It’s fast. It’s fun. And you get to shoot… a lot. Prairie dog hunting has been a popular off-season endeavor for many big game hunters, especially those living west of the Mississippi River that don’t have to travel far to find dense populations packed into one field, known as a “town.” These towns can consist of hundreds, even thousands, of these stout, ground-dwelling rodents.

The two most common species of prairie dogs are the black-tailed and white-tailed, which are found mainly out west in the Great Plains region. They are about a foot tall when standing on their back legs and have been known to burrow as deep as 15 feet in the ground. As for the prairie dogs’ role in the ecosystem, they serve by providing habitat for burrowing owls and providing micro habitats for a whole host of other critters.

Like any other animal, prairie dogs are highly susceptible to diseases if their numbers aren’t controlled. And while they’re listed as “agricultural pests,” we would never push for the eradication of the species. Prairie dog hunting (also referred to as “prairie dog shooting” by the lefties) somewhat sustains the population, though these rodents’ demise will likely never occur from the rifle’s bullet. As none of us would enjoy seeing Mother Nature intervene with her population control tactics, which usually involves a slow death, we’ll continue making a pilgrimage every few years out to the Plains as long as game laws allow.

Where to Go

Look to the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana as top hot spots. You can find good hunts on public land, but you’ll need ample time to scout, and the easily accessible towns will have likely been shot out. Talk with locals and game officials who may have knowledge on the whereabouts of a highly populated town.

However, we’d recommend finding private land. Like fishermen, prairie dog hunting enthusiasts aren’t very likely to simply give you a honey hole. Finding a reputable outfitter or a rancher in want of pest control and booking several months in advance is the ideal way to increase your chances of having a good shoot. A quick Google search will get you started.

How to Hunt ‘Em

Once you’ve found a well-populated town, it’s time to set up. Find a flat spot to anchor your rifle at least a couple hundred yards from the town. Feel free to move back as you become consistent at that initial distance. Any closer and they are likely to stay underground for longer periods of time.

Find a good way to anchor your rifle for maximum accuracy when prairie dog hunting.

With most outfitters, and in most states, you can shoot any caliber from a .22 LR to a .50 cal. We recommend the lower-middle tier calibers like .222 Rem, .22-250 and .223. If you’re going to be doing a lot of shooting, you’re probably not going to want to beat yourself up with a larger caliber. Of course, moving up to any of the .30 calibers to keep your skills sharp for big-game hunting won’t hurt unless, of course, you run a lot of rounds through the rifle.

To us, the most important number in prairie dog hunting is the yardage between the tips of our rifle barrels and the target. It’s one thing to sit and shoot a stationary target all day and consistently produce tight groups. But if you really want to learn to make quality shots, ones that will count in the moment of truth when it’s an elk or deer in your crosshairs, live, moving targets are the best preparation.