As a kid growing up back in the early to mid 50’s a buddy and I used to spend many days in the summer shooting our .22 caliber rifles at all sorts of challenging targets. Striped gophers, golf balls, blocks of wood floating down the crick in our backyard. It wasn’t unusual to go through a brick of 500 rounds on a good weekend.
That joy of shooting and the challenge of hitting a small targets at long distances really bit me when I got into shooting steel silhouette targets 25 years later. We had 4 sizes of targets set up at 25, 50 75 and 100 yds for .22 competition. You had to take down all five targets at each range with your rifle or pistol within a set time period and it was truly a challenge. It really honed your skills.
Over the years, I transitioned to shooting hi-power rifles at longer ranges. I’ve owned (and own) everything from 220 Swifts, to 45/70’s and most calibers in between. Kind of surprised me recently to realize I have loading dies for almost 40 different calibers.
Living in Minnesota, I’ve hunted deer in our north woods and as you might expect, most deer are taken up here under 100 yards. In fact, if the truth be known, most probably under 75 yards. You just don’t have the wide open spaces for taking the long shots which in the case of a lot of shooters isn’t a bad thing!
I still enjoy shooting but have given up hunting. The challenge of trying to put all my shots into the smallest area possible is kind of like playing golf. It’s one of those sports no one ever perfects. All you can do is keep challenging yourself to get better.
Last week I got the chance to put those years of target shooting into play on live targets in Western North Dakota. Through a friend of my wife’s, my nephew Mike and I got an invitation to shoot prairie dogs on her parents ranch west of Dickinson, ND.
Their ranch is located on the edge of the “Badlands” which is one of the most incredibly rugged, forbidding, gorgeous landscapes East of the Rockies. About 4 miles from the ranch we hunted on, you hit the edge of the rolling hills, come over a small rise and are met with this….
Just a mile or so in, the scenery changes dramatically. This kind of terrain stretches from North Dakota into South Dakota and is absolutely mesmerizing to drive through.
But back to the ‘target’ of our trip.
These cute little critters might be fun to watch and observe, but to ranchers they’re anything but. On the ranch we hunted we saw hundreds of acres of pastureland that was no longer fit for grazing. The prairie dogs will clear the grass around their den and ‘graze’ on the remaining grass. Living in groups that can cover up to a 100 acres, the effects can be devastating particularly in times of drought like they’re currently experiencing.
Now that you kind of understand where we were and what drew us there, I’ve got to get back to work to get caught up. When I get a bit more time, I’ll share a few more pix and let you know how the hunt went.