I’ve wanted to go prairie dog shooting since I was a teenager. I saw some amazing videos of marksmen shooting prairie dogs out to 500+ yards and I wanted in on the action.
If you are unfamiliar with prairie dogs, they aren’t the cute and cuddle ground squirrels. They are the terrorists of the prairies. They carry disease and plagues, and destroy the land. Their holes destroy the land and endanger livestock and harm numerous cattle and horses. Even the BLM has declared them a pest and ranchers will gladly allow shooters to help eradicate them. We were happy to help with this problem.
We traveled to southern Wyoming on a 70,000 acre ranch to help eliminate as many pests as we could. With a video camera, rifle and cases of ammunition on hand we had a busy 2 day shooting session.
My buddy from a previous trip informed me that the .17HMR was a great round for this terrain. While some larger P.dog towns in north Texas you might get opportunities for 500+ yard shots, most in this area were within 200 yards due to the rolling hills.
I didn’t own a .17HMR. I mostly target shoot and my .22LR does just fine for that. So I called up my friends at Volquartsen Custom and told them I needed an emergency hunting rifle ASAP and they were kind enough to send me a loaner. Boy was I happy with it.
That Volquartsen was a real treat. It ran like a top, shot 1/2″ groups at 100 yards and the heavier action and barrel made subsequent shots quick and easy with the 9 round magazine. I should note that while Savage claimed their A17 is the first semi-auto .17HMR Volquartsen has been doing perfectly for quite some time now. I shot around 1,200 rounds through it in the next few days and really got a good feel for it. When the wind would pick up or I didn’t call the distance correctly I would send a followup shot half a second after the first round hit. The rifle gave me a distinct advantage over the others with an A17 and bolt gun. My friends hunting beside me didn’t care for the compensators effective blast too much so we took that off halfway through the trip. Next time suppressors are in order!
The prairie dogs are pretty spread out in Wyoming. It’s not like the huge towns in North Texas. So we hunted them by driving around in our suburban, and when we saw some would open the door, put one or both feet on the ground per Wyoming law to take the shot. You can’t “hunt from vehicles” and this extends even to private property and pests.
Even though it was the end of season we saw quite a bit of action. Some areas we would shoot 30-40 at a time, other places we would stop the vehicle every 50 yards for a single shot. Most were shot from 50-200 yards but I did bring out my .223 20″ bull barreled varmint AR and took a few over 400 yards away with a 45 grain soft point.
When you get into this volume of shooting I learned to load my magazines, swap and top off the rifle, load, and safety without ever taking my eyes off the prairie. You have to stay focused and scanning the entire time, and quality binoculars helped.
While the p.dogs would hang out occasionally when you missed them, you still needed to be quick on target acquisition. Finding the dogs in your scope might not be as easy as in your binoculars. The terrain doesn’t have many landmarks visible beyond the sage brush which makes acquisitions and communication to other shooters difficult.
The final counts were most impressive. In the 2 days of shooting I confirmed 476 total, my buddy who setup the trip and drove us around the entire time had 215, and his 14 year old son totaled 291. Thats 982 total. The ranchers were pleased with our efforts.
Out of the several hundred kills, I captured a few on video. None of these are my shooting but nevertheless, enjoy: