Prairie Dog Hunting with Air Rifles
This summer I started hunting prairie dogs with my BSA Lonestar .25 cal PCP air rifle. I've had fairly good luck with it, taking prairie dogs out to 100 yards. 50-yard head shots are fairly easy if the wind isn't blowing too hard.
My CZ 527's in .223 Rem and .204 Ruger can get expensive rather quickly out at dogtown. My CZ 452 .22LR can easily eat $30 worth of Stingers in an afternoon as well. H&N Baracuda or JSB Exact King .25 cal pellets are around 4 cents a pop, plus the fact that I'm fairly conservative with the pellets as every 15 shots means I have to hook up the handpump and deliver about 60 full-weight pumps in the hot sun to get the rifle back up to 3400 PSI (232 BAR).
I could use target grade subsonic ammo in the CZ 452, but Wolf Match Target is 10 cents a pop, and the .25 cal pellets tend to put animals down faster than subsonic .22LR. Going to Stingers generates a ballistic crack that scares the prairie dogs a lot more. While 100 yards isn't long range hunting for centerfire enthusiasts, it certainly is for airgunning. If I were hunting squirrels and rabbits in a hardwood forest or thick cover, I think I could forget about firearms all together. With a ballistic reticle scope and a rangefinder, the airguns of today, the PCP kind, blow the old breakbarrels into the weeds. I get 0.5" groups at 50 yards consistently, and that's 5-shot groups. My .22 cal breakbarrel rifle shot 2" groups at best and had 1/3 the foot pounds of energy. My BSA penetrates 1.5" of pinewood at close range.
The BSA Lonestar can send a pellet completely through the biggest prairie dogs at 100 yards, so the lack of foot pounds of energy compared to .22LR seems inconsequential. Being a bigger caliber, it seems to leave more energy in the target, and that means more damage. The biggest limiting factor to range is the wind. About the longest I will take a shot in wind with Stingers is 125 yards, so the air rifle isn't all that far behind in range.
Shot a jackrabbit in the neck with the Lonestar this summer, and it fell dead in a few feet. A skunk that I shot in the head fell dead in its tracks without spraying as well. I shot a little cottontail in the lung area with the CZ 452 , and it ran behind some sagebrush. Shot it again in the chest and it just stood there looking at me like nothing more had happened. Shot it again in the head and it finally went down. Granted, the CZ 452 is deadlier at short range with Stingers and such, but when .22LR goes subsonic it falls behind .25 cal pellets in knockdown power.
Oh, and with lightweight 20 grain pellets I can get a ballistic crack out of the BSA, but accuracy goes to the dogs. The Baracuda pellet weighs 31 grains and keeps things subsonic, but I haven't turned up the power yet. That comes at the expense of fewer shots per charge and a lot more pumping.
Some people seem amazed that I can take prairie dogs consistently with an air rifle on the Montana prairie, but I grew up with a .22 Benjamin that I killed untold numbers of small animals with and I know how people underrate airguns because they buy junk airguns made for kids to play with. BSA airgun barrels are the equal of Anschutz and Lothar-Walther. Remember that the Girandoni air rifle that Capt. Meriwether Lewis had on the Lewis & Clark Expedition is the rifle he used to scare the indians with. It was a .47 cal repeater and they thought is had some kind of magic. It also killed a lot of the game that they ate on the expedition. It's now in the Army Museum, and the Austrian army once used hundreds of these rifle as infantry weapons, not sniper rifles as is commonly reported.
I will eventually end up with a bigbore air rifle of around .50 cal, but for now I'm having loads of fun with the Lonestar. No smoke, very little noise, very little recoil, very little ammo cost, almost unlimited barrel life, scopes never break from recoil....and small animals drop like swatted flies in front of it.