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Prairie Dog School, Arizona
By Popular Demand: Discussions related to Varmint Hunting
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Handloader
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Joined: Aug 22, 2005
Posts: 1032
Location: Phoenix, Arizona

PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:46 pm    Post subject: Prairie Dog School, Arizona Reply with quote

Arizona has numerous areas where prairie dogs dwell, perhaps, not in the same numbers as in other western states, but, enough to challenge the shooter. Three of us decided to try six different rifles and scope combinations while testing our skills with distance and wind. So, Labor Day morning at 3am we headed out, the entire truck loaded down with gear, including, food, shooting tables, spotting scopes and SPF15 strength lotion. High spirits. Massive thunderheads ended our little foray around mid-afternoon, but, for several hours we unleashed a torrent of jacketed bullets at these elusive targets.

We didn't use rangerfinders as we wanted to hone our estimation skills. Distances can be deceptive on uneven or flat surfaces, especially when the target area is rodent sized. After the shooting, we ranged the distances between 387 and 565 yards. We had a constant six to ten mph crosswind. And, we didn't hit many prairie dogs! Our kill to shot ratio was 1:11. That was low enough that the prairie dog community will be happy to see us again, September 19th, when we make a repeat trip.

Here were some concensus conclusions:

Scope power beyond 14X is useless in mirage conditions. Variables with higher power were set to 15X or less as a consequence.

Leupold and Sightron scopes were easiest to use compared to Burris, Bushnell and Nikon and of similar performance to the Zeiss Conquest. We were using VXIII, S2, Fullfield, 4200 and Monarch UCC. The differences in resolution and clarity ranged from slight to significant. This bothered me because I had a nice Monarch UCC 5.5 to 16 on my VSSF 220 Swift; you may see it for sale at a reasonable price on the classified section of this website.

Rifles were chambered for 223, 22-250, 220 Swift, 220 Howell and 22-250 Ackley. The 223 proved to be the most useful and heated its barrel noticeably slower while providing as many kills as the other cartridges. Not as spectacular, but, kills none the less. Next trip we will test two rifles in 204 Ruger. The 22-250 and Swift were great rifles, but, required excess cool downs between strings. The Howell and 22-250 Ackley are relegated to coyote calling, although, they are accurate, but, boy do they get hot superfast. While this was predictable, the difference in the field was higher than we anticiated.

Nikon's rangefinder proved most consistent and accurate. We actually measured the distances manually after the shoot and then used the rangefinders to verify. We used Cabelas, Simmons, Leupold, too.

To draw specific conclusions some repeat testing is needed, but, it was a fun and instructive day. We have a lot to learn about shooting in crosswinds and look forward to the next session.
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popgun
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Joined: Jan 26, 2005
Posts: 735
Location: Mitchell, GA, U.S.A. (2007 pop. 191)

PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:03 am    Post subject: Re: Prairie Dog School, Arizona Reply with quote

I sounds like you guys had a great time even though you did the smart thing and evacuated the PD Towns because of weather.
Which Leupold rangefinder were you using? I, II, III? I'm in the market for a new rangefinder and I don't know a thing about the new Leupolds.

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Chris Young, aka: popgun, Moderator
I don't know everything but I have made most of the mistakes already and lived through many of them.
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Handloader
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Joined: Aug 22, 2005
Posts: 1032
Location: Phoenix, Arizona

PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:20 am    Post subject: Re: Prairie Dog School, Arizona Reply with quote

Popgun: these were the rangefinders used in the initial test:

Cabelas: CLR800
Nikon: Monarch 800
Leupold: RX-II
Simmons: Yardage Master 800

IMO, rangefinders are most accurate to within 50% of their rated distance due to beam dispersal. On our next venture we will have a Leica and two other 1,000 yard rated rangefinders. Most rangefinders do a great job, regardless of brand, when sighting at prominent objects on slopes greater than 45 degrees. As one approaches level ground, beam dispersal complicates the laser's ability to discern the center of the beam for precise readings.

What our group is trying to do is eliminate totally the need for a rangefinder by honing our ability to accurately estimate distance. I am surprised by how far off sometimes we are. Other times we are very close to measured distances. By eliminating rangefinder assistance, one eliminates the cost and maintenance of the unit as well as having one more object to carry around. This appeals to the minimalist approach regarding gear that I take on most hunts.

I've guided elk hunts for a number of years and I am always amazed at the "stuff" clients bring with them. Most of the gear is a product of the gun magazine's promotion and most of that promotion in articles amounts to infomercials rather than any discussion of the necessity of the item. I place rangefinders in that catagory; they are technical items used to compensate for lack of skill and their accuracy is complicated by rain or snow. I lack skill in distance determination beyond 300 yards and that is part of the prairie dog excercise, to learn better how to determine range. We all learned a bit on this outing and feel our next trip will give more lessons.
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skb2706
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Joined: Apr 10, 2006
Posts: 269

PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:00 am    Post subject: Re: Prairie Dog School, Arizona Reply with quote

Good story and good info. I concur with your Arizona school results.....I get to go to Prairie Dog School eastern CO just about anytime I feel the need. I use alot of the same equipment except we never use a range finder. All of the properties are private and the ones my sister owns have been marked with 100 yd. posts out in a couple directions to 500 yds.
chamberings of choice include
.221
.204
.22-250
.22-250 AI
6mm
All have their moments.
You will have to write a "follow up" story after the next foray. I don't go again until the weekend just before antelope season starts.
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Handloader
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Joined: Aug 22, 2005
Posts: 1032
Location: Phoenix, Arizona

PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 8:38 am    Post subject: Re: Prairie Dog School, Arizona Reply with quote

skb2706: compared to the other cartridges you mention, how would you rank the 204 Ruger for long distance prairie dogging?
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skb2706
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Posts: 269

PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Prairie Dog School, Arizona Reply with quote

My personal favorite is the .204...it compares nicely with a standard 22-250 in range without having to make alot of corrections. Doen't have the 'splatter factor' that the 250 does but handles the wind just as well and it will 'mess up' a prairie dog. I have two .204s one for me and one for my son, we use them the most. The bigger guns get hot quickly (like you mentioned) and the .221 is great fun out to 200-250 yds. Once the dogs have been shot at a few times the range can extend well past 250 and often past 400 yds.
I have two forum friends from another site that are going to my sisters this weekend to shoot for a few days....sure wish I could go with...weather will be nice and I know the dogs haven't been shot for a while.
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