Montana Prairie Dog Trip

Discussion in 'Varmint Hunting' started by JR in KY, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. JR in KY

    JR in KY 10 pointer

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    Jan 25, 2006
    The Occupied South
    A couple weeks ago I went on my annual Prairie Dog Safari to the plains of Montana. I have chased these critters all over the Western states. South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Montana.
    Twelve of us from 6 states met on the prairie in central Montana. It was quiet a gang and we all had a good time.
    This year the numbers were way down due to hot extremely dry year last year and 4 feet of snow which fell in January and just stayed.
    This was probably my last trip, but here are a few photos.

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  2. barney

    barney 12 pointer

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    I always wanted to do that. What was your longest shot?
     
  3. JR in KY

    JR in KY 10 pointer

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    The Occupied South
    There are 2 Types of Prairie Dog Shooters.
    Long Range and Short Range...Short being 300 yards and under.
    I am of the Blood and Guts under 300 yards type. But to answer your Question, This year about 300 yards. I used to go with some fellas who started at 1000 and worked out from there. Custom Rifles, Ammo, $3000 scopes, and a LOT of LUCK.
     
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  4. Prairie dogging is such great fun! It has been too many years since I have gone but it is a great way to improve your long distance shooting and wind reading capability. I was in Montana earlier this year and in Utah recently and spotted PD towns in both places. It got the juices flowing again. We always worked over the close ones first with rimfires until they were out of range and then pulled out the centerfire rifles to stretch them out further. Unless you have a rifle capable of 1/4 MOA accuracy, the longer shots are tough. I tried using my AR15 one year on a town where the closest dogs were about 250-300y out. The stock colt rifle was simply not capable of enough accuracy to do the job, even with precision re-loads using match bullets & primers. I put it away and went back to the very accurate Rem 700 varmint with a big scope on it.

    Irish
     
  5. skruske

    skruske Fawn

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    Oct 6, 2018
    Halfway USA
    Yep, hung his boots up, he's all done. It's been a hell of a lot of fun buddy.

    [​IMG]

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  6. Carl

    Carl 12 pointer

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    I have a Remington 700 BLD "Varmint Special" in .243. I bought this rifle for my late dad's birthday in 1970. K-10 Weaver scope. He made some long distance shots killing groundhogs. Every time I look at this old rifle, I remember the fun Dad had with it. It has been taken care of and still is a nice looking rig. It is a little heavy for deer hunting and I hardly ever see a groundhog so it just sits in the gun safe.
     
  7. barney

    barney 12 pointer

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    That same model and chambering was owned by a good friend of mine. He bought it cheap from a used car salesman who had taken the rifle in on a car trade. At the time, in the 70's, he bought it for shooting groundhogs because he thought the .243 was just a little small for deer.

    My friend liked the rifle so well, he eventually took it out on a deer hunt where he expected a long shot overlooking a big cornfield. He ended up killing a nice buck that afternoon at about 300 yards. He was amazed the buck dropped in its tracks. After anchoring several more deer in their tracks through the 80's, including a couple of mule deer, and an elk in Colorado, he was sold on the .243 as the perfect round. Listening to his hunting stories with that big barreled .243 rifle through the years sold me on on the .243 for deer as well.

    I ended up buying a heavy barrel Ruger model 77 chambered in .243 in the late 80's and after having killed a truck load of deer, and yotes I have never wanted anything more. My longest ranged shot on a buck with my rifle was 380 yards, and 420 yards on a coyote.
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Carl

    Carl 12 pointer

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    Underground Bunker in KY
    Good post, pics and story, Barney. I have heard a lot of people say a .243 is not big enough for deer. I have argued with many of them. If you put the bullet in the right place the deer will drop. Even a 458 magnum wont kill a deer if you hit him in the foot.
     
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  9. 1wildcatfan

    1wildcatfan 12 pointer

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    those dogs are lucky to have all that grass. where i hunted them in Wy, grass was sparse. you could see the edge of the dog town by the grass eaten to the dirt. posted pics a few years ago. boys and i had a blast using 17 HMR's. don't know how someone shooting a centerfire could afford to shoot like we did. when the wind picked up, the 20 gr bullet got blown around easy.
     
  10. We mostly used .223's for P-dawgs. If you buy the powder and primers and bullets in bulk and save up your AR brass, you can load em with a Dillon 550 fast, accurate and relatively cheap. I never found a factory load that could print groups half as good as my reloads. That way you don't waste many shots. Larger options like the 22-250 and the 243 are better for the super long distance shots but we liked the .223 because it was cheap to shoot, brass is plentiful and it does not burn up the bbl.'s quite as fast as the hotter cartridges. But, the #1 reason is that with a .223 and a variable scope, you can dial the magnification down to about 8x and you can retain your sight picture on each shot so that you get to watch the red mist and the P-dog hang time when you blast them apart. Even at 500y the .223 loaded with 40g V-max and a healthy dose of H335 would turn a prairie dog inside out. It does take a good rifle and a bit of luck but is great fun. For short range, supplement your centerfire with 17hmr, 17wsm and 22mag and 22lr. You don't get the impressive, explosive effects with these but it is still fun. If you are into the rimfire PRS matches this is great practice with the 22. Small tgt, cross winds, You can hit em out to 150y or a little better depending in the winds. The lighter reports from the rimfires don't send the big ones diving underground quite as fast either.

    Irish
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  11. 1wildcatfan

    1wildcatfan 12 pointer

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    we were shooting em out to 200 with the HMR's until the wind got too strong.
     
  12. FBICAT

    FBICAT Spike

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    Nov 30, 2009
    Graves County
    Great pictures, haven’t been in few years. Always fun, I have always liked 22-250.
     
  13. I have no doubt. I did not own my HMR at the time of my last trip but my son was hitting them out to about 200y with his 22mag. I often shoot my 17hmr out to 200y with high precision and my 17WSM can reach out even longer. We are working on plans for a run out that way next year.

    My experience with all of the rimfire 17's and precision 22lr is that they are mostly capable of accuracy which is about half that of a high precision centerfire. That basic precision limitation will determine how far our you will be able to use the rimfires with reasonable success. For example, my 17hmr is able to group about 1.5" sometimes a little better at 200y. This is sub MOA. It means that at 200y, you can expect to hit most big PD's and some of the small ones with that rifle. Out past that and it becomes mostly a factor of luck. I do often shoot little 2" and 3" shards of broken clay birds with this rifle out to 230y which is the limit of my local range. It hits more than it misses at that distance.


    My Rem 700 .223 on the other hand is known to be capable of 1/4 MOA and sometimes less at 200y using my custom loads which were tailored just to that rifle. It was accurate enough to insure hits on the smaller juvenile PD's on nearly every shot out to about 350y. Beyond that it was really more a factor of luck also. While it has recorded kills on PD's out to almost 600y those always took many trial and error shots for each hit. At those extreme distances, it was tough to get the elevation right and any cross wind made the effort hit or miss. I recall one dog town where the cross winds were so bad that it was moving a hi-vel 223 load 2 ft to the right from the POA at 400y. But with the wind steady, you could adjust and still make reliable hits. By being able to do your own spotting, it was fun and fast. If I traded the 223 for a larger round even as small as the 22-250 and it becomes nearly impossible to do my own spotting and thus one of us has to stop shooting to help me. Same would be true with the .243. The recoil, while light, is too much to retain your sight picture thru time of flt to tgt and successfully do your own spotting. Keep that in mind when choosing your primary PD shooter rifle. I know a lot of guys who moved to 223 AI or .204 or .204 AI in efforts to gain usable range without causing too much recoil. Some success from all of these.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2018

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