Prairie Dog Hunting with Sierra’s Prairie Enemy Loaded Ammunition

Sierra's Prarie Ammunition (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

JWT for TTAG

The sound of a high velocity round striking the target is unmistakable.

That welcome sound, as well as the smiles and exclamations of a job well done, came often from myself and the other shooters at a recent Wyoming prairie dog hunt sponsored by Sierra Bullets.

sierra prairie enemy ammunition

Sierra’s Prairie Enemy in .223 Win (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The hunt was to highlight the Prairie Enemy line of loaded ammunition introduced by Sierra last year. Like tens of thousands of shooters, I’ve been loading Sierra bullets into brass cases for decades, but I had no idea they had started selling loaded ammunition.

If there was ever a place to show it off, the Spur Ranch near Encampment, Wyoming was it. Although I have failed to draw a tag for four years in a row now, (getting a little bitter about that) I have hunted Wyoming for antelope in the past. It’s a breathtaking place.

Just across the Snowy Mountain Range, the area we hunted was still ringed with white peaks atop timbered hillsides and floored by immense valleys and fields. I have heard Wyoming’s climate described as “11 months of winter and rodeo week.”  The Equality State lived up to that reputation, and I was happy it did. It was 105 degrees at my home in the Texas Hill Country, and in the low 40s when I woke up at the Spur Ranch near the western town of Encampment.

The Wyoming wind, an inconsistent nemesis for all long range shooters, never ceases. The conditions are ideal for testing both shooters and their equipment.

sierra prairie enemy ammunition

Spur Ranch Wyoming landscape (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

So is the prey.

Although I’ve seen them taken as targets of opportunity, I’ve never been on a dedicated prairie dog hunt. I had no idea of their numbers, or the impact they have on farm land. I expected to have a successful hunt measured in dozens of varmints taken. And dozens of prairie dogs taken per day would be a completely reasonable number. If you were hunting with a slingshot. And if you weren’t any good with it.

Successful hunts are measured in the hundreds. The ground is littered with prairie dogs and their holes. In the irrigated fields, I don’t know if there was ever a time that glassing through the grass didn’t find not only pasture-destroying holes, but prairie dogs and ground squirrels darting every direction. I was completely unaware of the density of their population, or the level of destruction of agricultural land they are capable of.

In my section of central Texas, we generally remove any armadillos in fields. This is because of what I assumed was an old wives tale about cows stepping in armadillo holes and breaking their legs. Armadillo holes are fairly far between. Prairie dog holes are not.

We were all witness to the sight of a young bull with a badly broken leg. I can’t be sure that it was a prairie dog hole that broke the leg, but he was standing near one, it would be hard not to, and he had no other obvious injuries. Considering how badly it was broken and the location of the break, I imagine the only financially feasible remedy was to euthanize the bull. A sad, expensive loss to the rancher. Perhaps it’s not an old wives tale after all.

sierra prairie enemy ammunition

Tragedy (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

As if the intense damage to agriculture and livestock wasn’t enough, the plague (yes, that plague) runs rampant in the prairie dog population. And yes, although it is very rare, they can spread the disease to humans.

Considering all that, I can understand why land owners want them gone, and fees to hunt them on private land are quite low, especially considering the amount of shooting done and the vastness of the land travelled.

In short, they are destructive, dangerous, and unwanted critters. They’re also small targets at every conceivable range. If anyone in our party wanted to shoot the varmints at pistol range (as I had the pleasure of doing with a Freedom Arms Model 97 in .17 HMR) or out past 400 yards with any of the supplied rifles, we had that chance on this hunt.

Sierra had equipped each of us with a Ruger bolt action rifle for the hunt. Most of these were from Ruger’s budget “American Rifle” line, but a few were from other lines as well, and all topped with Bushnell optics.

The calibers supplied were some of the standards for varmint shooting, including the most common varmint caliber, the .223 Remington. Also supplied were rifles chambered for .204 Ruger, .22-250 Remington, and 6.5 Creedmoor, along with Sierra’s Prairie Enemy ammunition to match.

The Prairie Enemy line is topped with Sierra’s premier varmint bullet, the Blitz King.

The Blitz King is no new kid on the block. I’ve used the 50 grain .224 bullet for years, as I’m sure many others have.

Sierra boasts that the Blitz King bullet is held to the same precision standards as their Match King bullets. Having been released in 1999, the Blitz King bullet isn’t brand new, but it’s a baby compared to the venerable Sierra Match King. There are few, if any, dedicated shooters who don’t know the initials “SMK”.  It’s been around for at least 40 years and has been a staple of the shooting sports since it came out.

In particular, the 175 gr SMK in .308 Win is practically synonymous with modern NATO military precision rifles, and for good reason. In .308 Win, the M118LR round is supersonic at 1,000 yards in those rifles, delivers plenty of energy downrange, and enough precision to reliably predict the point of impact.

In short, that’s a heck of a standard to hold a dedicated varmint hunting round against.

It should be noted that, at this time, the 69 grain .224″ bullet that sits atop the case for the .223 Remington Prairie Enemy is not available for purchase as a projectile only on Sierra’s website. I hope that changes soon, as I’d love to try these bullets on the small and rangy coyotes we have here in Texas.

As is the case with some bullets, there’s not much chance of jacket separation when using the top speed loads of the .22-250 Remington. All of the .224″ caliber Blitz King bullets are designed to hold together even up to the blistering speed of 4,400 fps.

Unlike Sierra’s other varmint bullet, the Sierra Varminter, the Blitz King is a tipped design, and they generally have higher ballistic coefficients to slip through the air better, and more consistently. Knowing Hornady’s trouble with the polymer tip on their early AMax and VMax designs, I asked the Sierra representative if they had experienced the same issue with the Blitz King. He said they had not, and that this issue just didn’t occur with their design. Sierra confirms ballistic coefficient in several ways, including measuring with radar during flight at the company’s range.

With a lead core and a very thin jacket, the Blitz King is designed to completely disintegrate upon entering thin-skinned, lightweight game. This should be the standard for any varmint round. Although the pelts are often desired, there’s rarely a need to preserve the meat, and expending 100% of the energy into the animal helps to ensure quick kills.

Even if that’s the goal, though, that’s not always what occurs. Fortunately, during this recent varmint shoot, I got to witness several examples of this first hand.

When it came to the smaller prairie dogs and ground squirrels at ranges under 100 yards, pass throughs with the. 223 Rem and .22-250 Rem round were the norm, with absolutely devastating results. Shooting the Prairie Enemy ammunition at these ranges, there was never a question of whether the target was hit. Not to be too graphic, but at these ranges, it looked like the little devils simply exploded. For the larger prairie dogs, rabbits, and rock chucks at farther ranges, bullet entries without exits were far more common.

During one outing, I got to see the intersection of good shooting and a good round first hand. One of the local shooters saw a Rock Chuck at 260 yards. Firing from a Ruger American Rifle in .22-250 Rem, the single round he fired found purchase in the furry prize.

Upon inspecting the animal, a small hole was found in its side, with no corresponding exit wound. The chuck’s body felt like a sack of rice. That kind of external and terminal ballistic performance is exactly what varmint hunters are looking for.

sierra prairie enemy ammunition

Writer Alan Clemons takes one of many successful shots. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Shooters had ample opportunity to try different rifles and different rounds. I spent most of my time with the simple .223 Remington, but I tried the .22-250 Rem as well. Why not? It was someone else’s ammunition and more importantly, someone else’s barrel.

I also shot one of the few rounds I can always find on the shelves, the .204 Remington. That’s a great little cartridge. One of the hunters shot the Ruger American in 6.5 Creedmoor, but after several hundred rounds fired, he switched to something a little lighter. That was a bit too much bullet anyway.

No matter what rifle they were fired from, Sierra’s Prairie Enemy ammo performed flawlessly.

Of course, this is an ammunition line, not simply a bullet, so things are a bit different for each caliber.

The primer, propellant and case manufacturer are all caliber dependent inside the Prairie Enemy line. Sierra went with whatever combination worked best, and I imagine that best had some cost parameters associated with it. You’ll also note, from the the Sierra website, that although all of the rounds are polymer-tipped, some are flat-based and some are boat-tailed, again, depending on caliber and weight.

Considering the 40 degree swing in temperatures during the day, I took careful notes to see if my trajectory changed due to more than air temp and density altitude, in the hopes of determining if the muzzle velocity was affected by overly sensitive propellant. I don’t know what particular propellant is used in the 69vgr .223 Prairie Enemy ammunition, but temperature sensitivity wasn’t much of a factor, if any.

I asked the Sierra rep, “Why loaded ammunition now?” I mean, Sierra has been “The Bulletsmiths” for over 70 years now, making bullet jackets and projectiles. The answer was simple. “The market was right.”

And man, is it ever. Ammunition of any kind is hard to come by, much less loaded varmint ammo of this quality. I was pretty surprised to find that same 69 grain .223 Rem ammunition that was so effective in-stock on Sierra’s website. You can, (and I did) buy it directly from the Sierra website and have it shipped to your door. Twenty-six dollars for a box of 20 isn’t cheap, but it’s not bad at all for loaded precision hunting ammunition. Especially right now.

sierra prairie enemy ammunition

Results! (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I was duly impressed with Sierra’s Prairie Enemy ammunition. I tend to look down on loaded ammunition compared to hand loads, but there’s just no denying the results the Prairie Enemy line gave us on the Spur Ranch. Several shooters, firing a variety of cartridges, were able to make predictable, precise, and devastating shots at ranges from 10 to almost 500 yards.

Ammunition has come a long, long way over the decades. Half the reason we are seeing so many budget rifles shooting sub-MOA groups is because loaded cartridges themselves have gotten so much better.

Sierra, a longtime leader in precision projectiles, has really stepped up and at just the right time, making a great product. Prairie dogs may not appreciate that one bit, but the land, livestock, and the folks who depend on them certainly will.

comments

  1. avatar former water walker says:

    Prairie?

    1. avatar sound awake says:

      exactly
      its right on the box

      1. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

        I see that first picture and start to sing :

        1. avatar The Rookie says:

          +1 Thought the same thing!

        2. avatar The Pontificator says:

          This ammo is Carl Spackler approved.

          “Mr. Gopher, meet Mr. Squirrel.” MUHUHUHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

  2. avatar sound awake says:

    its made by searra

  3. avatar Bobb says:

    Shooting prairie rats is fine but leave the marmots alone!

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I didn’t shoot that one but they make great mounts and are plentiful. Always wanted to make one into a buckwheat pillow.

      1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

        By “mount” do you mean ‘ride’ or something more intimate? You haven’t steered me wrong so far, so I want to get this right;-)

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          They buck the saddle but take to a pack just fine.

        2. avatar coffeemonster says:

          This is all the social media I want, and half my reason for reading TTAG

      2. avatar Art out West says:

        I’ve never shot prairie dogs, but have shot a lot of sage rats (ground squirrels) in vineyards. It is a ton of fun. I’ve only done it with 22lr (under 75 yard range) but a lot of guys use .17hmr for the extended range.

        1. avatar DrewN says:

          I’ve switched to .17 Hornet for the levee burrowing squirrels around here. Cheap as heck to reload, and it’s ridiculous overkill on an average squirrel.

  4. avatar sound awake says:

    this ammunishin is fired out of rifels

    1. avatar Gimme More says:

      Dont bee haytin on thu awther. He’z dooing hiz best to ejukate us on ammunishin and wut boolits doo to thoze grownd skwirrels.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Ground squirrels are different animals.

  5. avatar sound awake says:

    cmon man…youre supposed to be a writer

    1. avatar former water walker says:

      Oh he fixed it😏😏😏😏

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        I fixed nothing. I’ll assume the editor did.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I have no idea what you are talking about, but I assume there was a typo somewhere. If so, grow up.

      That said, I’ve never claimed to be a writer. In fact, I’ve said just the opposite many times.

      If you want to be a writer, give it a shot. I’m a veteran, shooter, paramedic, cop, hunter, rancher, and competitor, who sometimes writes.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        “I’ve never claimed to be a writer.”

        Being a writer means that you don’t have to claim that you’re a writer.

        You don’t have to claim that you’re a writer. Dig?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          No?

  6. avatar jwm says:

    Big jack rabbit. Never shot at a prairie dog. Have shot at a bunch of jacks. Fast buggers.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      They were sure big compared to ours.

  7. avatar MLee says:

    My brother used to shoot Prairie Dogs. He doesn’t come to this website but I sent him a link. I called him and asked about it for use in my comment. He said he used a 9mm and a .22 He said you can actually be as close as 75 yards from them because just like in the picture of the guy standing next to the fence post, that’s EXACTLY what my brother said. The PDs get used to seeing tall things and don’t recognize that it’s different.
    What my brother got tired of was wiping out entire colonies of them, walking up and finding young juveniles scurrying about over their mother being splatted all over.

    I have to agree with my brother as I have raccoons in the area and would rather shoot them but every time I have encountered them it was a mother with young and I just can’t bring myself to shoot them. Squirrels are a different thing. I’ll shoot them no matter what.

  8. avatar Pecos Phil says:

    I have never heard of a cartridge identified as a: .223 Winchester. The picture of the box of ammo you are writing about is identified as: .223 Remington.

    1. avatar M10 says:

      I thought it was just me. The cartridge pic near the top says .223 but looks more like a .22-250. No complaints though, it was a great article with great pics.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        And I did it like 5 times! Two editors missed it too. Hell. Will fix.

        1. avatar Lance F says:

          Don’t worry! It was a fun article.

        2. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Wrong answer, JWT. Here, lemme show ya! “Winchester, Remington, it’s all the same thing!” Then duck!

  9. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    My favorite two cartridges for prairie rats are .22 LR and .22 WMR (my .204 is definitely fun, but, not much of a challenge). Out to around 325 yards the .22’s work well and make you exercise all your rifle basics like: alignment, breathing, steady rest, etc. Of course, at 250 yards the 40 gr .22 LR’s deliver the punch of a hot spitball…you hear a faint “thunk”, the rat kinda teeters..takes a step or two and keels over. The .22 WMR is much more authoritative…the *dogs* typically go down pretty quick. I like the fact that I can shoot all day for about $20 in .22 LR and for $50 in .22 WMR. Just for the record, both .22’s are Browning T-Bolts with the Target / Varmint heavy barrels…classic looks and outstanding accuracy.

    I wonder if Sierra will be offering .22 LR and .22 WMR Prairie Enemy rounds? (/sarc)

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Sounds like a blast of a weekend.
    Kinda the same here, but with Beldings ground squirrels. They’re just smaller prairie dogs.

    I’d love to tag along on a dog town hunt.

    1. avatar Lance F says:

      We have them in Washington too. They are fun to shoot.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I will be sure to pass that long. But I am definitely buying a hunt up there next year.

  11. avatar GS650G says:

    I used .17hmr on ground hogs at around 75 to 100 yards. Can’t use centerfire ammo in the area so it’s rim fire. I found .17 more accurate than .22mag but at distance the heavier bullet was more effective. At close range the .17 would really destroy them. The .22 was resistant to wind a lot better. I took two guns out which were identical except for caliber, savage 93 models.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Ohio, KY and WV I used standard velocity .22 long rifle, usually out of a 10/22. Longest shot I took was at 75 yards. That one was so fat from munching a friends kitchen garden that he waddled and looked more like a fat bear cub than a whistle pig.

      In that same area my grandfather killed one with a single shot .410. He was surprised at how good a job that .410 did. He’d always shot them with a .22 but that day he wasn’t hunting groundhogs. He used a 3 inch load of 6 shot and the critter was 30-35 yards away. But those old .410’s always came with a full choke.

  12. avatar enuf says:

    Used to shoot jackrabbits and assorted ground quirrels aplenty with a .22. A cousin would do likewise for target practice using his .243 ahead of deer season. My .22 put holes in the critters, his .243 exploded them in half.

    Years later spent some time living in Fort Collins. The city actually has a small natural area reserved for prairie dogs. They claim the super duper technologically advanced fabric fence keeps them inside, but I’ve seen them beyond it. Nobody is allowed to set foot inside, but you can look in there from the sidewalk.

    Which is hilarious as hell to me as the ranchers on the plains to the east hold big prairie dog shoots every year! The local news would go out and cover it, interview ranchers about the heavy cost of cattle and horses injured by prairie dog holes. There’d be heaps and heaps of dead prairie dogs.

    Just amazed me a half hour’s drive or so between a park for the critters and the annual slaughter.

    Weirdness.

    Um, I hadn’t a good rifle for the job, or I would have enjoyed getting in on it too 🙂

  13. avatar enuf says:

    Found it, the “Coterie Natural Area, Fort Collins, CO”:
    https://goo.gl/maps/fCtUp54R7kr1MFkUA

    Zoom on in. notice all the holes in the ground, and the fabric barrier. Notice how the prairie dog holes managed to get well beyond the barrier.

    A “Zoo” for prairie rats. Just hard to believe.

    1. avatar Anymouse says:

      Check out Boulder’s solution: the prairie dog vacuum.
      https://youtu.be/JLQ70JJpa0M

      1. avatar enuf says:

        Now that looks like a good time!

  14. avatar gus says:

    never could understand how anybody could find it amusing to kill hundreds of innocent animals at a time. even if they do make holes in the ground and “rarely” spread a disease.

    fucking sick.

    “You say now, give me a home
    Where the buffalo roam,
    Where the deer and antelope play
    You can bet your ass
    We’ll blow them all away!

    Fuck it up until it’s bent,
    Then wonder where it
    Thinkin’ you was heaven sent,
    You’re nothin’ but hell!”

    1. avatar Darkman says:

      Never had the opportunity to hunt prairie dogs or rats. Cut my teeth on sparrows as a young lad. Started out with an H&R Huntsman in 22. Old Man used to pay me 5 cents each to kill them on the farm. That’s back in the day when you could buy a box/50 22’s for 50 cents.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Gus, I bet if you volunteer to pay the bills for all the dead horses and cattle, they’ll quit the hunting! So! Want to put your money where your snotty mouth is? Didn’t think so.

    3. avatar Curtis in Illinois says:

      Having spent my life in rural and semi-rural America, I have often been called upon to rid farm and home of various species that would cause tremendous damage and/or spread disease to man and livestock.

      I have never taken pleasure in the killing. But at least I understand the need. We have long since nearly eradicated the prairie dog’s natural predators, lest they attack our livestock, children, etc. Now it is up to us to do what the wolves, coyotes and bobcats once did and keep the varmint populations in check.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        ¡¡Go Bobcats!!

        Oh, wait, you meant the small wild feline…not Montana State University’s mascot…never mind.

        Unfortunately, when we successfully decimated most of the wolves, coyotes (animal ones…not the human smuggler types) and bobcats, the disease-bearing rodent populations skyrocketed.

        Hope to make it out to a friend’s ranch next week to help in my share of rodent disease control…a couple of cooler, cloudy days would be perfect.

    4. avatar enuf says:

      Killed many of them ground squirrels and field mices in my early teens with my Ruger 10/22. Must say that fine firearm took all the work out of whacking furry pests with a single shot bolt action.

      Good Times!!!

  15. avatar No_Ones_Home says:

    Nice write up (minus the references to .223 ‘Winchester’ [which are still there as I type this]). Congrats on getting an eye-opener on just how much prairie dog shooting one can do over a day…or more. I could spend forever writing [morbidly] about shooting prairie dogs but I’ll refrain from that.

    That said, I’ve found Sierria BlitzKing bullets are not as…lets say, ‘visually impressive’…as compared to their Varminter bullets. I guess if one is looking to eat something they’ve shot then maybe the BlitzKing bullet may make sense. As JWT noted, the bullet goes in but doesn’t come out. Since these are labeled ‘Prairie Enemy’, I don’t get why Sierra didn’t try to go similar to Nosler with their Varmageddon bullets. No one is going to eat a prairie dog due to the potential for disease. So if one is going to eliminate some, just as well make it…eye-opening.

    I shoot Sierra Varminter .40gr HP in a Remington 788 .222 (yes, triple deuce). Devastating and accurate easily out to 200 yards.

    My main “Varmint Vaporizer’ is my Savage model 12 in .308. Speer 130gr bullets or Nosler 110gr Varmageddon. Visual Effect guaranteed easily out to 500+ yards.

  16. avatar Darkman says:

    Never had the opportunity to hunt prairie dogs or rats. Cut my teeth on sparrows as a young lad. Started out with an H&R Huntsman in 22. Old Man used to pay me 5 cents each to kill them on the farm. That’s back in the day when you could buy a box/50 22’s for 50 cents.

  17. avatar Alex in Oregon says:

    .223 55 gr Varrmagedon HP. Devastating on squirrels out to at least 231 yards. Longest shot so far in Central Oregon wind.

  18. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    A 69gr would shoot nice in mine most likely. I’d like to try it

    1. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

      Welp too late. Sold out

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