First, Steve made sure we had permission on some private land to where we could safely shoot prairie dogs beyond 2,000 yards. He also took time before I came to choose the spots and measure where we should set up our gear. Part of that preparation was to find a location where would either be shooting to the north or to the south, so we would not be required to shooting into the sun at one of the key times.
Second, we set aside three and half days for shooting, knowing that the best times would likely be in the early morning and in the late afternoon.
On a side note, I did the majority of the shooting on this trip. Steve is as unselfish as they come, and he knew that this trip was in place of what would typically be our elk hunt in the southwest part of the state. I had expected to be able to pick up a leftover cow elk permit, but there were none available for the unit we hunt.
I had a homemade portable bench and Steve had made some as well based off of the Aero-aces plans. This was one of the weak links, but they were steady enough to accomplish the task at hand. I have since made an upgrade with one of R.W Hart’s portable benches, and I would feel comfortable using it for a 1K match. I can’t overemphasize the need for a rock-solid bench
Optics for spotting included my Leupold 12x40 variable spotting scope, while Steve had set of Big Eyes put together by Darrel Cassel. They consisted of two Bushnell Spacemaster spotting scopes and he had 22x wide angle and 20x-45x oculars. I had borrowed a heavy duty surveyor’s tri-pod which made for a great spotting package. Steve has recently upgraded to a set of Kowa Big Eyes, and they are awesome.
Well, Wednesday morning finally arrived and as we got out to the dog town the conditions were awesome, with the exception of the cool temps, which was a little hard on the hands for the first hour or so. I got set up with the rear grip 6.5-284 XP and adjusted the Laitala SLR mount for 1 mile shooting where there was a group of dog mounds. Steve was diligently spotting, and to my surprise located two coyotes making their way through the dog town. The range was over 1,000 yards and there was no quick way to get the rear-grip 6.5 XP into action, so I grabbed the 6mm-284 center-grip XP-100, made some quick adjustments based on range guesstimates, and sent some DTAC’s their way to no avail, I might add.
Since I was now close with the 6mm-284, I decided to continue shooting it. The spot we were shooting at goes across a valley to about 1000 yards, then it gently rises to about 1600, and it then flattens out, so it's hard to know from the shooting spot exactly where the mile juncture is. The following day we marked it with stakes, to avoid confusion. I began shooting at this dog that was about 15 yards to the right of a mound. I was not keeping track of shots, but I later found out that Steve was.
The conditions were holding steady and I began to get closer and closer to the prairie dog. On the tenth shot, I connected as the dog presented me with a broadside shot. The 115 grain DTAC centered his torso and exited violently out of his abdomen, taking entrails with it. He flipped around for a couple seconds, regained his senses, and started heading toward his mound, but died just short of home. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Although I believed we could kill a dog at this distance I never dreamed we would do it this quickly. The emotions I felt were surreal.
As we grabbed gear for pictures and confirming the distance, there was a sense that it was just too easy. As we got to the dog and took the bragging pictures we confirmed the distance and we came up with 1,590 yards. What made this more rewarding is that this XP has a sporter forend and barrel. With a 200 yard zero, it took 63 MOA of elevation and 8 MOA on the wind. I had accomplished with Steve’s help my first goal, but my second one, which was a hit at one mile, would not be so easy.
Thursday’s weather was not so cooperative. We didn’t get started till after lunch, and it was more typical of what one would experience when attempting one mile plus dogs. We had chosen a group of mounds that were close together and active with dogs in the 1,800 yard range. I had a third specialty handgun with me that may not be as popular as the XP-100, but nonetheless it is a shooter. It is 17” Douglas barreled MOA Maximum chambered in 6.5-284. The MOA handgun is a single-shot falling block action that allows one to change barrels quickly.
Rich Mertz is the maker of the MOA and currently lives in Sundance, Wyoming. Rich built his first ever sloped picatinny base for my excursion, but it didn’t have enough MOA in it for shooting at the 1,800 yard “cholla mound” with the 1” VX-III Leupold 6.5-20 with dot reticle. I had to pick a spot way above the prairie dog as a means of reticle alignment. A couple of times when the conditions remained consistent I was within inches. When the three of us left the town that afternoon, the population of the town remained unchanged.
Friday brought us the type of conditions we had on Wednesday. On this day, I began using my rear-grip 6.5-284 XP-100 on the very same “cholla mound” as on the previous day. After sending approximately 40 rounds on that mound and Steve and my son calling a few of them just inches away again, with a couple a hair right or left, I got somewhat disgusted and began shooting at the one mile steel gong we had set up, only to realize my picatinny base had come loose (Another lesson learned). When Remington chose the thread size for the XP-100 40 plus years ago I am sure they never dreamed some nut would put a monstrous long-range mount on it and use cartridges with so much capacity. Now even a little more frustrated, I put up the 6.5-284 and went back to the 6mm-284 to shoot at the 1 mile gong. I put six shots on the steel, but it took more than six shots. When we went out to take pictures of the steel, Erik wanted to go bullet hunting. I said, "OK," and we headed to the "cholla mound."
If it had not been for a bullet hunting 11 year old, we would have missed the find of the week and it wasn't bullets, even though we found a number of them. What we found was blood, quite a bit of it at the mound I had been shooting at with the rear-grip 6.5-284. At the impact velocity the 140 A-Max in all likelihood just penciled him. Steve was so gutsy he even reached his hand into the mound to see if it was within arm’s reach to no avail. Several have told me since then, they would have either got a shovel or a backhoe for physical proof of the dead dog, but it was not that important for me at the time. Regardless of the lack of a warm mangled body, the proof of a hit was undeniable, unless the Hornady 140 grain A-max can bleed. Range was 1800 yards. It took 81 MOA of adjustment from a 200 yard zero to make the connection at 1,800 yards with an impact velocity of right at 1,020 feet per second.
Was there luck involved in this endeavor? Certainly, that is part of it, yet you cannot get "lucky" unless you do everything in your power to put the odds in your favor.
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