Rodent Control 2011
June 22, 2011, My buddy Mike and I left Superior, WI for our favorite Prairie Dog Town in western North Dakota. We arrived in time to get our camp set up before dark and turned in early so we would be rested up when the shooting started.
We had some new gear that we were anxious to try out this year. We were both shooting 105 AMAX bullets, his in a .243 Ackley Improved and mine were fired from a 6 BR Norma. Additionally, I had purchased a Swiss “Wild” Range Finder from SAMCO. It's a World War Two Artillery optical range finder. Mine was issued to the Swedish Army but they were used by many European forces.
Wild Range Finder
With a range of 8000 meters, I figured that it would handle anything I might want to shoot at.
The first morning opened with clear sky's and light wind. Perfect for long range shooting. Just one small problem. Very few prairie dogs. The town we have been shooting for the last 6 years is on public ground with a nicely maintained dirt road leading to it. We usually camp right on the town and shoot from the shade of the RV. This year there were no dogs within 200 yards of any of the roads. That left only the middle of the town with any population. What was our long range mounds, located close to a two track, had been well shot up by guys that drive up and shoot from their trucks. Even the dogs in the center of town were gun shy. Our farthest possible shot was a mound on one edge of town that was 740 yards from our camp. Most of our shots would end up being 400 to 650 yards. After the first shot, every dog in town would dive for the bunker. Very few targets would allow a follow up shot or walking the shots in. We did have a few dogs close to the camp that we let go for seed. They would come up and play around but the minute a shot was fired, they were down. Could have got them with the 10-22 but I'm not here just to kill stuff, I more prefer to make a good long shot.
I wanted to see what the range finder would do so I found a dog and ranged him at 612 yards. Mike, using his dope card, figured his elevation at 10 1/4 MOA and 1 MOA wind and took the shot. He got a cold bore hit that blew the dog in the air even though the bullet had slowed to around 2000 FPS. Last year we had been using the 107 SMK and often couldn't determine if we had actually made a kill. The second dog was ranged at 430 yard and he got a first round hit on that one as well as his next, a 640 yard kill.
.243 Ackley Improved dope card
My shooting went about the same and around noon we decided to take a break. We had fired less than 50 rounds each. After lunch, I switched to my .243 Ackley. That rifle is topped with a Leupold VX3 6.5-20 scope to which I had attached Stoney Point target knobs for windage and elevation. Those knobs have been on there for at least six years and I had never had a problem with them. After just 44 rounds, the elevation knob came loose and I could no longer adjust for elevation. On day three, the elevation knob on my 6mm BR Norma (also a Stoney Point knob) came loose and put that rifle out of action. That left me with a .223 and my old 6BR Remington 14 twist. I did manage to use it with good results out to 650 yards. In the rush to get things loaded up, I had forgotten to pack my shooting tool kit with the little Allen wrench that would have solved all my problems. This is not meant to be critical of Stoney Point, just my own failure to do proper maintenance.
.243 Ackley Improved.
I don't mean to imply that we made every shot we tried. We don't keep score on the number of dogs we kill or the number of misses. On average, I'd bet that we are less than 50 % successful. The Range Finder helped immensely but you still need to correct for wind and you still need to do all the other things an accurate shot requires.
We had a small group of Antelope wander in and out of our area and the range finder had no problem marking them out to 4500 yards and then they were over the hill. Prairie Dogs were easy to range in the tall grass at 750 yards and we could have ranged them much further if there had been an opportunity. The 12X lens on that instrument is crystal clear and makes a great spotting scope to scan the mounds and surrounding grass. Even a pups head is visible and can be ranged with it at 650 yards.
We spent three full days in that spot and had beautiful weather the whole time. The wind never got much more than around 10 MPH and it only rained one night for a few hours. We each shot about 300 rounds of ammo, not a lot by most standards, but enough to keep us busy and leave time for an afternoon nap, coffee breaks and time to solve all the worlds problems. (If people would just listen to us.) All in all, it was time well spent.