I attended the 2012 Harrisburg Sportsman Show in February, with a couple of friends. Since we took a more expensive trip last year My Caribou Hunt - Maryland Shooters
I was looking for a trip that was less costly, prairie dog shooting fit the bill. We spoke to an outfitter that was showing some neat video footage of prairie dogs exploding and doing flips when being shot. The outfitter was Dakota Hunting Trips Dakota Hunting Trips: pheasant hunting trips, deer hunting trips, turkey hunting trips
. I got a price list from the outfitter and spoke to him briefly at the show. After a few emails with the outfitter I convinced my main hunting buddy to go. A few more email about where to go and available dates for the hunt and mailing a deposit and we were set. We selected Prairie Dog Lodge in White River South Dakota at the recommendation of the outfitter.
Now I had planned to take a trip like this with another guy who has several rifles in varmint class calibers: 17s, .204s, 223s and 243, but for a variety of reasons he could not go. While my main hunting buddy is an outstanding hunter: bow, shotgun, muzzle loader, and rifle, his only modern rifle is a .30-06.
I had a spare Bushmaster H-bar he could use, but it was an A2. I called my buddy Ed Shell, to seek his advice on a local gunsmith who could swap out the A2 receiver for a flat top that I had in my part bin. He said “no problem I can do that for you next week”. I was thinking about a local gunsmith, but Ed warned me that the smith had a backlog of a month or more. Ed swapped out the receivers is short order and when tested fired for function, the rifle worked flawlessly. I mounted a Sightron 8X32 scope on a riser base and test fired the rifle for this time for accuracy. It was shooting ½ inch groups at 100 yards with 52 grain Sierra Match King loaded over Winchester 748. My buddy Ned’s rifle was ready.
Ned doesn’t reload so after searching the internet for a few days, came up with Fiocchi 55 grain soft point ammunition in sufficient quantity he needed for the trip. He got the best price from Cheaper-Than-Dirt. This ammunition turned out to be a superb choice, more about that later.
We went to the range and after a quick AR-15 One-0-One lesson, Ned was familiar enough with the rifle to load it and safely shoot. Ned is a VERY safety conscious hunter. While he did not have previous experience with the AR platform, I was sure that he would be safe in his handling of the rifle and ask if he had any problem. I assure you that I would not go hunting with some people I know in these same circumstances. We tested the rifle for accuracy with the Fiocchi factory ammunition and it still was also shooting in the ½ inch range at 100 yards. My buddy and his rifle were ready.
My rifles were a Remington 700 sporter that I mounted a 3.5X15 Nightforce scope on a Badger base and AR with a Fulton Armory built upper that features a flat top receiver, H-bar weight barrel and aluminum free float tube. Since the model 700 has a 1-12 twist, and I only wanted to load one bullet, for both rifles, I chose the 52 grain Sierra Match King over an appropriate load of Winchester 748. This choice proved not to be the best for violent explosions on prairie dogs past 300 to 350 yards. But both rifles shot in the ½ inch range at 100 yards with this load. I mounted a 5.5X25 Nightforce scope on a riser base on my AR for this trip. As it turns out the extra power at 25X was well worth it, for small targets at extended ranges. I shot this rifle for any of the shots that I took in excess of 500 yards. Both my scopes had MLR reticles.
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We left a few days early and had a late breakfast with a gentleman in Story City Iowa we had met on our trip to the arctic last year. From there we drove to the Cabala’s in Sidney Nebraska. Visiting the store was neat, they have a considerable gun library is double rifles and high end shotguns are on your short list to purchase.
Leaving there we drove through the Badland to Mount Rushmore.
From there we went through Sturgis and spent the night in Deadwood. We did not play poker with our backs to the window.
From there we headed back east to Prairie Dog Lodge in White River where we stayed.
We met Chris Peterson, no relation to the magazine publisher, his wife, mother and brother who were helping on the ranch. We got a lovely cabin a short walk from the house where meals were served and the ‘bunk house’ with it’s tremendous collections of mounts that Chris and his wife have collected.
We arrived on Wednesday late afternoon. We had an opportunity to sight in our rifles. I only fooled with a 40X I brought in .22LR, but put it away and did not shoot it the remainder of the trip. That is another story in itself. We had supper and spent the night.
The next morning we got up, ate and went to town to buy our license.
So now to the hunting:
Day 1 Thursday
We hunted a farm just outside the town of White River. We were following Chris in our truck and several hundred yards onto the farm, as we crested a hill, Chris jumps out of his truck with his AR and starts shooting at two coyotes that are 400 plus yards away and are running flat out at the sight of the trucks.
Chris turns to me and asks “why didn't you guy shoot”? I reply “our rifles are unloaded, cased and in a locked Job box in the back of the truck. I guess we have not been in South Dakota long enough.” To which he responded “tomorrow”. From then on we kept a loaded AR in the back seat of the pickup for the remainder of our stay in South Dakota.
Weather: Clear sunny and hot
Wind conditions: 11 to 23 miles per hour
Average distance of shots taken: 250 to 350 yards, some 400 yards or more.
Number of shots fired: 670
Day 2 Friday
Where hunted: Same farm as yesterday but we hunted the front pasture in morning; back pasture in the afternoon
Weather: Clear sunny and hot
Wind conditions: 11 to 17 miles per hour
Average distance of shots taken: in the morning we had a lot of shots that were 200 yards or less. A lot the were 300 to 350 yards and some that were 400 yards and longer. Longest confirmed kill was at 511 yards.
Number of shots fired: 1,170
Day 3 Saturday
Where hunted: North Bowl (15 miles away). We were a mile off a gravel road down a 45 degree or more hill.
Weather Clear and 97 degrees!
Wind conditions: windy in the morning, calm in the afternoon.
Average distance of shots taken: most shots were 300 to 350 yards. My friend ‘dead-eye’ had the longest confirmed kill of the day at 558 yards. That record stood for the remainder of the trip. This was shooting factory Fiocchi 55 grain soft point ammunition! This stuff was great. It was as accurate as any match ammo, was reliable, (he had one jam for the whole week), and the stuff was fragile enough to splatter prairie dog guts, even at 500 plus yards. His shots were dead right there, many were doing what he called ‘Prairie dog acrobatics’ when hit.. Any of mine at longer range were hits, but sometimes that animal was able to craw back into the hole. Next time I will take a softer bullet like a Nosler Ballistic Tip. But all mine fed without any stoppages. Number of shots fired: 880 – I slept for a few hours in the truck or could have shot much more. I had way too much caffeine the previous evening and was up most of the night.
Day 4 Sunday
Where hunted: South Farm (60 miles away) in the morning and early afternoon; hill just outside of town (15 miles away).
Weather: Clear and hot
Wind conditions: 25 to 30 mile per hour cross wind and gusting higher!
Average distance of shots taken: shots were from 350 to 450 yards with long shots being attempted at over 500 yards. Think about holding 6 mils right for the wind at a prairie dog at 350 yards and still not connecting! Also, we saw a Badger at 475 to 550 yards. That is the luckiest Badger in the universe. Even our guide took a few shots at him, but with the wind gusts so high that it would rock the bench you were shooting from, we were not successful. Then he made his final escape by running directly toward a tractor that was parked in the field, which did not allow us to shoot. As I said he was a very luck Badger.
Number of shots fired: 950
Day 5 Monday
Where hunted: Farm just outside the town of White River, middle pasture.
Weather: Clear and hot
Wind conditions: 12 to 25 miles per hour
Average distance of shots taken: most shots were 300 to 350 yards. Long were out to 500 yards I did chase one into its hole at approximately 600 yards. But I could not break Dead-eye’s record kill.
Number of shots fired; 850
I highly recommend Prairie Dog Lodge for anyone contemplating a shoot of this type. Chris and his family are good people, have plenty of colonies to shoot and South Dakota is a beautiful place. We met two other groups from Maryland, so we were not alone in our thinking.
Till next time………………