Fall hunting season is here, with thousands of hunters enjoying the challenge of pursuing game and birds throughout the woods and waterways of the state.

Game is abundant in Wisconsin; hunters can shoot rabbits, squirrels, partridge and other species during the hunting season. Year-round anyone can shoot starling, English or house sparrow, chukar partridge, coturnix quail, opossum, skunk, weasel and porcupines. There is a long list of animals that can be hunted in Wisconsin — and a short list of protected species, such as the badger, jackrabbit, moose, flying squirrel and the woodchuck.

Yes, the woodchuck. The prolific groundhogs that destroy gardens and crops, threaten foundations with their burrowing and wantonly destroy property enjoy special protection in Wisconsin.

But perhaps not for long. A bill that would establish a woodchuck hunting and trapping season from July through December has passed through the Legislature’s committee process and is available for scheduling.

My position on this legislation is clear. Woodchucks, groundhogs, hedgehogs, marmots, land beavers or whistle-pigs — I don’t care what you call them — are at the top of my hit list.

While I eagerly look forward for the bill to become a law, Humane Society of the United States lobbyist Melissa Tedrowe earlier this year told The Associated Press that the animal-rights group doesn’t see any need to hunt woodchucks. She said people can control the animals with non-lethal techniques such as harassing them out of the area; disturbing their burrow system by plugging it or placing foul-smelling material such as urine-saturated kitty litter at the entrances; or fencing gardens or tying silver balloons into gardens to scare them away.

Although I have not tried to serve restraining orders on our woodchucks, other harassment and the techniques Tedrowe described don’t work. The woodchucks just disappear into their vast underground network and return later.

Our garage — perhaps better known as a storage shed because it’s been several years since it was used to house a vehicle — has a dirt floor. Recently a woodchuck dug up the corner, creating a massive pile of dirt. There are also woodchuck burrows in our garden.

A few months ago a woodchuck had the audacity to climb onto our porch and peer through the glass door as if to say “Nah-nah-nah-nah, you can’t touch me;” it then quickly jumped off when I ran to get my .22-caliber rifle.

Yes, a rifle. While the species may be protected, the Badger State does have an exemption in the law. Any landowner can dispatch a woodchuck on his or her own property at any time of the year. I call it the Chucky Doctrine, and I will exercise my property rights freely.

Recently, my wife, Sherry, spotted one of the most-wanted whistle-pigs scurrying into the garage. I loaded the rifle, but the criminal was not to be seen. Of course, with my garage finding anything can be a challenge.

I came back inside the house — and the critter came back out of the garage, stopping under a nearby apple tree. I re-loaded the rifle and quietly stepped onto the back porch. As I lined up the crosshairs, I silently whispered … “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya Chucky?” … and I squeezed the trigger.

It was a big male, and apparently the smaller ones make for better eating. Because we already had other dinner plans, I made burial arrangements.

One fewer woodchuck.

Made my day.

Former La Crosse Tribune editor Chris Hardie and his wife, Sherry, raise sheep and cattle on his great-grandparents’ Jackson County farm.

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