prairie dog sun bathing
All Photo Credits: Christian McHugh

For many outdoorsmen, the closure of turkey season begins a long wait until the next hunting season. However, across most of the western states, there are still some summer shooting opportunities that often go overlooked. Prairie dogs are a great shooting activity for both beginner shooters as well as experts. It’s an activity that everyone in the family can enjoy while benefiting the more serious shooter the entire time.

Glassing target practice
Photo Credit:Christian McHugh

Varmint hunting is a great way to keep your shooters eye sharp. Usually, days spent chasing prairie dogs are days with lots of lead flying. So many shot opportunities help keep shooters comfortable with the body movements involved in pulling the trigger. Some expert shooters say that shooting a lot and by practicing your technique will help increase your muscle memory of the process which can help you become a much better shoot prior to the fall. By getting more comfortable with the entire shooting process you will become a more accurate shot. Smaller calibers are most commonly used because large loads are overkill and even better yet, the ammunition is cheaper. Some of the more popular calibers are .223, .22-250, and .17. It’s an excellent opportunity to really hone your shooting skills so you are ready to take on your other adventures come fall.

Dust cloud direct hit
Photo Credit: Christian McHugh

The best time of the year to pursue prairie dogs is mid May to early June. There are a couple reasons for this. The youngest dogs are born in the early spring and once the snow is melted and the sun starts shining, they begin popping out of their homes. These young ones provide hunters with a little more time to shoot if needed but also allow for quick shots because they are less likely to run away after a shot. This also allows for more opportunities for youth and less experienced hunters. Because the young dogs are less gun shy, their curiosity keeps them coming out at shorter distances whereas the oldest dogs will often keep underground except for the greater distances.

By shooting prairie dogs and other varmints, we actually help in a hard battle to do land management. Prairie dogs live by eating the roots of the native grasses where they inhabit, which are also crucial forages for other game species like antelope and deer. Anyone who has seen a long overcrowded prairie dog town has seen just how barren the landscape can be.

Make sure to have plenty of water. A lot of dog towns are located in desolate and semi-arid areas and most hunting occurs on warm days. It is important to keep hydrated even though it may not seem like you are exerting yourself too much. Dehydration is one of the most common mistakes outdoorsmen doing any activity make.

Whats your caliber of choice for prairie dog hunting?

Explosion impact
Photo Credit: Christian McHugh
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Christian McHugh is a freelance photographer/videographer who was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but now resides in Mobridge, SD. He completed his pursuit for a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences with a minor in Journalism from South Dakota State University in 2012. While he's not out hunting or fishing, he likes to shoot the world through a lens! He tries to take his passion for the outdoors and present it to the world as he sees it through photography, videography, and writing.