Sunday Gunday: Summer Varmint Trips — Guns, Ammo, Planning By:


[[{“value”:”June 23rd, 2024

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Sunday Gunday: Summer Varmint Trips — Guns, Ammo, Planning

CFE 223 Powder Varmint Bullet Prairie dog
This custom war wagon hauls varmint hunters around the Longmeadow Game Resort in Colorado.

We’re at the height of summer now — summer Solstice was on June 20, 2024. Will you be heading to the varmint fields this summer? Proper planning is key to a safe, satisfying, and productive varmint holiday. Of course you’ll be busy reloading, but you should make a check-list of all the gear and supplies you need. Bring a variety of rifles if possible — you’ll need to switch off as one barrel gets hot, and the chambering that works best for your close shots may not be ideal for those longer shots out past 400 yards.

Here are some tips from our Forum members that can help you shoot more effectively, and avoid problems on your varmint hunt. Here’s one key tip: at your shooting station, put a strip of surveyor’s tape on a tall stake to show the wind direction. Then shoot in the direction the wind blows. This will minimize the effect of cross-winds.

Savage LR Precision Varminter
This photo is from a Dan Eigen TV Show video featuring a P-Dog hunt.

Varmint Safari Planning, Equipment, and Shooting Advice

From PatchHound: “The gear you bring will make or break a trip out to Prairie Dog land. A lot has to do with where you going and how far you are from [civilization]. For starters, bring lots of water. It will be hot in Wyoming in a few more weeks but it don’t hurt to bring warm clothes in case it snows. It’s best to wear leather boots unless you’re real good at dodging cactus while walking around. Good sunscreen [and a wide-brimmed hat] will save the day too. [What you need to bring] really depends on whether you’re shooting on some friendly ranch or 100 miles in the middle of [a wilderness area]. Good survival gear is a good thing to have for the latter!”

CFE 223 Powder Varmint Bullet Prairie dog

From Stoner25mkiv: “I’d suggest an adjustable bipod if you are going to do any walking. A laser rangefinder is a huge asset. Have a fanny pack or backpack for extra ammo, water, bore-snake, etc. when you go on your walkabouts. We also take a couple pivoting benches, heavy movers’ pad/blanket, sandbags (Uncle Bud’s Bulls Bag) for shooting from near the vehicle. Boonie hat for blocking the sun, sun glasses, sunscreen. High leather boots.

varmint hunting prairie dog dakota dogtown

From CTShooter: “The .204 [Ruger] is a laser beam and good to 400 yards easy. Forget the rimfire! Do you have a portable bench that pivots? Bring bipod, binocs. Bring a LOT of water. I have a milspec sniper shooter’s mat/drag bag with shoulder straps. It is good to carry everything when you want to wander off and shoot prone with bipod. Here’s a view through my 6BR in ND.”

From RJinTexas: “In most of the locations that we’ll be shooting we’ll usually set up a minimum of 200 yards from the edge of a major dog town. We’ll start by working over the close-in dogs and shooting our way out, some of these towns may run in excess of 500/600 yards deep. [A .204 Ruger] will work well out to 300/400 yards unless the wind is blowing hard. We classify a 10-mph crosswind as a very calm day and what makes it a little more challenging is that it is usually also gusting.”

imageFrom Wes (P1ZombieKiller): “[For my first PD trip] there are so many things I was not ready for. The one thing that I did bring (that no one told me about) was a canopy. I’m glad I did. Even though the weather was [near perfect], I know that sun can humble you real fast. With my pop-up canopy, I could shoot all day without getting killed by the sun. You had to tie the canopy down real well or the wind would blow it across the pasture.

We sat on shooting benches that pivot 360°, and are fast and easy to set up. Most all shots were 175-250 yards. I just felt comfortable at that range. It was more fun for me to be able to film the hits, and the camcorder I was using just did not get good video past 350 yards. The digital zoom distorted the image too much. I knew I would only get this one chance to film my first P-dog outing, and I wanted to get it on film for [posterity].”

Bring Multiple Rifles on Your Varmint Adventures

On our P-Dog adventures, we like to have multiple rifles — a .17 HMR for close work, then maybe a .20 Practical AR for 150-250 yards, then a larger caliber such as 22 BR, 6BRA, 6 Dasher or 6-6.5×47 for those long shots. The classic .22-250 is also a wickedly effective varmint cartridge.

Prairie dog adventure varmint hunting

Varmint Rifle Chambering Options: .17 HMR, .17 WSM, .20 Practical, .204 Ruger, .22 BR, 6mm Dasher, 6-6.5×47 Lapua

We like to have a Rimfire varmint rig for the closer shots, inside 150 yards. The .17 HMR or .17 WSM are good choices. With a rimfire you save on ammo costs and you don’t waste precious centerfire barrel life. This video shows a successful Prairie Dog hunt with a .17 HMR. Watch and you’ll see hits out to 160 yards (00:50), proving the effective range of the 17 HMR cartridge. The host is shooting a Savage A17 semi-auto 17 HMR rifle in a Boyds laminated stock.

.17 WSM Rimfire in Franklin Armory F17-L

What’s the ultimate rimfire varmint rifle? An AR chambered for the .17 WSM could be the answer. Eric Mayer of states: “The Franklin Armory F17-L in .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) has a lot of firsts. It is the first semi-automatic rifle in .17 WSM now available to the general public. It is the first gas-piston system, AR-15 rimfire rifle built in partnership between Franklin Armory and Osprey Defense.”

Eric has used the .17 WSM AR shooting ground squirrels, rock squirrels, prairie dogs, and rabbits. Eric notes: “The report of the .17 WSM is nowhere near as loud as most of the centerfire [varmint] cartridges. I found that when I shot the FA-17, it did not cause the other ground squirrels… to run for cover. The lack of recoil … allowed me to see right where I hit [and] if I happened to miss, [low recoil] made for quick corrections for wind, or distance.” READ Full Report

.17 wsm varmint rimfire
The .17 WSM is a much larger, more powerful round than the .17 HMR. See the size difference above.

.20 Practical (20-223 Rem) AR-Platform Varminter

Here is a .20 Practical built by Robert Whitley. Whitley’s Ultimate Prairie Dog Rifle (PDR) features a 24″ Bartlein 1:11″-twist cut-rifled barrel, DPMS side-charging upper, and a Jewell trigger. It is chambered in 20 Practical, a cartridge popularized by Warren “Fireball” Brookman.

varmint hunting prairie dog dakota dogtown

This .20 Practical cartridge is simply the .223 Remington necked down to .204. You can use your existing .223 Rem brass — no special case-forming required! The 20 Practical is accurate, flat-shooting, and has almost no recoil. The advantage over the standard .223 Remington is that, grain for grain, the bullets have a higher BC and travel at a higher velocity for more dramatic effect on a small varmint. The ultra-low recoil allows you to easily see your hits, even without a muzzle brake. The 20 Practical, launching 40-grainers at about 3750 fps, shoots flatter than a .223 Rem with 55gr hollowpoints.

.204 Ruger AR-15 (Suppressed) for Cottontail Rabbit Hunting

As a varmint hunting tool, the .204 Ruger in an AR-15 is a versatile, worthy cartridge/rifle combo for the job. This video covers a cottontail rabbit hunt. The host states that “We were contacted by a farmer who was being slammed with cottontail rabbits eating out huge portions of his alfalfa fields.” This suppressed .204 Ruger AR-15 proved seriously effective on the rabbits, driving high-velocity rounds with impressive accuracy. See more details on the website.

.22 BR Savage Varminter — Accuracy on a Budget Pride Joy 22 BR savage varmint rifle ground hog 6mmBR Pride Joy 22 BR savage varmint rifle ground hog 6mmBR

This .22 BR Savage, with upgrades from Sharpshooter Supply, is the “pride and joy” of Forum member Maynard. Note the heavy-contour custom barrel with brake. That .22 BR cartridge is a very effective choice for varmint work, as the ground hog in the photo proves. The .22 BR and .22 Dasher are capable of outstanding accuracy with a large variety of bullets and powders. A .22 Dasher can rival the ballistics of a 6mmBR out to 500+ yards, but with reduced recoil.

Avid varmint hunter Bill White (aka “CT10Ring” in our Forum) concurs about the effectiveness of the .22 BR Cartridge: “.22 BR — My .22 BR is my first choice for most prairie dog missions. Accuracy is superb with necked-down 6mmBR Lapua brass — quarter-MOA and blazing fast. With the right twist rate, this chambering can shoot anything from 40gr FB bullets to 80gr VLDs. Load development is easy. Below is my .22 BR ammo for another varmint trip. I use 55gr Sierra BlitzKings with Varget in my 1:12″-twist Shilen-barreled rifle. 60gr Bergers are very accurate with a fairly flat trajectory for useful distances.”

Varmint Hunting .22 22 BR cartridge

6mm Dasher for Voldoc’s 2024 Prairie Dog Safari

CFE 223 Powder Varmint Bullet Prairie dog

6mm DasherRespected Forum member Voldoc has a long thread about his 2024 Prairie Dog Safari, his 20th trip of this kind. He reported: “After the 1st day of shooting with 30+ MPH wind, we settled down on a High Point, and set up the Benches the second day for a ‘Shooting Gallery’ of non-stop shooting. PDogs were in play from 125 to 1,000 yards.” Voldoc’s rifle features these components: Nesika J RBRP action, 1:12″-twist Krieger barrel chambered by Mike Bryant for the 6 Dasher, 2 oz. Jewell trigger, Thunder Beast Suppressor, Nightforce ATACR 7-35X FFP optic. He usually shoots 87gr V-Max bullets in annealed Lapua brass pushed to 3240 FPS by Vihtavuori N135 powder. To spot critters, Voldoc uses Vortex Fury 5000 AB Rangefinding Binoculars.

More Power — 6-6.5×47 Lapua for Longer Range Varmint Shots

6mm 6.5x47 Lapua 6-6.5x47 varmint rifle mcmillan BAT action 6mmAI

Soon after Lapua released the 6.5×47 cartridge, wildcatters recognized the potential of a necked-down 6mm version of the case. The 6-6.5×47 has emerged as a great, do-it-all cartridge that performs well in High Power competition, 600- and 1000-yard benchrest, and PRS tactical matches. But the 6-6.5×47 is not just for paper-punching. An efficient cartridge with great inherent accuracy, the 6-6.5×47 can be an excellent, flat-shooting, long-range varmint round. Here we feature Stan Stewart’s BAT-actioned 6-6.5×47 varminter. Fitted with a Krieger 1:10″ barrel, Stan’s rifle excels with a wide variety of varmint bullets. Whether driving 70-grainers at 3700 fps, or pushing the Berger 88gr High-BC FB bullet at 3400 fps, this 6-6.5×47 delivers half-MOA (or better) accuracy, in a well-balanced, easy-handling rifle. He has developed very accurate loads with Varget, Vihtavuori N550, and Reloder 15.

6mm 6.5x47 Lapua 6-6.5x47 varmint rifle mcmillan BAT action 6mmAI

Six Tips for Novice Long Range Varmint Hunters

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

1. Take twice as much ammo you think you may need. The fields could be particularly rich, or, because of wind or other variables, you may have far more misses than expected.

2. When possible, set up with the wind at your back (or, alternatively, directly ahead). This will minimize the effect of cross-winds. Set up a stake with a ribbon to show wind direction.

3. Bring at least two rifles. Ideally one would be a low-recoil rifle with cheaper components for the closer shots. Then bring a rifle with higher-BC bullets for longer shots where wind is a bigger factor.

4. Check the weather before you head out. Prairie dogs like sunshine and calm conditions. If a cloudy, very blustery day is predicted, considering staying in town and cleaning the rifles.

5. Bring plenty of water on a trip. An adult male should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water (or other liquid) every day — more if it’s very hot or you are sweating a lot.

6. Preferably always hunt with a companion. If you do go out solo, have a Garmin inReach SatComm/GPS for emergencies if there is no cell coverage in your location.

Tips and photo credit Forum Member Bill White.

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Tags: .17 WSM, .22 BR, 17 HMR, 204 Ruger, 6-6.5×47, 6mm Dasher, Summer Varmint Hunt, Varmint Rifle, Varmint Safari, Voldoc