Prairie dogs are a nuisance. Many landowners and ranchers are happy allowing people to get some target practice on ground squirrels digging burrows on their property. As such, they've probably been shot with, well, everything. But, as with every other game animal, some guns are the best guns for prairie dog hunting.
A couple of years ago, I used a Wyoming antelope hunt to test bolt-action rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Most of us tagged out on the first day with plenty of time to spare. The gentleman running the trip and local outfitters made a journey to Walmart (the only place open). They bought them out of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo. So, our speed goat hunt became a prairie dog hunt.
Now, a 6.5 Creedmoor is overkill for prairie dog shooting. Still, we were pushing things, shooting from beyond 500 yards without sticks or bipods into severe crosswinds. While a 6.5 Creedmoor wasn't that absurd for this kind of shooting, it was still a bit much.
Inside 100 Yards
Typically, folks will be shooting at prairie dogs at much closer distances. When you stumble upon a populous prairie dog town, high volume is the name of the game. A semi-auto rimfire rifle chambered for a .17 HMR, or even a .22 LR, can do a serious number on the population and make for an excellent varmint rifle. Our top recommendation representing an excellent choice for a lightweight, accurate varmint rifle is the Savage Minimalist bolt gun in .17 HMR topped with a high-quality optic.
Medium-Range Prairie Dog Hunting
For medium-range shots, it's hard to beat a .223 Remington, as it's perfectly suited for this kind of hunting. A prairie dog gun doesn't need unique accessories or features to be a good one; a reasonable scope will get the job done. The .223 was initially marketed as a varmint round because they can handle prairie dogs for 450 yards with the proper optics or good irons and perfect eyes. With standard mags, you can quickly wipe out many prairie dogs. A gun like the Ruger American in .223 would be our top pick, and the various models would all serve a prairie dog hunter well.
Hunting Prairie Dogs at Long-Range
You will take slower shots at dogs for long-range shooting. So anything from a basic Remington 700 rifle to a souped up long range precision rifle will do the job, as long as you zero it in and the shooter is steady. A flat-shooting chambering certainly makes things easier at longer ranges, as prairie dogs tend to inhabit wide open spaces with a lot of wind.
A few accessories are also helpful, like a rangefinder, shooting sticks, a bipod for prone shooting, and even a spotter that doesn't hurt. Here's a secret: prairie dogs are pretty dumb. You can miss them with long shots to the right by an inch and again to the left, and they often won't even duck back into their burrows. A spotter who can mark the dust from your hits is helpful.
If there's any feature a good varmint hunting gun should have, it's an excellent trigger. While you don't need a high-caliber bullet to do the job, you're shooting at small targets and want to be as precise as possible. A good trigger makes for a steadier shot.
One final tip for prairie dog hunting: consider buying a suppressor. Perhaps it goes without saying (look at those wild eyes in the photos above), but prairie dogs possess both powerful hearing and a healthy sense of fear. Think about it: if you lived underground and were smaller than the flying or snarling predators above, you'd be pretty quick to scamper away from trouble, too. To hunt prairie dogs effectively, equip your rifle with a suppressor so you don't scare away the game after one shot.
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