Prairie Dog Hunt (2015)

Prairie Dog Hunt
This shows the damage that prairie dogs can do to an alfalfa field.

      How many prairie dog mounds can you see in this field?   I guarantee that you could see well over a hundred mounds from this spot, and that doesn't count the mounds that were hidden behind the alfalfa.   I enhanced the contrast on this picture to clearly differentiate the light and dark colored areas in this field.   If you look closely, you'll see light green areas that were eaten by the prairie dogs.   The land owner remembered our visit from last year when we got over 1,000 prairie dogs.   He asked us to eliminate as many prairie dogs as possible, especially in one particular field.   We were glad to hear that, so we did our very best!

Prairie Dog Hunt
This year we brought over 6,000 rounds and a few extra shooters.

      After a quick breakfast, we loaded up and headed out to eliminate prairie dogs.   This year (for the very first time) we all decided to use factory loads.   After our last trip to Montana, we discovered that Fiocchi makes unusually good .223 Rem. ammo (with 40 gr Hornady V-Max bullets).   We could all get MOA accuracy with this ammo.   I have found that it is difficult to tune the AR-15 gas system to reliably function with it.   However, these lightweight bullets allowed us to always see the bullet impact as long as our scopes were set at 16X or lower.

Prairie Dog Hunt
We formed a line of firing positions to cover this field.   I had to take valuable time to snap this picture.

      Cabela's gave us a great deal on a few more of these swivel shooting benches, and they worked great!   We sometimes had to carry them quite a distance from the trucks to our firing positions, but they provided a steady shooting platform that was hard to beat.   The shooting from this spot lasted over two hours before it even started to slow down.

Prairie Dog Hunt
Robert and Steve will always make a hunt more memorable.

      We fired a lot of rounds across this field, and one round hit something it shouldn't have.   Take a close look at this picture, and you'll see what looks exactly like a high voltage wire hanging down behind Steve.   One of them shot it down by accident.   (Take a guess at who shot the wire.)   It really was an accident, but to hear them tell the story would make anyone laugh.   I can tell you from experience, that this story will get even better with time.  

Prairie Dog Hunt
Robert's grandson "Grayson" is getting experience as a long range shooter.

      Grayson's grandpa has obviously shared a lot of shooting experience with him before.   Grayson took his share prairie dogs, and you can bet he will soon become a serious rifle shooter.   We need to convince more kids to stay off their cell phones and get them outside.   Take the time to get young shooters involved in the shooting sports.   You'll be surprised to see how quickly they can become proficient with a rifle.

Prairie Dog Hunt
Grandpa Robert's older grandson "Travis" is setting records in trout fishing.

      Hey . . . . what happened to the prairie dog article?   Well, my camera failed to get a good picture of Travis on this prairie dog hunt.   But his Grandpa Robert saved the day with this picture.   It was taken just a few days earlier.   Check out that stringer of fish!   That monster trout earned Travis the name "Trout Man".   He also nailed a lot of prairie dogs on this trip.

Prairie Dog Hunt
This is an improved version of the AR-15 I used last year.

      This year, I used an AR-15 with a 20" heavy Krieger barrel and a custom tight neck chamber.   It also has a 14 ounce Geissele trigger, and a radical muzzle brake that makes it sound like a .50 caliber.   Even though these 40 grain loads required my rifle to be operated in single shot mode, it was well worth it to see the bullet impact on almost every shot.   We killed over 3,000 prairie dogs on this trip.   The barrel got so hot that the blue locktite on my muzzle brake loosened up.   After that, I had to re-tighten the muzzle brake fairly often.

Prairie Dog Hunt
"Grandpa" Bob is about to drop the hammer on a prairie dog.

      Bob used his new .204 Savage rifle, and he had no problem shooting half MOA groups with it.   That is spectacular accuracy for a factory rifle using factory ammo!   Last year he used a .223 Remington.   We were surprised that even the light recoil from his .204 had enough muzzle jump to keep from seeing some of his bullets hit.   Of course it helps to use a lower power on the scope.   That increases your field of view.   However, you don't see as well at long range.   We discussed adding weight to our rifles, and we agreed to solve this problem (before next year), by adding weight to the forearm.

Prairie Dog Hunt
This is "Justin" using his Grandpa Bob's rifle.   It's a tack driving Savage rifle chambered for .223 Rem.

      This was Justin's first trip to hunt prairie dogs.   He was impressed with the beauty of Montana.   The prairie dogs were everywhere.   In this target rich environment, his rifle stayed pretty hot.   After a full day or two of continuous shooting, our eyes got incredibly dry.   It was so bad, that when I blinked, my eyelids sounded like an old camera shutter.   So, we took one day to visit the nearby "Little Big Horn Battlefield".

Prairie Dog Hunt
Way out in the high plains of Montana, we were surprised to meet two other devoted prairie dog hunters.

      We were even better prepared than our last years hunt, but we were impressed when these hunters came rolling up in their 4 wheeler.   Take a look at those rifles.   They had 8 custom rifles designed for long range varmints.   When one of their rifles got too hot, they would switch to another rifle.   If an extra long shot was encountered, they would just choose a different shooting iron . . . . sort of like golf.

Prairie Dog Hunt
Check out the mobile shooting benches on their trailor.

        Their trailor allowed them to quickly setup and start shooting anywhere, and they could get there without carrying their shooting benches.   If we lived out here, I'd definitely need to build a setup like this.   Even though our benches were stationary, we had hours of shooting from each different location.   We shot prairie dogs continuously for 8 to 10 hours almost every day.   In five days, I fired almost 600 rounds.   Bob did about the same.   Some of the other shooters reported shooting even more.

Prairie Dog Hunt
This is no place to have your truck overheat . . . . but we were lucky.

      It seems that every hunting trip has at least one unexpected problem, (like the hail storm we encountered on our prairie dog hunt last year).   This time, we were far from civilization when Bob's truck overheated.   The thermostat got stuck, and we didn't have any tools with us.   Not a single wrench - nothing.   Most of the time, we were out of range and cell phones were not an option.   However, we were lucky to get a call out to Bob's cousin "Ray" - who just happens to live in Billings.   It would have been a very long hike back to civilization.   I can't imagine the cost of a tow charge way out there.   Ray really saved the day for us on this trip.

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Larry A. Willis,   Innovative Technologies
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