We have all been there! We show up to our favorite hunting spot and lo and behold we forgot something. Whatever that item may be it always seems like it is vital to our hunt. This is why I love checklists! We are going to specifically look at a prairie dog hunting checklist today and why these items are important to your hunt. This checklist is great for the hunters who prairie dog hunt on their own land or for those that travel to do so.
Here is your prairie dog hunting checklist! Below this checklist, we will discuss the importance of each item and why they made the list. Also, I list some items that I have used and recommend.
- A good pair of boots.
- Hunting License
- Hearing Protection
- Range Finder
- Shooting Bench/Tripod
- Sand Bags
- Rifle Tools
- Bug spray
- Food and Snacks
You may be used to hunting prairie dogs in your backyard in your sneakers. However, prairie dogs inhabit land that is littered with cactus, rattlesnakes, and other items you don’t want crawling into your shoe. A good pair of boots will help protect you against these things. To be honest this point alone should be the reason for you to wear some boots! They will also help if you have to walk any distance from your truck. If you’re hunting public land chances are a lot of the prairie dogs around the road have already been bagged by other hunters if it’s late in the season.
Sunglasses, Hat, and Sunscreen
I grouped these three items together because they all serve the same purpose. Prairie dog towns are located many times in the middle of nowhere with very little cover from the sun. You need to protect your eyes and skin or else you won’t be having much fun after the sunburn sets in! A good pair of polarized sunglasses will also help you spot prairie dogs. They will help with glare and eye strain so you can focus on hunting prairie dogs instead of squinting your eyes all afternoon.
A wide-brimmed hat is my go-to when I’m prairie dog hunting. I used to wear baseball caps and thought I was covering my bases. Then I woke up the next morning and my neck had felt like I rubbed sandpaper on it for a few hours. I learned that lesson pretty quickly! If you do decide to stick with a baseball cap though I recommend getting a neck gaiter or a covering you can stick in the back of your hat and cover your neck with. When it comes to neck gaiters I prefer Buffs. They keep you cool and they’re light so you barely even know you’re wearing it.
Of course, with all of that sun protection you will still need some sunscreen just to make sure you can avoid sunburn. I recommend at least SPF 50.
Hearing protection is an absolute must! Why? You’re going to be shooting a lot of rounds and you don’t want to be like your grandpa who thinks you’re talking about the Broncos instead of the tv show you both are watching. Please protect your ears. If you’re one of the guys who think you’re too manly for them ill let you hang out with my grandpa for a couple of hours. The poor guy can’t hear worth a darn and can barely hold a conversation. He grew up hunting and fishing and never wore any ear protection. He now regrets it. Don’t be like my grandpa. Even a cheap pair of earplugs is better than nothing. I prefer over the ear because it’s so hard for me to get the right fit with earplugs. These are the ones that I use! I also use them for noisy yard work or similar things.
Binoculars and Rangefinder
If you are a regular hunter you probably already own a pair of binoculars and know how important they are. It makes it much easier to look for prairie dog towns with binoculars than with your naked eye. They also help spot some other wildlife while you’re out on your hunt!
I did a lot of my hunting without a rangefinder for years. I regret not buying one earlier. They help tremendously with finding the distance to a prairie dog so you can dial in your scope. Once you know your distance you can also brag to all your buddies about it too. If you don’t have a rangefinder and you seem to be missing targets then you could be misjudging your distances. Do yourself a favor and grab one. You can use it for all kinds of hunting as well as at the range.
Rifle and Ammunition
These two items go hand in hand on this checklist! People have different opinions on what caliber to use when it comes to prairie dog hunting. Calibers you can use range from a .22 all the way up to a .243. You may be fortunate and find land where the prairie dogs aren’t too skittish and you can get closer to them. For this type of hunting a .22 long rifle or even pistol can do the trick! As you start shooting at a medium distance a .17 HMR is a great gun to have. Now for you long-distance shooters a 22-250, .204, .223, or a .243 is a better route for you. Remember too that the caliber you use will affect the cost of your ammunition. This is important because you will be shooting a lot of rounds on a prairie dog hunt. Also, if you do go with a larger caliber it can be used for other hunts as well. I recommend a bull barrel for your gun if you’re serious about prairie dog hunting or any situation that requires a high shot volume. As you shoot more rounds the heat of your barrel can start to cause problems with your accuracy. A bull barrel handles the heat much better and will limit the problems you have with heat.
That leads us to our next item on our checklist. Ammunition. If this is your first prairie dog hunt and you think you have enough ammunition for your prairie dog hunt, you don’t. If you come upon a large town of prairie dogs you’re going to need a lot of ammo. This also comes into effect when you’re shooting at new distances. You may be missing some shots as you get a better feel for the yardage and drop of your bullet at those yardages. Of course, depending on the length of your hunt you will need different amounts of ammo. I advise going and buying at least 100 extra rounds if not more. If you don’t use them on this hunt then you will at least have them for the next!
Shooting Bench, Sandbags/Tripod
If you have the courtesy of using a shooting bench on your trip I highly recommend it. Shooting benches are great for stabilization. Once you find the dog towns you can pull your shooting table out and set it up. It will give you a nice place to rest your gun and arms while you’re shooting to increase your accuracy. It’s also a nice holder for an umbrella to help keep you out of the sun. Your sandbags are essential to your set up on a shooting bench. They absorb the vibration out of the rifle when a shot is fired to make sure you’re dead on. If you rest your rifle on a hard surface then that vibration cannot be absorbed as well and will affect your accuracy.
A shooting bench is not essential. If you don’t have a shooting bench which many people may not then a tripod or bipod will suffice. I prefer a tripod over a bipod because it feels much more stable to me. They’re light and easy to carry around and you won’t have to worry about being shaky on those long shots. Here is the tripod that I like to use. I like this tripod because I don’t have to readjust my gun after every shot. It holds the rifle nice and secure.
You’re going to be shooting a lot of rounds and your barrel can start to gunk up. Bring a rifle cleaning kit with you. After every day of hunting its a good idea to clean your barrel. You may even run a cleaning rod down the barrel after every 100 shots or so just to make sure everything is working properly. Bringing an extra rifle is never a bad idea, however, if it’s not possible and you have problems with the rifle you’re using then a toolset can help you mend the problem. It’s best to spend a little money on a toolset then to book a three-day prairie dog hunt and have your rifle go bad on the first day with no way of fixing it.
Hot days bring a lot of flies in the prairies. Bring some bug spray with you to help combat the pesky things.
Cooler, Water and Food
This goes without saying but a lot of my hunting trips are made better with the food that’s brought! Bring some of your favorite snacks and some items with protein to help replenish yourself after a long day of hunting. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of hunting and forget to eat or drink water throughout the day. Don’t make this mistake and take plenty of food and water. Neglecting these two items will leave you hangry and with a headache. Or possibly heat stroke and severe dehydration. Keep everything nice and fresh with a cooler.
If you’re hunting on land that requires you to get off of the beaten path and walk away from the road then a backpack is a great idea. Take some food, water, ammo, and other miscellaneous items with you in the backpack. Even if you don’t have to walk away from the road a backpack is nice to transport things with. I never go to the mountains without some type of backpack. The backpack I use has a hydration system with it which is very handy.
This prairie dog hunting checklist is what I have found works best for me. It lists essentials as well as items that are more of a luxury. If you use this checklist you won’t be caught in the field missing anything. Hunting prairie dogs is an activity done in the heat most times so these items will make sure you’re protected. Whether you’re traveling or hunting in your backyard this list will cover your bases. Many of the items mentioned can also be used for other types of hunting and shooting. Go out and enjoy your prairie dog hunt and tweak the list as you find what works best for you!