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Hunting Small Targets - BIG FUN!
By Gary McCraw
AZOD Hunting Section Leader
If youíre looking for some of the most excitement you can have hunting in Arizonaís high temperatures try prairie dogging. Thatís right; these little D-9 rodents can teach you many lessons about proper hunting techniques.
First, Arizona does have a prairie dog population. Just head up to Seligman, it's just off I-40 on the old Route 66. Drive on through Seligman headed west until you see the Aubrey Cliffs. If you want to hunt the north side of 66 be sure to check in at the ranch just down 66 a bit. But to hunt the south side of Route 66 parallel to the railroad tracks, it is open range. Be careful because a train comes through there about every 15 minutes. Always know your target and whatís beyond.
With all hunting the best place to start is at home. Shooting prairie dogs call for some of the same equipment as any other big game hunt. Pick out your best rifle or handgun and favorite ammo. The better the optics the more enjoyable your hunt will be. Remember some of your shots, if you choose, can reach 500 to 600 plus yards. You may find that binoculars are faster on spotting your game at the closer distances. An advantage to this type of hunting is to bring a friend or relative. Having your own personal spotter always helps. Plus after the shooting itís a lot easier to have a human being walk out and put the laser rangefinder on than a prairie dog. Other wise you have to walk all the way out there and leave the comfort of shade and cold sodas.
When you go on a prairie dog hunt think comfort. Dress for the weather. Remember summers in the somewhat north country gets hot too. So drag out your factory or homemade shooting bench and toss up one of those portable shade awnings and a very comfortable swivel chair. Do not forget the insect repellent and a good sunblock.
Now that youíre setup, be patient. Donít panic as you are setting up and prairie dogs are scrambling everywhere. Take your time, glass for the shot you want. Then take it. The amount of lead thrown doesnít make you a hunter but the one clean shot does.
Wait, hereís a problem. What if youíre hunting prairie dogs late in the season? If all critters are scrambling down their burrows as soon as they see a truck, well then the real hunt begins. Now you get to practice your stalking skills. Grab your firearm, butt pad, and some shooting sticks then sneak to a vantage point. Not all the terrain is perfectly flat and barren. Look for small rises or little valleys edged by some small trees. This may sound stupid to some folks but I would rather practice stalking techniques on a prairie dog town and make mistakes there than on a trophy antelope hunt. Besides can you think of a more exciting way to test your offhand shooting skills?
If you still have ammo left from the box you got with your rifle several years ago this next part is not for you. Now you trigger fans who worked all those hours to buy that firearm why not use it. Take your .243, .30-06, 7mm Mag or your WSSM, WSM, Ultra Mags and really get acquainted. A sore shoulder now will payoff this winter as youíre staring down that 300 point plus bull.
You want your kids involved in hunting? This type of hunting gives you, their mentor, the perfect opportunity to teach proper hunting skills. Where else can they learn to use that new rifle in field conditions that allows for mistakes or bad shots? Hunting prairie dogs is the perfect preseason hunt. Anyone can shoot at prairie dogs but Iíll put my money on the person who puts all their hunting skills to use and hunts them little diggers like big game.
Good hunting and send some pictures! - AZOD -