This is the Crazy Unc's co-author, Mini Dreadnaught or MD for short, and today kids, we're going to talk about outdoor activities. One of the outdoor activities I enjoy is varmint hunting, prairie dog hunting in particular. Today we are going to delve into this subject and I'm going to share some of the things I've learned in the last few years. Prairie dogs are found out West in several states. They start to appear West of Pierre, South Dakota They have been spotted further East but not in any great numbers. These critters hibernate like many other rodents and breed after awakening from their slumber. Hunting season begins in May and last through September. Alot of info says they get as tall as 18", however I've never seen one that tall. Most run around maybe 10" at most and are about 2.5-3" at the widest. That gives us a target profile of about a 12 oz. can of pop or an average size water bottle. These guys burrow and have tunnels from mound to mound; not too different from the Viet Cong. In the morning they come out of the burrows and get some sun while cutting grass that they form in to little bails of hay that they store up for future use. Prairie dogs have the odd habit of standing upright and can be static for several minutes at a time. They do this to provide security for the guys that are working. The good news is that the security sucks. In addition, standing upright gives the savvy rifleman time to line up for a shot. The way to hunt these guys is to give'em a little space, say a couple of hundred yards, then set up on benches or prone and start picking'em off. At this range they rarely hear the shot and if they do it should be the last sound in their rat world. Ranges can be from 50 yards to over a 1000 for the more skilled among us. I ain't that guy. My cut off is more like 600-700 yards with the right equipment. This begs the question: "Are you really hunting?" No, it is more like we are shooting. It takes no skill to find the game. However, it takes a tremendous amount of skill to place consistent shots at varying ranges with multiple target presentations. I'm happy to report that my hunting buddies have mad skillz. Sound fun? Well, it is. So much fun in fact, that those assholes from PETA keep trying to find a way to ban it all together.
Anything fun usually requires the right tools of the trade to make it worthwhile and this is no exception. The most important piece of equipment is an accurate rifle. Books have been written describing just what that is so, I'll spare you. What one needs is a rifle that can consistently put 5 shots in a half inch at 100 yards. Less is always great but takes some work to get there. By work I mean money and time at the loading bench. More than an inch for 5 shots makes it a bit more difficult to score hits out past 250 yards or so. It can be done but expect to spend alot more rounds for the same effect. Next, you need good optics. A quality scope will not make you a better shot but it will make the game more visible with greater detail and hopefully not break during crunch time. You can take your chances with a cheap scope but that is exactly what you're taking-a chance. A poor quality scope may not hold zero (meaning it's point of impact may wander,) or it may not have the clarity to see the target at great distance. If a cheap scope takes a tumble you are probably assed out. My recommendations is buy the best scope you can afford and never look back. Scopes I like are: Leupold and Burris. They are American made and have a lifetime guarantee and there are plenty of models available to accomplish our objective. In terms of power (magnification) life begins at about 10 power. Usually described as 10X. When you are buying a scope the companies will describe them like this 6.5X-20X-50mm. The 6.5 is the low power, the 20 is the high power and the 50mm is the diameter of the bell meaning the front objective lens of the scope. Anything less than 10X and those little rats are damn hard to see past 300 yards. At the other end of the spectrum, the max power can be as high as 36X. With this much magnification mirage can become a problem. Mirage distorts the images of static objects meaning that the actual target may be several inches away from where you are aiming depending on the range. You know, light waves and shit. I like to top out around 20X-24X with the ability to crank the power down as needed to compensate for mirage. 14X is a good compromise. If you are new to shooting, sight the rifle in at home and don't touch the knobs again. If you can add quickly in your head and can divide by 4 then turning the turrets may be an option for you. Reticules are the cross hairs or what you see when you look through the scope. Leupold and Burris both make varmint reticules that compensate for range and holdover and are highly recommended. What is not recommended is a standard cross hair. The reason why is that there are no reference points to make corrections with. If you shoot low and right there is no way to compensate for that without Kentucky windage or basically just guessing without dialing in with the knobs. I have such a reticule and will have it replaced before the next trip. Now you have to have something to hold the rifle steady. That should be a mechanical front rest and a sandbag in the rear. The rest should be sufficiently heavy enough that during recoil it doesn't move. The sandbag should be tall enough that your head is in a comfortable position for aiming the rifle. Bi-pods are a worthy substitute for a front rest. Ammunition comes from two sources: factory fresh or reloads. Factory ammo can be wonderfully accurate and incredibly expensive if bought in bulk. Reloads will generally out perform factory ammo if loaded properly and can save you alot of money. The down side is that it takes time to make up ammunition in sufficient quantity. It also takes alot of time to get the ammunition to perform the way you want it to. The caveat is that you control the components when you roll your own the factory gives you what they load and that is it. I reload. Want to learn how? I'll teach you, just ask. Amounts of ammo should be about 200 rounds per day. If you suck, make it 300 rounds. Just kidding. Or am I? This is the must haves to get this done and have a good time. Other stuff like benches, water, transportation, is usually provided by the guide.
The set up.
This is a properly em placed varmint rifle atop a swivel style bench. Note the mechanical front rest with sand bag rear. Scope is a Leupold 6.5X-20X-50mm with varmint reticule. Rifle is chambered in 6mm Norma BR (benchrest.) 107gr Sierra matchkings at 2800 fps.
What is ideal is to set up in a higher elevation than the surrounding terrain with many different mounds visible. This gives you plenty of opportunities to shoot as many dogs as you can. Being high up means that close shots aren't obstructed due to the terrain. If you are on your belly you can't really see anything that close to you. Due to the landscape the closest dogs you may see can be a couple of hundred yards away. Personally, I like to shoot off of benches for just that reason. Moreover, it is far more comfortable over the course of the day. Shooting prone will rub your elbows and knees raw and give you hellacious neck cramps and a doozy of a headache. Not to mention gastrointestinal discomfort after lunch. Once set up properly the fun begins. You are high they are low, time for a little Diem Bien Phu action. (Read a history book you moron.)
"Tell my wife I lo...."
Well placed shot at 400 plus.
Alternate quote: "Is it bad, Doc?"
Now there they are and this what we came here for but steady lad, this is no time for the shakes. It takes a cool deliberate hand to make this happen right. We aren't here to contribute to prairie dog disability statistics, we are here to make orphans. Take your time and make it count. It is our duty as sportsmen to eradicate these pests in the most humane fashion and cause them as little suffering as possible. It is far better to miss then wound one. If you do wound one, and you will, it is of paramount importance to get on him and end it quick. No true sportsmen takes pleasure in wounding game. It is your ethical responsibility to kill as cleanly as possible. That being said, you can put alot of rounds down range in a hurry. Check that barrel! If it is so hot that you can't hold on to it give it a rest. This is a good time to drink some water or pull out your other rifle. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Oops, that one got away.
Not exactly what I had in mind when I said, "discreetly."
As Mentioned earlier, the prone position does have its gastrointestinal pitfalls. In 90+ degree heat with lunch and a carbonated beverage on board things are going to happen. It is perfectly normal and healthy to pass flatus at times such as this. However, sometimes one may get more than what one has bargained for. Yes Virginia, I am speaking of the shart. The shart is an unexpected and unwanted passage of loose stool while attempting to pass flatus. In some parts of the U.S. this may be known as a fizzle. Do not confuse this with incontinence which is a condition that usually affects the very young and very old. The shart is an enigma unto itself. When a shart strikes action must be taken quickly to avoid complications. Okay, first off we have to come to terms with what the hell just happened here. Systems check: is there a moist feeling between your buttocks? When you shift your legs does it feel like someone squirted some palm olive down your shorts? Yes? If so, then signs point to a shart. Now this is the important part-do not, and I mean do not, take your hand and feel for moisture. You will only draw attention to yourself and possibly get poo on your hand. Act nonchalant, gracefully bow out of any conversation by waving to someone and walking away. Laterally if it is an option. If dining-finish immediately. Obviously, your body has had enough. If with a lady think of something quick because this date is over, mister. You've got to eject post haste. Lie and do it fast. Lie like you owe the mafia money and get the hell to the nearest mens room fast. Denial is your greatest enemy. If you don't act fast there is no way to contain the spill and smell travels faster than a Beijing prostitute with a winning lottery ticket. I've developed an acronym for just such a circumstance: S.T.O.P. S is for stand. You must stand immediately. It is the only way to gain enough buttock tension to prevent the shart from eggressing Southward. As before be discreet. Don't jump up like you're on fire just calmly stand up. T is for tighten. You must tighten your buttocks in such a way that the feces are contained and gently nestled into a safe place within the recesses of your large ass. Do not, I repeat do not, squeeze too tightly or rapidly or you will in turn launch the feces further into your undergarments or down your leg if you're a boxers only man. O is for observe. We are looking for two things here: a way out and to see if any one has noticed. This is a time for nerves of steel, man. If you've got a poker face then this is the time to use. Next, we must find a route out of this arena of shame. Avoid the crowds, skirt along the sides if possible with purposeful deliberate movements but do not draw attention to yourself. If you've got a jacket then put it on. Another good technique is to side step as much as possible while looking casual. P is for purge. Yes, purge. That shart was no accident it was a foul harbinger of things to come. Get to that toilet ASAP. Now that the lid is properly dressed it is a good time to assess the situation. Easy now, this may not be pretty. Okay, pants to ankles and now very gently ease your underwear down. Be careful to handle only the waistband. If there is anymore of a wet spot than the size of a dime then the underwear must be destroyed. If the answer is no, then you are in luck. Take some toilet paper and clean the stain as well as possible. We are looking for dryness here don't go over board. It is unlikely that you could ascertain the old stains from this new one even in the best of times let alone now.
Okay, now you can panic.
Okay, that was close. Thank God and get home stat. Now, for you poor bastards with a stain bigger than a dime. First, set up your pants and underwear in a two tier configuration. Pants to the ankles and underwear to the mid-calf position or about six inches higher than your pants for those of you with thin girlish calves. With your soiled skivvies in check proceed to finish what you started. Relax, a tense crap is a horrible waste of ones time. It is okay, breath and return to def-con one. Finished? Good. Now take your trusty knife and cut your underwear down both sides. What do you mean you don't have a knife? Who in the hell goes out without a knife.? Okay dumbass, go to phase two. Remove your shoes and pants and place them on your lap. Now carefully remove the soiled garment and attempt to avoid getting shit on your socks. Redress. Yes, I have to say redress because you're the one who sharted and forgot his knife so, I have to assume that you're an idiot and needs to have step-by-step instruction or you'll go out of the bathroom holding your pants and shoes under you're arm with your banner gallantly streaming in the wind. For those of you smart enough to have brought your knife cut away the underwear and discard the soiled portion. You may use the clean parts of the fabric to further clean yourself as cotton is highly absorbent and feels great against ones skin. This being done, exit the facilities and be proud you made it. Now if this should happen where there is no restrooms then merely walk until you are out of sight of anyone else drop your pants and find out what our forefathers knew a long time ago. And for this stunt you damn well better have a knife.
That's the idea, Sparky.