Re: Where are the prairie dogs?
The Musselshell River Valley of central Montana has one of the highest concentrations of prairie dog towns in the USA. There is a dogtown on Queen's Point Road south of Highway 12 near Melstone that is 3 miles long and swarming with PD's. There is a dogtown on 4 Mile Road between Musselshell and Flatwillow that is swarming with PD's as far as your binoculars can see. This is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Many local ranchers want you to blow away as many PD's as you possibly can, and will take you to dogtowns off the beaten path. I have access to a 2-mile long dogtown north of Ryegate on a private ranch through my brother-in-law. Way more PD's than ammo I can afford to shoot them with. I use everything from a BSA PCP air rifle to a .204 Ruger. The key is to gain the rancher's trust and use rifles and ammo that doesn't threaten cattle. Small calibers with lightweight frangible bullets are preferred. About the only Weatherby Magnum and .25-06 brass I have ever picked up was at prairie dog towns, and ranchers frown on the use of such rifles and ammo near their cattle. You can use such rifles on BLM land in the area from April until big game hunting starts in October. BLM lands are generally not as good as private ranches, as the PD's get shot at by everybody using everything. From Harlowton on downriver to the Charles Russell game preserve is prime PD territory. A lot of the dogtowns will be far from the river, especially north of the river. Don't expect to see many above 4000' elevation. Bull Mountains south of the Musselshell River are much more limited in dogtowns, but the one on Queen's Point Road is an exception. There is an outfitter in Winnett who guides on many of these large dogtowns on private ranches. All the creek valleys that feed into the lower and middle Musselshell River will have large dogtowns. A blind man with a beating stick could kill a lot of PD's in my area. My dog likes to grab them and toss them around. I have had better luck with killing PD's with a CZ 452 .22LR shooting subsonic ammo than with my .204 Ruger, as far as numbers killed are concerned. In a town that hasn't seen hunters, air rifles and subsonic .22LR don't spook PD's and you can shoot them about as fast as you can load ammo. Save the centerfires for when the PD's get savvy and you have to take them out at long range. That's fun too, but the close range carnage with a subsonic .22LR in an unsophisticated dogtown is more my thing.
But still, in the summertime, I'd still rather be fishing the Musselshell for catfish and smallmouth bass than running up a big ammo bill on worthless PD's. They taste a lot better than PD's. PD's these days are for practicing my shooting skills for the big game hunting season in the fall. This place is full of nice mule deer and antelope, and elk and whitetail deer as well. PD hunting is a favor to ranchers to gain big game hunting access in the fall. I would also rather kill one grouse or pheasant and get to eat it than kill 100 worthless prairie dogs. Once you have killed them day in and day out, they are just a worthless rat that lives on the prairie, and it becomes rather boring. Fried bass and catfish, and the Musselshell River provides outstanding specimens of both, are a lot more interesting than a dead prairie dog.