The plan for last Friday, September 16, was to head out early in the morning for a full day of pottin’ prairie poodles
. Unfortunately, the weather on Thursday turned very wet. My rain gauge in the back yard in Williston showed we had received .75" of moisture. I checked the rainfall total in the area I planned to hunt in and the report said they had received .35" to .40" of rain. That put a “damper” (literally!!!) on my plans because the area I wanted to shoot in has some nasty clay soil that makes it pretty hard to get around in plus I had a very wide creek bottom I had to cross that is kind of boggy even in the dry season. I put my hunting plan on hold.
Well, Friday morning rolled around and the weather was gorgeous. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing 2 to 5 mph, and I wondered if I should go hunting. I decided to take my wife out for breakfast, but our daughter called and invited us to meet her at Pizza Hut for lunch. So that’s what we did. After lunch, the weather was so nice I decided I was going to head out to see if it was dry enough in my hunting area so could get across the creek bottom. I arrived at my parking spot around 2:30 p.m. and the bright sunshine and slight breeze had dried out the area a tiny bit, but the area down by the creek was MUDDY, MUDDY, MUDDY!!!
I gathered my gear and headed out at 2:50 p.m. If I couldn’t cross the creek there would still be some prairie dogs on the side of the creek where I had parked. I found a place where the fence line crossed the creek and did a balancing act on the bottom wire of the fence which had a plank attached to that wire. I made it across without getting wet, but I sure got muddy boots when I headed across the flat on the other side of the creek to get up off the creek bottom and up onto the plateau.
I was going to use my .17 Remington caliber rifle built on a blueprinted Remington 700 BDL action. I installed a Jewell HVR trigger in the action and adjusted it to one pound of pull. This rifle has a 24" stainless steel 1 in 9 twist, 4-groove Lilja barrel in the Remington Varmint contour and is threaded for my Gemtech Trek-Ti suppressor. I had my gunsmith flute the barrel and after he got it installed I went to his shop and broke the barrel in using his indoor tunnel setup. Then he removed the barrel and sent it in to H&M Metal Processing where it got the salt bath nitride treatment.
I had purchased a bunch of moly coated 25 gr. BTHP Kindler Gold bullets from a fellow online several years ago. I removed the moly coating and coated them with hexagonal boron nitride and worked up a pretty accurate load for them. I used this load on PDs last summer and it worked fantastic! In the meantime, I bought a Leupold VX-III 8.5-25x50mm scope with the Varmint Hunter reticle and installed that on this rifle. That is one fine scope. I’m very happy a friend of mine sold the scope to me!!! The barreled action is mounted in an H-S Precision aluminum pillar bedded stock that has been skim bedded. The Gemtech Trek-Ti suppressor is on the end of the barrel.
Back on April 16, 2015, I loaded every 25 gr. Kindler Gold bullet I had on hand and had shot a bunch of them last year so I only had 94 rounds of loaded ammo with, but since I only had a little over 5 hours of shooting light, I figured that would be enough ammo. I did, though, want to shoot all of those rounds up so I could start using my 30 gr. FBHP T-000 Nagel bullets in this rifle. I am using a load of 23.6 grains of IMR 8208 XBR, Tula magnum small rifle primers, and Remington factory brass with the neck walls turned to about .00985" thick with the 25 gr. Golds. The chamber neck ID is .1945". Last summer I chronographed these loads and I was getting a muzzle velocity of 3,991 fps. This summer my chronograph readings tell me my muzzle velocity has dropped to 3,870. What is with that???? That is a drop of 121 fps with the same components???? Do you suppose my powder is getting old and tired? LOL As I mentioned earlier, I did load these rounds back on April 16, 2015, but I’ve never experienced a drastic drop in muzzle velocity like this even with loads for other rifles that were older than these were???
I took my first shot at 3:10 pm. at a standing prairie dog about 75 yards away. The bullet appeared to hit the PD on the right side, but it did kill it. The next shot was at a prairie dog in the horizontal position and the bullet appeared to hit to the right of where I had aimed, but it was hard to tell for sure. I cranked the windage knob two clicks to the left based mainly on a target I had shot with this load last Tuesday. That adjustment worked on another PD at 100 yards and then I nailed a standing prairie dog at 171 yards. I quit fiddling with the windage and elevation knobs. I got down below the level of the plateaus and began sneaking eastward along the plateau edge out of the view of the prairie dogs. I did notice lots of coyote tracks in the mud that had probably been made last night or this morning. No coyotes were spotted though. I had taken 4 shots and nailed 4 prairie dogs up to this point in time.
I sneaked back up to the plateau and found a very nice spot to shoot from. By 3:35 I had shot 6 more shots and nailed 6 more prairie dogs. The little 25 gr. Kindler Gold bullets really tear up the prairie dogs. I decided to take a break to fill my magazine and shell holder. I also took out a cookie to eat and my water bottle for a cool drink. I noticed some scat that looked bleached by the sun. Was it coyote scat or owl scat???
Back to the hunt—I crept along the side of the hill and found a spot where I could crawl up and have a great vantage point for shooting. I went 6 for 6 at that spot and then moved further east. I spotted four PDs on a mound and got set up so I could use my bipod and nailed a few more. At that spot I wounded one, but took another shot at it and put it down for good. By 4:05 I had taken 21 shots and killed 20 PDs. I stopped for a snack and a drink of water and filled the magazine on my rifle and also filled the shell holder on the stock. I was going to walk further east, but now there were more PDs up north of me so I stayed right there. By 4:20 I had taken 10 more shots at distances from 150 to 171 yards and nailed 10 more PDs. Most of them were within 5 yards of each other. I’d shoot a couple and a few more would come out to check out their dead buddies and meet the same fate their buddies met. At 4:25 I decided to take some photos so I walked up north, gathered up a few PDs and posed them by my rifle for a family photo. I shot 2 more PDs before taking this photo below and shot 2 more after finishing the pictures.
I was about half a mile from my pickup, but it sure looked farther away than that.
Shot and body count to this point was 37 shots and I had 1 miss and 36 singles. No doubles YET!!!
I began walking east again towards another colony just on the other side of a ravine. I was sneaking up to a mound and spotted a dark prairie dog about 100 yards off to the NE. I didn’t pick a very good spot to set up because there were prickly pear cacti every place I wanted to rest my elbows. I finally hurried up and squeezed off a shaky shot and missed!! I found a better spot to shoot from and by 5:20 I had finished off the box of shells that had 42 loaded rounds in it when I started and had killed 40 PDs with those 42 shots. The next box of shells had 52 rounds in it so I loaded up the magazine and shell holder and got ready for action. There were no PDs out and about so I took some time to have another cookie and a looong drink of ice cold water. I walked a bit further east and set up at what turned out to be my best spot of the day. I went 20 for 20 at that spot. Many of prairie dogs had dark fur. I wanted a photo of some of those so at 6:29 I walked up there and gathered some of them up for the family photo below.
I took another drink of water and figured I was about 3/4 of a mile from my pickup so I’d better start hiking back there. I was at a spot where I would have to cross the creek two times to get to my pickup and I wanted to get to the last spot I had to cross the creek long before it was dark. There weren’t a lot of PDs out as I walked back but I managed to get off another 9 shots. I missed on two shots, hit 6 singles and on the last shot of the day I bagged my first double!!!
These two PDs were lined up so I could see the back one under the belly of the front one. I knew I’d get one and maybe two. The front PD went cart wheeling through the air and wound up 6 or 7 feet behind the mound.
When I walked up to the den I saw the second PD down in the hole—GREAT
, I got my first double of the day. I pulled the one out of the hole and posed them.
It was a great half day hunt!!! I did get a bunch of mud on my boots, but that will clean off. I didn’t shoot all 94 rounds though. I managed to shoot 71 shots and had 4 missed shots, 66 singles and one gratifying double at the end of the day. So I had 68 dead PDs for my 71 shots. Not bad for a hunt that I almost didn’t go out on!!!
I arrived at my pickup at 7:55 p.m. and was driving down the prairie trail to the main road at 8:05 p.m. I apologize for not taking any blossom photos, but I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that I didn’t forget to take the “Hero Photo”
to share with you.