Varmint shooting, and specifically prairie dog shooting, is one of those "sleeper" activities you don't hear much about. But don't be fooled. Many hundreds of avid big game hunters take to the road this time of year seeking out good places to get into off-season shooting. The big appeal of prairie dog shooting is that it provides lots of low-cost, off-season rifle shooting practice, and all the lessons it teaches are directly transferable to shooting big game animals. When shooting prairie dogs you have to deal with problems of range estimation, under varying conditions of light and terrain; bullet drop; heat mirage; wind drift; and shooting at angles of elevation and depression. The prairie dog is the most demanding mentor in the school of long-range marksmanship. Anyone who can consistently score on prairie dogs at 200 to 250 yards will find it easy to score on antelope, mule deer, sheep, goats and elk at much longer distances. The problem with all this is overcrowding. Five years ago, the very idea of paying to shoot prairie dogs was unthinkable, if not downright ridiculous. There was plenty of good, cheap, do-it-yourself prairie dog shooting on public land and on Indian reservations. Not any more.
Many of those accessible prairie dog areas have been ravaged by poison, by plague and by overshooting. If you want top-quality prairie dog shooting nowadays, you almost have to have access to private land; and, for most of us, that means having to pay for it. Not surprisingly, this imbalance between supply and demand has created a business opportunity, which is being exploited by an increasing number of outfitters. At this point, there are prairie dog outfitters out there to suit every budget. On the low end of the scale is Jim Wilkins of Otter Creek Outfitters. Wilkins charges $125 per day, which includes bunkhouse accommodations, ranch-type meals, all ground transportation, guiding services and heavy shooting tables. He has access to over 100,000 acres of private land in southeastern Montana. Some days his shooters gun over virgin dog towns, some days over towns that have been shot over. The legendary Leroy Von Buggenheim........(continued)