly exposing his vitals. His focus this day had been on danger from above, not danger from a sniper under a work truck. I found him in the scope and squeezed the trigger.

It was a quick ending to a two week long hunt. I ran to him and sat on a wood beam adjacent to his final resting place taking a moment to reflect on the memories made during the chase.  He’d been a worthy adversary, there was no doubt. His resolve to avoid the grill was admirable, and now that the chase was over it left an empty feeling inside. I thought about all the times I’d stood at the printer by the window scanning the edge of the parking lot for him and how he’d no longer be there. I thought about all the times I’d sat at my desk thinking of printing something off so I could go to the printer to look out the window for him. I thought about all the times I’d been told to get back to work when I was standing by the printer and how unbelievably short-sighted that viewpoint seemed. Some people…

I skinned him out and stuck him in the freezer for a later date. Not surprisingly, the super sharp Havalon Piranta knife I’d received as a Christmas present was dull. DOES THIS SURPRISE ANYONE?!?! Time to change the blade, I guess. They’re greasy little critters, I’ll tell you that, and they have a stink about them that is almost enough to deter one from trying to create a recipe for grilled chuck. But I will not be deterred! As soon as I have a few more in the freezer I’ll get together with Daniel to see if he can savor the challenge of creating a recipe for grilled woodchuck!

Tim FaceI hope you all have a great weekend! Ignore household chores and go experience nature. Go for a drive to look for moose, go turkey hunting, go fishing…or go stalk a woodchuck! Until next time, Happy Hunting.  

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