As I started to research prairie dog hunting I quickly realized I needed some gear. It took some researching and talking to people who had been dog hunting to figure out what I needed. Well I am going to save you some time and give you a list of some of the essential prairie dog hunting gear.
I could write pages and pages on rifles for prairie dog hunting (and I will) but we will not get that in depth for the purposes of this article. Most states don’t have restrictions on caliber for prairie dog hunting but you will want a gun that has a low price per round. If you get on a good dog town you will go through ammo so fast and you may be having so much fun that you are not paying attention to how much ammo you have actually used. The most popular calibers are 22-250, .204, .223, variants of .22, and recently .17 HMR. These calibers are some of the cheapest to reload.
I am going to share a lesson I learned with you, if you think you have enough ammo double it. On my first hunt I took 1100 rounds of .17HMR and the first day we got on a good dog town and I went through 400+ rounds in a few hours. I ended up going to the store 3 times to buy more ammo (I was restricted to buying 2 boxes per day). You can’t always count on finding ammo when you are out hunting, especially if you are in a heavily hunted area where everyone is looking for the same calibers of ammo. The other tip I have in this category is buy extra clips for your gun if you have a clip gun. I have 5 clips for my one gun and I plan on getting a few more. Nothing kills the fun like running out of ammo.
If you are only going to go prairie dog hunting once and never do it again you can get away with buying your ammunition off the shelf of your favorite sporting goods store. If you plan to go even twice you can save a ton of money by reloading your own brass. The other advantage to reloading is that you can load very consistent rounds that will group nice and tight. You can get started reloading with a single stage press like the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit for a few hundred bucks. You should be able to pay off the reloading equipment in under 1000 rounds.
Good optics are one of the most important pieces of equipment you will have for prairie dog hunting. You will be shooting out several hundred yards and prairie dogs are only about 12 inches tall so you need some good optics to see those little buggers. The first item is a good set of Binoculars or a good spotting scope, or both. The second item is a good high power scope. It is important to pay attention to quality of the optics when you start getting into high powered magnification and larger lenses because the quality really starts to show. The general rule of thumb is you should spend as much as you did on your gun on your scope. I think I have more money in my optics than I do in my guns. The third item is a good range finder. Binoculars can play with your depth perception and can make 2 mounds that are 100 yards apart look like they are right next to each other.
Shooting Bench and Rest
Some people carry a rug or mat to lay down and shoot off of, but the prairie has lots of cactus, spiders, and snakes. The prairie grass can also be tall and hinder your shooting while laying on the ground. I prefer to shoot off a bench. My shooting bench folds flat by pulling a few pins and is comfortable to sit on for hours on end. My shooting bench also pivots on its base so it is very easy to rotate and acquire a new target. If you are shooting off a bench you will also need a good gun rest. Everyone has their own preference, there is the tried and true sand bags, there are fancy adjustable rests, or my personal preference the Harris Engineering S-BRM Hinged Base 6 – 9-Inch BiPod.
Shooting hundreds of rounds through your gun exposes the barrel to harsh gunpowder residue, so your gun needs cleaned every few hundred rounds. There are tons of cleaning products and oils for guns out there and we will go into more detail in other articles but I will give you a quick overview here of what to have. I keep 3 bottles of gun cleaning products with me, one for carbon fouling, one for copper fouling, and gun oil. If I have only shot 100 rounds or less I just run a gun snake through my gun a couple times. Every couple hundred rounds I run a rod and patch through. I will make a quick note on this here, if you value your gun and its accuracy never use a rod without a bore guide.
I always carry a shooting bag with me whether I am antelope hunting, duck hunting, or prairie dog hunting I always take a camouflage bag with me that contains essential shooting items. For prairie dog hunting I use a backpack just in case I have to hike to get to a dog town. Here is a list of (most) of the items I keep in the bag:
- Targets – It seems like it happens to someone on every trip, you just can’t hit anything so you get out the targets and realize the scope got knocked out of whack.
- Tool kit – Allen wrenches, torx bits, specialty tools, and a Wheeler Torque Wrench
- Ear Protection – I prefer electronic earmuffs but any hearing protection is good
- Safety glasses – I prefer safety approved sunglasses
- Sunscreen – Don’t get burnt
- Water – You need to stay hydrated
- Batteries – Make sure you have extra batteries for rangefinder, ear muffs, etc.
This should cover most of the things you will need, but if I forgot something leave me a note in the comments.