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Out in South Dakota on a Prairie Dog Hunt

Posted by on August 26, 2014

Unfortunately I was late getting out for P-dogs this season and worried the populations would be down and the dogs very wary. I’d had an invite to hunt a big ranch property in the Western part of South Dakota, so loaded up my (mountain of) gear and made the 7 hour drive. I got in four days of shooting, but lost most of one to rain.

The dog population was pretty good and there were still some young dogs running around, my bigger challange was weather. I rained a bit (an understatement on one of the days) and got pretty windy at times. My shots were at 50 to 125 yards with the majority at 80 yards. I had a lot of guns, but shifted my shooting in the windy conditions to guns in the .30’s shooting JSB Diabolo pellets, as I found them more resistant to the influences of the wind, though some Kentucky windage was called for.

Brett from Bad River Bucks and Birds was a great host on this trip, and really knows the country and wildlife!

Brett from Bad River Bucks and Birds was a great host on this trip, and really knows the country and wildlife!

Lining up the shot with the FX Boss, the .303 and this rifle were a great combo for long range shooting,

Lining up the shot with the FX Boss, the .303 and this rifle were a great combo for long range shooting,

When the wind calmed down, I had a few shots out at about 125 yards, and the larger calibers had great terminal performance. One thing I like about using the mid bores for prairie dogs, is that you get a lot of field shooting with the same gun you’ll use for predator hunting, which will make you a better field shooter when a coyote is in the crosshairs.

I set the hunt up with Bad River Bucks and Birds, they have a great lodge, lots of land with an incredible amount of game and several prairie dog towns. First day was overcast with some sun poking through and we hiked miles. I’d set up, shot three or four dogs as they’d slowly pop up out of their holes, then move a couple hundred yards away and repeat. ¬†As I walked up they’d dive down the burrows, but ten or fifteen minutes later barking would start and a few minutes later a head would pop up.

Our Quarry, even though the weather didn't cooperate, was out and about.... and fairly plentiful.

Our Quarry, even though the weather didn’t cooperate, was out and about…. and fairly plentiful.

I really enjoy this approach; using an airgun and working each dog as a quarry rather than sitting 300 yards away on a bench rest and viewing them as targets. This is not a high volume shoot, 40 dogs in a day is a good hunt, it’s more about how you’re getting them than how many.

There are only a couple articles of gear I carry besides my gun and pellets; shooting sticks, binoculars, range finder, a buddy bottle in a messenger style day pack and a foam seat. I practice shooting from a sitting position of sticks frequently, and can lock up pretty solidly. The binos can help locate the little sage rats while they are peeking over the rims of the mounds, and the range finder is essential when dealing with the long shots as inches of trajectory is significant on a small kill zone.

We had great wildlife viewing along the way; we saw bison, mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, and more pheasant, prairie chicken and waterfowl than you can imagine!

We had great wildlife viewing along the way; we saw bison, mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, and more pheasant, prairie chicken and waterfowl than you can imagine!

Beautiful landscapes, a great way to end the day.

Beautiful landscapes, a great way to end the day.

Anyways, I had a great time, and would say that if you want to have some outstanding shooting and hunting, get out on the dogs!

3 Responses to Out in South Dakota on a Prairie Dog Hunt

  1. Richard Patz

    Jim, looked like it was a great trip. I have a question. How do you travel with you PCP rifles when you fly. I’m traveling to extreme bench rest from Florida in November and was debating on shipping or checking my rifles as baggage.

    Thanks in advance!

    Rich – Florida

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Rich;
      It will be nice to meet you at the EBR, its a great gathering as well as a great competition! When flying, your gun should be locked in a hard side airline approved gun case with locks, depressureized and unloaded. I have found it’s easier to say its a firearm, as an airgun confuses the situation. You will sign a declaration card that goes into the case. It’s somewhat different from airport to airport at this point. Sometimes they will send the bag through and have you meet TSA on the other side of security with the keys for thyem to do a check, at other airports you’ll carry it to a TSA station where they may or may not ask you to open the case. Then you simply pick your gun up at baggage claim (some airports will send to oversized baggage). I never travel with tanks as these must be depressureized and disassembled for a visual examination… it’s easier to rent tanks, but at the EBR there are compressors and air available anyways. See you there!!
      Jim

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