.223 Rem and prairie dogs (gophers)


May 30, 2014, 12:39 AM
I'm in the process of purchasing a house on 20 acres and there are quite a few gophers that need evicting. I have a couple of really good loads worked up for one of my ARs using 77gr SMK bullets but want to drop the bullet weight since I'm thinking that 77gr is overkill. The heavy barrel is 24" stainless fluted with a 1:8 twist. Does anyone have a recommendation for a bullet type and weight for gophers and a barrel with a 1:8 twist. The longest shot would be in the 400 yard range, maybe 500 yards. I'll be using a suppressor but that shouldn't be important in terms of the load.

If you enjoyed reading about ".223 Rem and prairie dogs (gophers)" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Art Eatman
May 30, 2014, 11:43 AM
For Ma Bell shots, odds are that the 77-grain bullets would work well, due to less wind drift.

On a couple of prairie dog hunts, I found that 55-grain bullets (1:10 twist) did just fine to 300 yards. Never had to shoot beyond that; merely drove my truck to a new area of the pasture. I zero at 200, so I had as much as five inches of holdover. The stiff breeze, when crosswind, gave about five inches of drift at 300.

May 30, 2014, 02:21 PM
I was thinking about the 52gr SMK for those "close" shots and maybe the 77gr SMK for the longer ones. I read one review of the 52gr SMK which claimed that they don't feed well in ARs but that seems odd. I've never had feeding issues in any of my ARs using 55gr FMJ from a variety of manufactures.

May 30, 2014, 08:18 PM
Nosler 50BT's are incredibly accurate from my Varminter AR with a 9 twist. 26.0 Varget, WW cases, Federal SR primers. We were whacking prairie dogs at 300+ with no problems Guys get all kinds of nutty about heavy bullets, but unless you're pushing 350+ I can't see it.

We fed hundreds of them thru mine with zero problems


May 30, 2014, 10:04 PM
Overkill?? You are shooting a varmint,not a deer.No need to worry about wasted meat,right?I would shoot what your rifle shoots best. If you want to use lighter bullets to reduce cost,increase the backflip effect,or just to try different loads,that makes sense. I wouldn't worry about overkill with prairie dogs.

May 31, 2014, 04:19 PM
You could just buy a box or 2 of Fioccho Extrema ammo with the 40 gr V-Max bullets, around $24 per box of 50.

June 1, 2014, 07:43 PM
You don't shoot gophers (at least, not where I grew up in Minnesota). They come out at night, dig a new tunnel which results in a big mound of dirt, and are long gone before the sun come ups (back in underground with the tunnel entrance plugged shut). You won't see them during the day.

Do you have gophers or prairie dogs? Quite a difference, IMO.

June 2, 2014, 12:15 AM
So it turns out that Montana has pocket gophers and ground squirrels which are often mistaken for gophers. Based on the article in the link below I probably have the latter. Thanks for the feedback.



June 3, 2014, 06:10 PM
So it turns out that Montana has pocket gophers and ground squirrels which are often mistaken for gophers. Based on the article in the link below I probably have the latter. Thanks for the feedback.


Please, call them gophers. The word squirrel has a warm and fuzzy, Chip & Dale sound to it. Ladies in the office get upset when they hear you are shooting "squirrels".

Gophers however are universally dispised by everyone, so what you are shooting is a gopher! OK?

June 4, 2014, 06:31 AM
:confused: How about we just call them what they are...highly reactive, moving targets, often available free of charge! No need to get PC about VARMINTS! :cool:

Art Eatman
June 4, 2014, 10:33 AM
Davek, you're not PC. I'm not PC. Trouble is, we live in a PC world--and it's overly full of the yap-yappers.

June 5, 2014, 06:14 AM
We shoot these same ground squirrels behind my parents place north of Missoula, we only use short range stuff because there are houses about 1200-1500yds down range. We have kilt'em dead out to 246yds with a stock 10-22, it took a few shots and the help of a ballistics chart. I have also used several handguns, shotguns and my bow. Here is a pic of me in my pajamas with one I shot right in the neck at 70 yds (field point with a `turkey stopper`). They are dumb as rock when they first come out and I have killed them with a rock but after a week or two, they run when they hear a window open.
http://i1249.photobucket.com/albums/hh518/25cschaefer/Facebook/Summer%2010/13464_10150195991415083_4773477_n.jpg (http://s1249.photobucket.com/user/25cschaefer/media/Facebook/Summer%2010/13464_10150195991415083_4773477_n.jpg.html)

June 8, 2014, 09:32 AM
Please, call them gophers. The word squirrel has a warm and fuzzy, Chip & Dale sound to it. Ladies in the office get upset when they hear you are shooting "squirrels".

I don't have to worry about PC terms in our office. The four ladies I work with are all avid hunters and have expressed the desire to come over to my property to help me "evict" the ground squirrels. I take possession on 7/15 so there'll be "The End is Near" demonstrations shortly ... by the local squirrel population that is.

25cschaefer, great post ... thanks! I only have one .22 LR rifle at present, a Kimber 82G. I do plan on purchasing a Kimber K22 soon and it would be a good choice inside 100 yards and maybe as far out as 150 yards. My soon to be neighbor has 100 acres and my property sits up above his. He lives out of state mostly and has a 40 acre field next to me. I could easily have 700, 800 or even 1,000 yards shots in his direction (with his permission of course).

I've pretty much decided to work up a load using 52gr SMKs with Varget to use in conjunction with the 77gr SMK load already developed. I currently have a Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x50mm scope on the rifle I'll be using but will be switching it out for a Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50mm FFP with mil/mil adustments and the EBR-2C MRAD reticle. The FFP Vortex scope will allow me to make faster corrections when trying to get on a squirrel at various ranges and possibly at various magnifications.

June 8, 2014, 05:24 PM
There's no such thing as overkill - there's louder or more expensive than necessary. To the extent that shooting ground squirrels is a social activity minimizing muzzle blast and recoil is good.

Assuming a mere 20 acres I would most emphatically use a varmint bullet designed to be frangible or explosive or what have you - Hornady has nice 53 grain V for varmint Max boat tail with a long plastic ogive that has a nice ballistic coefficient. Shoots as about as close to the wind as any .224 varmint bullet.
The 53 grain bullet features the same ogive as the 75 Grain Hornady V-Max bullet. A 1 in 12" twist rate or faster is recommended for optimal performance.

To quote Sierra on their own products

.22 Caliber (.224) 77 gr. HPBT Match

Although they are recognized around the world for record-setting accuracy, MatchKing bullets are not recommended for hunting..... Having heavier jackets, they will not provide the explosive expansion of the lightly jacketed Hornet or Blitz bullets at equivalent velocities in small varmints....... Emphasis added.

June 8, 2014, 06:36 PM
The 53gr V-Max might be a good choice. I shoot the 178gr and 208gr A-Max bullets in other rifles with great success. The V-Max is cheaper than the 52gr SMK and possibly better suited to the application but I'd rather not leave any lead in the squirrels since there are quite a few Bald and Golden Eagles up there that will most likely want to clean up after me. A bullet that stays together will most likely end up 6" in the dirt. Do these V-Max type bullets leave any substantial lead chunks in the critters .... "typically"? If not it's a win-win.

June 8, 2014, 07:56 PM
Depends on substantial I suppose -

My own experience has been no substantial remains - the leavings are more scattered and sized for the ants.

I like the plastic tips and the slightly higher ballistic coefficients for the new style of shoot close to the wind and dial the drops - somewhat superseding the older - traditional? - shoot flat and hold for the wind.

I'm still troubled by [a] bullet that stays together will most likely end up 6" in the dirt. I don't shoot small varmints with a bullet that stays together.

It gives up a little streamlining but my first choice for a lead-free zone is currently Barnes the hollow-cavity, flat-base bullet features a copper-tin powdered metal core surrounded by a guilding [sic]metal jacket.

The bullet remains intact at ultra-high velocities in fast twist barrels, while its highly frangible core fragments violently on impact. Produces instant fragmentation, virtually vaporizing ground squirrels and prairie dogs, even at long range.

I've been impressed by the pictures with a grape. I like Barnes hunting bullets when I'm asking a cartridge to maybe perform above its weight as in a .308 for general hunting.

The Nosler Ballistic Tip Lead Free .224 Varmint bullet has a BC up to .220 and other makers are working the lead free market as well. I've found Nosler bullets to perform equally well I suppose but I use a 260 grain Accubond in a .375 bore where it's not punching above its weight since anything around here is well within the weight class.

short barrel
June 8, 2014, 08:17 PM
I would leave them alone. You will never be able to eradicate them with a firearm.

I know a fellow who tows a trailer behind his truck from Virginia to Colorado each year. The trailer is set up as a shooting station. He parks in the prairie dog fields and shoots them at long distance for no other reason than sport. I don't get that--to kill for no reason. I wish more "sportsmen" would think about destroying what they can't create.

Of course the doggies are problems on small tracts of land, but to contemplate and study on guns and loads designed to kill what you won't eat is problematic to me. It says a lot about a man. It is reflective of your depth of character. Established forums like this are openings in the wall of morality where pitiful wanderers of the Internet come to acquire solace and support for deeds not appreciated elsewhere.

This reminds me of the baby coyote thread. With sufficient support, we can justify anything.

June 8, 2014, 08:40 PM
So I should leave them alone and run the risk of my dogs, horse, donkeys, goats etc breaking their legs in one of the many burrows that can't be seen at all in the dark or when there's snow on the ground?! If you don't like the idea of eradicating a pest (and feeding others in the process) to protect other animals that deserve a good life then go pollute another forum. This is the hunting section after all. :rolleyes:

"Every year, they're responsible for more than $7 million loss to Montana's alfalfa growers alone.

"Ground squirrel control is very necessary," Knight said."

June 8, 2014, 08:45 PM
I'm still troubled by
[a] bullet that stays together will most likely end up 6" in the dirt.

My point is that a 77gr or 52gr SMK will most likely pass right through a ground squirrel and end up in the dirt. The squirrel won't get up either and won't have any lead in it. That's where I was going with that. If I'm way off in my logic then the V-Max will be a great choice. Basically, I'd like to use the V-Max but not if there's a chance of significant chunks of lead being left in meat that eagles/hawks will feed on.

short barrel
June 9, 2014, 07:47 PM
Yes, 1858. You should leave them alone. They were there first.

I realize this is a hunting forum, as you reminded me. Thanks for that, but I already knew.

Instead of being offended by a person you don't know, maybe you could take a moment to consider your position. The little doggies have a part in the balance of nature. I'm no biologist and cannot tell you what they might do for the system that will work fine without them being shot.

The wild creatures we're talking about place their lives above all else. It's actually all they have. Unlike humans, they own nothing. Their habits and activities and their lives are God created. He made them, He feeds them, He maintains them. It's bad enough to know that and still shoot them, but it's even more sorrowful when the killer does not eat what he slays. And even worse than that is the fact someone will destroy something he can't create or replace.

I've no control over what people do, but when these things come up I clearly see a need to respond. It's seems your stance is either "agree with me or go away." That's not healthy for so very many aspects of living.

This thread will die and nothing will have changed. The prairie dogs will still get shot; I know I can't prevent that. But perhaps if I respond enough to crap like this, someone might think twice about himself and whether or not he is a good person; whether or not his actions are pleasing to God. That's too deep for lots of people to take seriously. So when I respond to killing for sport and to people refusing to call it what it is, it might get someone thinking and he will cease. Some want it to be okay to try out their latest reloading project on animals, and they know but won't concede even to themselves they are doing it for sport. We can justify anything with words and mindsets that take over where morality ought not be tossed aside.

Nope, I'm not a tree hugger and I don't live "green." I'm a hunter and have been for likely more years than most people have been alive. Being a hunter is not a license to do whatever.

Art Eatman
June 9, 2014, 08:41 PM
Sorry, short barrel, but I can't see the difference between lessening prairie dog numbers to protect livestock against broken legs and reducing the numbers of chicken- or sheep/goat-eating predators.

If "here first" is a big deal, then a whole bunch of folks need to leave, in favor of the AmerInd.

short barrel
June 9, 2014, 09:24 PM
I know, Art. It's a thing to be viewed from probably more than two points. I don't live where it's necessary to kill to protect livestock, so I'm not someone who will likely make a difference in the doggies' existence. Just me being me and fretting about the life of critters.

Art Eatman
June 10, 2014, 10:17 AM
Context and purpose. For instance, I once saw a video of a couple of guys shooting prairie dogs. The locale? An alfalfa field. As near as I could tell from the film, I'd guess the bald spots around the den-holes accumulated to maybe 15% to 20% of the area. That's a serious loss of income.

I've said before that the ad valorem tax man doesn't care if a farmer or rancher can't pay his bills or feed the family. "The power to tax is the power to destroy."

June 13, 2014, 09:46 AM
While it is extremely difficult to eradicate a group of ground dwelling varmints with guns, you can seriously put a dent in them and keep them under control. a reasonable number of them is not of much concern to most land owners, golf courses exclude, as long as they aren't destroying property or hurting people or animals.

I ate one of these little buggers once, well tried to, they are very tough and the flavor is extremely strong, not what I was expecting as I love squirrels and rabbit.

I would not advise eating, or touching these things and they carry many diseases such as the plague and monkey pox.

One of the only other ways to get rid of them is poison, I would much rather spend days shooting them than see a rancher use poison.

June 17, 2014, 06:26 AM
As the son of a rancher, I have no warm and fuzzy feelings for prairie dogs and the damage they can do to one's pastureland or hay fields. If you've seen what was once thriving grassland decimated into nothing buy a blowing field of dust, without hardly a speck of grass to be found, you'd likely feel the same way. They can absolutely destroy the prairie when left unchecked, which also leads to massive die-offs eventually due to diseases they carry like the plague. There is nothing beneficial to letting priaire dogs "do their thing" without controlling them. Not only is it bad for the land, but can lead to hard feelings among neighbors, when the landowner on one side of the fence makes attempts at controlling them while the guy across the fence lets populations explode. Prairie dogs and their expansion ARE NOT stopped by fences or property lines, and if the neoghbors refuse to control them, the landowner is stuck fighting a losing battle to attempt to save his or her own land from being decimated. I don't think anyone with real world experience in dealing with these utterly destructive pests, who has seen what they can do and what they are capable of, would "stick up" for these animals or wish they weren't hunted because "they don't hurt anyone and you don't eat them" Like many things, if you don't have experience, its hard to have an opinion that will be respected by those who do have that experience. Armchair quarterbacking has never been effective any time its been applied, and the opinion of someone with absolutely no dog in the fight doesn't carry a whole lot of weight to people who deal with such issues on a daily basis. That's not a personal insult but rather just the way it is. Until your bottom line is directly affected, you cannot understand the various ways prairie dogs can affect a rancher's livelihood and earning potential. Pastureland full of holes, with little grass, don't do ranchers the slightest bit of good, but are still taxed at the same rate as other land. Tell me how this can possibly be a positive thing for the rancher who is likely already struggling to make things work? I have not a single qualm about shooting or even poisoning prairie dogs, and if asked at the Pearly Gates whY i've killed them by the thousands, I think my answer will likely be more than sufficient. I did it for the good of my family, the livestock we raise, and the ecosystem as a whole. If God faults me for that, we will likely not being seeing eye to eye on a good many things ;)

And even worse than that is the fact someone will destroy something he can't create or replace. LOL...what about the prairie dogs, who destroy pastureland they cannot replace or renew? While many ranchers likely wish once destroyed prairie dogs would stay gone forever (not be replaced, in your parlance) but the fact of the matter is, unless poisoned and monitored thoroughly, even a town of dogs once decimated will often be repopulated within a year or two's time unless additional poisoning is done to ensure they remain gone, kill survivors, or "scouts" from other neighoring dog towns looking to expand their territories. It takes several years of such monitoring for the prairie grasses to recover to the point its no longer attractive to the species.

Art Eatman
June 17, 2014, 11:53 AM
Before this degenerates into any squabble about good/bad, first read about the natural controls of prairie dog populations which no longer exist as they once did. The black-footed ferret is a good starting point. Raptor numbers is another. A third would be that of coyote control favoring livestock, against no control for prairie dog predation.

Complex. "I feel" or "I think" serves no useful purpose for farmers and ranchers--or for those who shop at the grocery store.

short barrel
June 17, 2014, 07:38 PM
I wonder who kept them in check before Europeans invaded the west.

Guess what? There was no need. They are not an invasive species. We are.

Warm and fuzzy? Yep, that's me. To the devil with crops and cows. Too many species have been wiped out or all but wiped out for the sake of a stupid stinking cow.

Art Eatman
June 17, 2014, 08:41 PM
Aw, now, short barrel, you mean to tell me that you would deny the pleasure of the good eats at a hamburger joint or a steak house? Snatch the milk right out of a baby's mouth? No more ice cream?

Oh, the horror of it all!

Next thing you know, somebody will say that we should let the moles and rabbits eat all they want from Granny's Garden. They were here first, right? Who needs veggies, anyhow?


June 18, 2014, 03:26 AM
They are not an invasive species. We are. However true that may be, there is no going back at this point, and as such, things will need to be done differently to control populations than before the dawn of man. You can wax poetic about how things should be or would be ideally if we didn't exist, but I prefer to dwell inn the reality of the hand we've been dealt and play my cards accordingly.

I'm no biologist and cannot tell you what they might do for the system that will work fine without them being shot.

Ok, so you don't know WHY we shouldn't kill them, despite the reasoning given by those that have some experience in the area, but you know we shouldn't? That's a unique position to take, if I do say so myself. :rolleyes:

Art Eatman
June 18, 2014, 10:41 AM
Eh, well, that horse won't go any farther, no matter how much we beat on it. :D

If you enjoyed reading about ".223 Rem and prairie dogs (gophers)" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!