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Varmint Hunting Techniques For Prairie Dogs, Woodchucks, etc.


Magnification for varminting

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Unread 01-13-2008, 06:47 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 255
Magnification for varminting

I recently have been using a .223 for varminting, it is my 'beater' ultralight .223 that sees use on goats, wallabies etc, but it also just happens to shoot .25" groups with my 55gr v-max handloads. I've been having pretty good success out to 250 yards or so (I zero for 200) with the 3-9 leupold I have on it, past there I tend to shoot over/under because I hold over for elevation (I don't trust the friction adjustments on the vxi) and often don't get it quite right. If I had adjustments that I trusted, I have no doubt that (in the absence of wind etc) I would be able to hit rabbits past 300y with it. My farthest shot I have taken with this rifle that has connected was a rabbit at 382 yards, in a slight left to right breeze. I guesstimated the holdover and windage, and smacked it dead center

The question is, do I really need a bigger scope? I don't see any advantage to it, I can see a rabbit pretty well at 350-400 through my 3-9

If I was shooting further, I could see the need I suppose

Last edited by petenz; 01-13-2008 at 06:51 AM.
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Unread 01-13-2008, 09:29 PM
Gold Member
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: North Idaho
Posts: 668
Some people like more magnification some don't. What ever you prefer. My self I like as much as I can afford. You can see more detail and also use a higher magnification as a spotter.
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Unread 01-14-2008, 04:07 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Casper Wy
Posts: 1,388
There use to be a few high powered scopes(NF8-32&12-42 and a couple of cheaper 32xs) but looking at the prairie dog arsenal these days you'll find a few 12x Leupolds, a couple of 16x IORs, 4 more IOR variables that are set to 18x(The MP-8 reticle is MOA @ that power) and 2 3-9xs that have mildot reticles in them.
One 3-9(Tasco) is on a 22lr that has ben used to get a few dogs past 300 yards in perfect conditions, the mildot really helps! The other 3-9(Sightron) is on a lite CZ in 223 and is my favorite walkabout critter-getter, again the mildot makes it work for me
There is a Leupold 3-9 VX1 on the 17 HMR that works alright but not my first choice of scopes.The x hairs are a little too far apart to use effectivly for holdovers.
For me the 3-9 works great for a walking varminter/calling gun but prefer 12-18x when the range gets past 400 or when shooting targets(prairie dogs off of a bench).
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." -Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
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Unread 01-16-2008, 08:24 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 8
I have had the same question; finally decided it comes down to personal preference and finance. To use a 3-9 at the distances you mention, however, sugggest you need something more than a fine duplex reticle- mildot or varmint, probably- to help eliminate the "guesstimate" of windage/elevation adjustment.

I shoot groundhogs; out to @ 200 yards I use a 223 with a 3-9 Leupold (fine duplex). Beyond that, I go to a rifle with a higher magnification and a varmint reticle, although the smaller field of view can make target acquisition difficult. My latest is more magnification (6.5-20) with side mount adjustment... I can see them at lower magnification, then quickly zoom in for a shot.
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Unread 01-16-2008, 09:30 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 237
Scope Magnification :

Depends on a lot of Variables . The distance , the size of the game , the type of rest or free-hand , lighting conditions , reticle size , your eyesight , the weather/ heat waves , and probably more . For small targets like prairie dogs off a Tripod Rest or Bench , I prefer a 16X out to about 500 Yards . All shots are in bright sunlight and the Reticle is a fine cross-hair. Beyond 500 Yards I prefer all the magnification I can crank -to under the atmospheric conditions that time of day . If you are successful by your own definition .....why change ?
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Unread 01-16-2008, 09:42 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
Posts: 8,876
It seems to me that you are doing pretty well with what you have.

The method of hold over and windage will continue to build your skills. A scope with clicks will just cost more money and you'd loose many shot opportunities due to the time it takes to range, click then shoot. The bunny would be in a different spot and you'd still have to use your current method.

I'd stick with what you have. Should you fall into some big bucks then something with a graduated reticle. Which then brings all of the mind boggling stuff that tulku mentioned.

I have no problem at some pretty distance targets with a 14X. To have more power available isn't bad either.
I may be the slowest guy on the mountain . . . . but . . . . I'm on the mountain!
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Unread 01-16-2008, 10:42 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 222
Would you take shots beyond than 400 yards if you could see farther than that? If you answered yes, you may want to consider something with a top end up to the 16-24x. Pick the scope that best fits your pocketbook. Buy the best you can afford and then save and add another $200 just for good measure. You won't look back.

Good shooting,

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