Last Wednesday evening I was sitting at my reloading bench stuffing 105 grain Nosler Custom Competition bullets into Lapua 6MM BR cases when my buddy, Mike, showed up. The equipment he needed at work broke down and he was going to have five days off. He wondered if I could be ready to go shoot some prairie dogs first thing in the morning. I assured him that I could, in fact, be ready but would need to stop at a Walmart some place along the way for a few last minute items. I spent the rest of the evening packing my gear and throwing together some drop tables for some new rifles we had. I had my gear packed in his Camper by 7:00 AM. He was ready to go by 9:00AM.
Normally, we go to North Dakota the last week of June. This year Mike had to work and couldn't get the time off. The weather out there had been very wet so I didn't feel too bad about it. July had also been wet and I became a bit concerned that the grass might be too high at our favorite spot. We both wanted to try our hand at 1000 yard prairie dog shots and had each built new rifles for the task. Mine was a 6 BR and Mike's was a .243 Ackley Improved. We had worked up loads and sighted them in well enough to get started, but really needed more range time to fine tune them.
The drive out to our favorite spot, Martin's Meadow, was a trip to remember. We fought a 25-30 MPH head wind that dropped our gas mileage down to about 6 MPG. We had to stop every hundred miles or so to fill the tank. We couldn't make any better than 65 MPH in a 75 MPH speed limit. We arrived well after dark and couldn't find the little two track that led to our camp site. I had to get out with a flash light and lead the way thru the brush until the track opened up enough to see with the headlights. We finally found our camp site and settled in for the night.
Morning brought clear sky's and no wind. We also got our first look at the Meadow. The grass was two feet tall in most places and we couldn't see any dog holes over 700 yards away. Many of the closer holes were obscured by the high grass and shooting was going to be sparse. It also appeared that the number of dogs was down from prior years. We were faced with the choice of scouting a new spot or making the best of this one with only three shooting days available. We opted to stay put and shoot.
This Valley is crisscrossed with little gully's and dry creek beds, with little hills and knolls all over it. The first rise from our shooting position is at 200 yards. There were no dogs to be seen. The ridge at 325 yards that ran off to the right had a few dogs and the little valley that we called Billville, at 450 - 550 yards had bunch of dogs. Out at 600 - 650 yards in front of us was a mound we called the Family Farm and it was loaded with dog. More to our left is a large field we named the Golf Course and it ran from 400 to 650 yards out with dogs everywhere and to the extreme left, is a knoll we call the Grassy Knoll with a few more dogs.
Mike started on the right and I started on the left. We took a few of the closer ones and worked our way out. We shot from 6:30 AM until about 9:30 AM before the dogs started to thin out. We stopped for breakfast and returned to our bench about 10:30. The dogs were back in all the fields and we started all over again. By 2:00 PM the temps were in the 90's and we opted to retire to the air conditioned RV for an afternoon nap. After a light snack we started shooting again around 4:00 PM and shot until 8:00 PM. There weren't a lot of dogs, but the shooting was pretty steady. Mike's longest shot was around 675 yards and mine was about 650 yards. The next two days were pretty much a repeat of the first day.
Mike was using the 107 SMK's and I was shooting the 105 Noslers. We were impressed with the accuracy but not with the effects of those bullets. I think I'll switch over to the 87 VMAX for most of my shooting and saving the Nosler Custom Competition bullets for the real long shots. Both bullets just poked holes in the dogs and it was often hard to tell if a clean kill was made. We did a lot of walking to check for bodies before we claimed a kill. My fast twist 6BR shooting 65 VMAX left no doubt when a kill was made. The red mist and pieces parts scattered over the country side left little room for doubt.
Head shot at 350 yards with the SMK 243 AI
On our first morning, an antelope doe walked into our field of fire. She stayed there for about an hour then sauntered off. The second day a medium sized buck came in and the third day the doe was back. We decided that they were looking for each other but just couldn't make the connection. The shooting didn't seem to bother them but we didn't shoot close to their direction. Sure didn't want a Game Warden to pay us a visit.
Speed goat on the golf course.
Or last evening turned into one of the wildest thunder storms I have seen in a long time. The timing between the flash and the boom was only seconds and it was one right after another. It rained in sheets and we began to worry about our ability to get out of there in the morning. As it turned out, it was dry as a bone and dusty by morning.
Sunset after the storm.