South Dakota Prairie Dog
Hunt 2011
                                                                   Jim Chapman

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 Guns
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.
Other Critters
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,
Other Critters!
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.