Sorry for the novel, here is my intro and report on some recent Pdog hunts.
Iíve been an avid shotgunner and bowhunter for the last 10 years (started when I was mid 20s). I always thought rifles were for guys that couldnít bowhunt. I finally bought my first rifle, a marlin 30-30, a couple years ago to put some elk meat in the freezer in a late season cow hunt. Took my first elk at 280 yards with a 160g hornady leverevolution. Took a couple more deer, antelope, and elk over the past few years and felt like I should be able to shoot further than 300 yard range. Well this year had a few extra bucks and here is a brief synopsis of the last 6 months of my life.
It all started with finding this website. After a couple months of pooring over hundreds of article and posts I finally went out and purchased of a Savage 243 Win (for varmits, antelope, and deer hunting). Threw on a Leopold VXI 4-12, Took the gun to the range sighted in a 200 yards in about 4 shots and proceeded to shoot a 2Ē group at 100 yards with factory ammo. I knew 2 moa groups werenít going to cut it if I was going to routinely shoot pdogs and coyotes at 500 yards. I was already reloading shotshells, so I took the leap and bought the reloading equipment. It was a challenge to find primers and powder during the shortage. I then began reading more and more about how to reload for long range shooting. Several weeks, a lot of work, and 100 rounds later, I settled on a 70g nosler BT moving about 3500 fps. Now I could consistently shoot 1Ē groups at 100 yards.
Time for my first real pdog action. Went out the first day and managed to shoot 4 dogs in about 30 rounds. My hunting buddy was very impressed with the 280 dog, the longest for the day. Shots at dogs in the 400-500 range were not even close. On the drive home, I told him that 280 wasnít good enough. I went back to range, I also now was getting good enough, I was able to identify a 4th or 5th bullet flyer that drove me nuts. Back online, I decided to get a new, not so flexible stock, went with the BC medalist. The stock (unbedded) actually took me down to under 1 moa on a regular basis. My 100-200 yard shots looked great on paper, but my 300-500 yard shots were not as good. I really like the VXI, but I felt that more magnification would be the ticket to producing great 500 yard groups. I went for my dream scope (on a budget) and found VXIII 6.5-20x50 LR Tactical with a varmit reticle. After mounting the scope, 200 yard shoots were not like 50 yard shots and the 500 yard shots were like 200 yards. My longer groups tightened up, back to the pdog towns.
2nd time out I had all of the power I needed to get on the dogs, however, the standby shooting position of over the hood of the truck just wasnít provided a nice solid shooting platform like the concrete benches and a harris bipod on the range for the longer shots. This hunt was discouraging, I didnít even do as good as the first hunt and that was with the upgraded stock and scope. Time to cash in those Cabelas points, I dropped a bill on a Cabelas Elite shooting bench on clearance. Kept the box as I was skeptical at much better I could shoot. No time to practice at the range, went out for a 3rd hunt. Bingo, it all came together on the third hunt. Shot eight pdogs and 4 went over 400 yards including one at 485 yards. Using 25 shells, my kill ratio is getting better even at the longer ranges. The drive home was a good one, it was nice to finally reach the goal of being able to consistently shoot prairie dogs in the 400-500 range. I was amazed at the opportunities these longer distances opened up. I have since been back another time and shot at least a dozen dogs in just under 30 shells. Only 1 over 400, but I also only shot at 1 over 400 as well. Here is an interesting point, Iíve still got on my savage factory barrel. Iím shooting it at around .6moa in calm conditions. I ordered a Shilen match over 2 months ago and was informed it will be at least another 2 months. I should have the savage factory shot out by then. BTW, how many rounds should I expect for a factory 243 win barrel shooting a load that is in between min and max loads?
I have the long range hunting sickness now and an antelope tag that starts in 2 weeks. I feel very confident taking 500 yard shots. I canít help but wonder how well I could get a 7mm-08 round to shoot out of my gun and how that round would be good on elk out to 700 yards and dear to a 1000 yards. I also wonder what that round would do to prairie dogs. Iíve only been using the varmit reticle on the scope, I wonder how well the tactical knobs work on varmits past 500 yards. Year to date, Iím $1500 poorer due to long range shooting and feel I got a great deal for the experience of learning how to hunt long range. I know it was long and probably boring post, but here are a few pics of what that 70g Nosler BT can do to a prairie dog:
I donít even have a pic of my setup, and yes the factory barrel looks a little gay on the medalist stock, Iíll try to post up a pic next time out. Thanks for those that manage, write, and post on this site, it has been extremely useful and helpful information.