I had a great 2012 season hunting prairie dogs this summer, and went after them in several states hitting them in Arizona, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota on several trips. I also got to use several guns ranging from the low end of the price spectrum to the elite models.What I really like about prairie dogging with airguns is that you get a lot of opportunity to shoot, it lets you shoot at distances from a few yards to over a hundred depending on your guns, the conditions, and you marksmanship….. and there is a lot of land in a vast expanses of western land. It’s also getting expensive to hunt these days, and while you can spend a small chunk of change for guided hunts, there are still lots of places on public land to shoot…. or on private land for a small tresspass fee.
Prairie dogs are fairly tenacious critters, and headshots are the best way to ensure that they are anchored. A body shot is likely to let the varmint make it to it burrow, where it will die and be eaten by its denmates. Caliber doesn’t matter as much as the ability to place the pellet exactly where you want it it to go, and for the most part I opt for either a .22 or .25 in an 850 -950 fps rifle as the best tradeoff between energy retention, accuracy, and trajectory. A medium weight round nose Diabolo pellet has been the best when ranges get stretched out in my experience, and I like the JSB, H&N, and Crosman/Benjamin pellets. If the ranges will be kept closer the polymer tipped Predators are very effective. My preference is a variable scope that will let me set the magnification between 6x-12X which I find c0vers the prairie dog shooting application pretty well. I don’t typically carry a spotting scope, especially when hunting alone, however a good set of binoculars can be a big help. I’m using a couple of different models in the Hawke line and have been very happy with them.
I hunted a ranch in Western Kansas a few steps away from the border with Colorado in June. In five days I shot over 300 dogs, even though the wind shut me down a few times. I paid a tresspass fee of $100 / day which gave me free range of the ranch, and since I was using air I also got to shoot close to outbuildings and around livestock where firearms were not allowed. My guns on that trip included the FX Royale .25 caliber, the FX Verminator .25, AirArms TC in .22, and the Benjamin Rogue .357…… Quite a difference in hardware! But all did a great job for me, the small calibers let me reach out to a hundred yards consistantly, and I went quite a bit further with the .357. It seem that even if I take the same group of rifles out each time, I pick a different one as my favorite each time. On this trip my favorite was the . 25 caliber verminator…. it was light and compact to carry, dead accurate, and was just all around fun to shoot. Don’t get me wrong, all these guns rock, but this gun just felt right!
A few weeks later I was in South Dakota hunting private land for coyote with a guide. On the downtime from the predators I took my AirForce Condor out for the Pdogs. I was on a few towns that had been getting hammered by the centerfire crowd, but was still piling up the numbers. The guide told me the dogs seemed more relaxed with the low report of the gun. I got one at a 135 yards on a still morning outing, though most shoots were in the 80-100 yard slot. It’s never a bad idea to have an airgun along even if your out on a firearm or bowhunt for big game, it gives you something to do in downtime. The reason I took the Condor is that with an extra air bottle I was set for a lot of shooting!
After that I was going on a business trip to Dallas, so in advance I’d shipped my AirArms 510 to a friends house out near Midland. I finished up my meeting on Friday, jumped into my car, then flew down the highway to meet up for dinner with a couple friends I’d not seen in a while. Next morning we went out to shoot jackrabbits, but after bagging a few we headed to a small town to rack up some prairie dogs. Didn’t get as many as some of the other places I’d been shooting, but as a diversion from rabbit hunting, it suited me just fine. As a bonus we got a few ground squirrels that were running amongst the pdogs, which I hadn’t seen before. As an extra bonus I got a couple of bobcats on a night hunt before dropping my gun off at UPS and taking off for DFW.
My next trip was one of my best of the year, I flew out to Pheonix to me up with my friends at Airguns of Arizona! We headed to the Northwest desert area….. and man we had a pile of guns lined up for the shoot; I used the HW 100 in .22, the Daystate Huntsman Classic .22, the FX Royale .177, and the FX Gladiator .22….. There was so much fine gear surrounding me I about had a melt down trying to decide what to use! Kip Perow from AoA was with me, and one while he is a great shot and hunter in general, seeing him knock over a couple 100 yards pdogs with the FX Ranchero pistol was really impressive!
Well, winter is coming and my thoughts turn to deer, predators, and birds for now …… but in a few months after these seasons have passed and I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to life than fishing before big game seasons roll round, it will be time for prairie dogs again!! However, my family and I are in the process of relocating from Indianapolis to Minneapolis, so when things start warming up it will be a shorter drive for the Dakota prairie dogs! Not to mention I’ll be doing a series of hunts with my AoA buddies in Arizona as well, which is becoming one of my favorite airgun hunting venues the more I go out there!
BTW: just wanted to mention, we’re only a couple weeks away from the Extreme Bench Rest Competition down in Tuscon (get more info on the AoA website). I’m looking forward to it, and hope I get a chance to meet a lot of the airgunners that have been reading the blog!