Dog Days

prairie dog sitting on it's hole on the prairie

Ranchers hate ‘em. Prairie dogs multiply like crazy, dig massive holes and destroy grazing ground. This is where you come in. Targeting them serves a purpose and placing accurate shots across wide open spaces will make you more proficient in the fall woods. If you’ve never done it, we’ve assembled all the background info you’ll need to make a start.

Where To Go

Most states that harbor prairie dogs have lengthy public land seasons. Colorado’s, for example, often runs from mid-June through the end of February. Private land hunting can be had year-round, as is the case in most Western states. Some, like Wyoming, don’t require a license for hunting prairie dogs on privately owned acreage, but Colorado does. Just be sure to take 10 minutes and do a little research about the rules and regs in the state you plan to hunt. Currently, Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Colorado are hotbeds for prairie dogs. All offer public and private land hunting opportunities.

Man looking down a rifle scope with loaded ammo and a counter on the table

Prairie dogs are considered pests known for carrying a wide range of diseases, so we don’t recommend trying to cook any up.

Towns can be massive. The largest recorded spans more than 25,000 square miles. The lesson is, bring lots of ammo and multiple rifles. Prairie dogs provide the shooter a unique opportunity to experience multiple close- and long-range shots over the course of just a few hours. If you’re in a hot town, especially in June when April-born dogs start to emerge on top of holes and are oblivious to what’s going on, you can kill hundreds with a 22 LR or 17 HMR. This is great practice and allows you to shoot lots of lead and not abuse the shoulder. If you hunt a town on public land, especially later in the year, dogs can be smart. The 17 HMR is still a great choice, but you’ll also want to bring along that centerfire 223 Rem. or 22-250 Rem. for those 300- and 400-yard shots.

loaded ammo on a table

Permission on private land is another hat-tipper of prairie dog hunting. While knock-on-door permission for deer, elk and even turkey has mostly gone by the wayside, ranchers who’ve had horses and cattle break legs by stepping in holes and lost valuable grazing acres to these nuisance critters are often happy to let you shoot. Just don’t show up at a door step dressed like you’re headed out to hunt, and leave the guns in the truck. Dressing appropriately is a staple to gaining land access.

Side of lots of ammo and multiple rifles, you’ll also want to bring shooting sticks and possibly an easy-to-tote shooter’s bench. The goal is lots of shooting, but also developing good shooting habits that will carry over into the fall woods. Go with a buddy or three. Split the gas and be sure to take a quality spotting scope.

Behavior

Prairie dogs are more active during warmer conditions when the sun is out. This makes the summer months prime time. Dogs start to emerge from holes once the sun crawls above the horizon and will remain active throughout the day. Midday hours seem to be the best.

man looking down a rifle scope outside

While they can seem flat stupid at first, prairie dogs wise up quickly. If you hunt multiple days, you’ll start to hear lots of loud warning cries and see dogs running for cover when you roll up in the truck. This is when it’s important to have a person or two on the spotter. Dogs will reemerge, but will often just poke their heads out of the hole or lay prone in the belly of the hole exposing bits and pieces of their body. This is when things get really fun and challenging. Making head shots at ranges close and far will help build shooting confidence.

So, if you’re looking for fun and a challenge that promises lots of shooting and won’t put a massive dent in the bank account, make a prairie dog run this summer.