|South Dakota Prairie Dog Hunt 2011
Hunting with Jim Rivers Outfitters
Outfitter/Guide/Owner: Willie Dvorak
|I just got back from my first trip to South Dakota, where I had a few days of hunting prairie dogs, viewing wildlife, and enjoying the wide open spaces. I took along a wide range of airguns, optics, and pellets to see how they performed in what I expected to be a high volume shooting situation.
My host on this trip was well known outfitter/guide Willie Dvorak, who hunts everything from deer and antelope to brown bear in South Dakota and Alaska. He also guides hunts for prairie dogs, pheasant, and predators.
|The shots on this trip was exected to include a lot of longer range opportunities out to 150 yards, and I brought several guns that I either knew or believed to be good candidates for this type of shooting.
I brought along the Benjamin Marauder in .22 and .25, the Airforce Taloin in .22, the Air Arms TWICE, the Rainstorm .22, and the Benjamin Rogue (which I expected to use for coyote).
The first thing I did on arriving was to head out for a session of checking the zero on my guns and getting used to the gun/pellet/scope combination at longer ranges.
There are thousands of acres of public grasslands where I could shoot, and I had but to drive out and find a convenient spot to set up and shoot. The pictures to the left and below shows some of the guns and gear I had set up for this outing.
For air I brought along three AirHog Carbon Fiber tanks, all of which filled to 4500 psi and would provide enough air for the many hundreds of shoots I planned to fire.
|My base during my days in South Dakota was the Fort Pierre Motel, which is a very clean and comfortable inn that caters to hunters and fishermen, and is nesstled between two rivers. It is close to several good eateries and stores where anything you'll need is available.
I saw more game in this area than I've seen anywhere before; mule deer, whitetail deer., antelope, grouse, prairie chicken, turkey, and literally hundreds, if not thousands, of pheasants
The price of a varmint/predator license was $35.00... I will be coming back here again!.
|In The Field|
|We had a couple ways of approaching the hunt; we visited several prairie dog towns from small to medium sized, and I either set up off a shooting bench or would use bipods or shooting sticks.
In the larger towns I'd set up the bench and wait for the dogs to pop up, then take the long shots from a rock solid rest. The problem was that these prairie dogs would get clued in pretty quickly and dive down their holes for good, requiring me to pack up and move along.
What worked better for me was to have Willie drop me off in the middle of a town, with my rifle
The three .22 caliber guns I used included the Marauder in a custom laminate stock (left), the AirArms TWICE (left lower) and the AirForce Talon. All three of these rifles have proven very effective for long range shooting. I used mil dot scopes, which I think absolutely necassary, on all three. The Mar auder was my favorite for shooting off the bench, the TWICE for offhand shooting, and the Talon was great for belly shooting in the middle of a town. The three guns also worked well with heavy pellets; and all three delivered the power and accuracy to anchor dogs all the way out to 150 yards.
One of the great side benifits of this trip was all the other wildlife encountered; we sat and watched a big tom turkey strutting and eventually driving off a challanger (right upper). One highli8ght was when I came inches from hoisting my backside on a rattler (right lower), which I tossed a few feet away so I could sit and call coyote for awhile. He got his spot back when I left,
|The Long Shots|
|day pack, range finder, a foam pad and a bottle of water and just move slowly a long on foot. I'd lay on my belly and wait till the dogs would slowly pop up and start barking. I'd use this to zero in on their positions. Once I'd pop one they'd drop back down and I'd lay my head down and wait five minutes till the barking started anew. There were two significant challanges to deal with, in addition to the dogs presenting themselves. One was that the wind never stopped blowing. It was 10 to 15 mph and gusting, which made doping the wind a must. The second challange was that unlike prairie dogs I've shot in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Kansas ..... there were almost no shots inside of 80 yards most were in the 100 to 150 yard range. Long distances and windy conditions ..... good thing I brought three air tanks.|
|A prairie dog doing what prairie dogs do ....It was nice when a dog stood up and presented the option of a head or chest shot.|
|In the high winds it would sometimes take several shots to get dialed in. This shot was taken at 120 yards and I was holding the third right mil dot on this dogs head .... with a POI 10 inches behind him!|
|Probably 75% of my shots were over 100 yards, and without mil dots and a range finder my success rate would have really dipped. There was also a lot of uphill and downhill shooting.|
|My longest shot of the trip was 159 yards with my Marauder .22. it took me three shots to get the windage locked in before dropping the headshot.|