Prairie dog shooting is a great social activity mostly because there is very little hunting involved. The standard modus operandi is to pull up on the edge of a good dog town, set up some portable benches, get out the heavy barreled centefire rifles and go to blasting. In a good day it is easy for one shooter to go through 500 rounds. At today’s ammunition prices this can get expensive.
Continued blasting from a shooting bench during a two or three day prairie dog shoot can become monotonous. By thinking outside the box and using a variety of firearms you can break up the monotony, improve your off-hand, running game and handgun shooting skills. And, just as important, save a few dollars in the process.
One of the best shots I have ever witnessed on a prairie dog was made by a friend using a Ruger, single-action revolver in .45 Colt. The shot was off-hand and the range was just over 100 yards. Granted, you won’t likely make any truly long range hits with a handgun, but distance is relative and a hit at over 100 yards with a handgun is an accomplishment. On a good dog town you will have critters popping up as close as 10 yards. Keep a handgun on the bench with you for the close shots. Single action revolvers in most any caliber and semi-automatic .22 caliber pistols like the Ruger 22/45 Mark III or the Browning Buckmark are a lot of fun in a good dog town.
A lot of shooters are discovering that AR type rifles similar in design to our military’s M-16 and commonly called “black rifles” can be fun and affective in a dog town. Many of these rifles, especially when fitted with a precision trigger like those from Timney, are very accurate even after the barrel heats up. They hold a lot of ammunition and do not require the shooter to work the bolt between shots. A lot of shooters own an AR style rifle but never find an application for the gun other than plinking or home defense. Fitted with a good quality scope, these rifles are very enjoyable in a dog town.
The most fun I have ever had shooting prairie dogs has been with rimfires. Last year I attended a shoot sponsored by Browning, and in one evening fired an entire brick of .22 LR ammunition—that’s 500 rounds—from the new Browning T-Bolt. Most hits were between 50 and 150 yards but believe it or not I had a few hits out as far as 300 yards. Shooting rimfires at long range is a great way to learn how to compensate for wind and practice applying Kentucky windage.
My favorite prairie dog gun is a CZ 452 in .17 HMR. There is no recoil, minimal noise and ammunition is much cheaper than that for a centerfire, especially at today’s ammunition prices. In truth, if you buy in bulk you can shoot the .17 HMR cheaper than you can handload the .223 Remington. It’s the first rifle I reach for when gearing up for a prairie dog hunt.
Games People Play
Regardless of the firearm you use there are some shooting games you can play if you are sharing the hunt with friends. Probably the most common is trying to get the farthest hit. The last time I played this game with several other gunwriters I thought I had the thing won with an 817 yard shot but John Haviland came in with a kill at just over 1000 yards. A good rangefinder is an essential piece of equipment when you are prairie dog shooting.
Another fun game is trying to shoot a dog out from under another shooter. Watch others shooting and when you see them miss a dog, try to jump in and make the hit before they get their next shot off. If you both miss the same dog a few times this quickly becomes a race to see who can connect first. You can also pick a minimum range, say 350 yards, and see who can put together the longest string of hits without a miss past that range.
Finally, as the day winds down and you become wary of shooting stationary targets, start trying to connect with dogs that are on the run. Sure, hits are few and far between but this is a great way to practice on moving targets and when you do connect, celebration is in order. Shooting at running prairie dogs is a perfect time to get out the .22 because you will miss a lot more than you will hit. A semi-automatic .22 with a high capacity magazine is a perfect tool for this challenge.
It’s All about Having Fun
A prairie dog shoot is all about having fun and the camaraderie you experience shooting, laughing and competing with your friends is a big part of it. Vary your prairie dog shooting arsenal, play some games and have so much fun you won’t want to wait until next year to do it again.
Booking a Prairie Dog Hunt
If you are looking for a good outfitter to set up a prairie dog shoot for you and some friends, contact Corey Lundburg with CODA Depredation Services. Several friends and I have hunted with Cory and he knows how to make a hunt fun and can combine coyote calling and even rock chuck hunting with a prairie dog shoot. Contact Cory at www.codahunts.com or 801-310-5673