Just re-read both C.S. Landis' classics 22 Caliber Varmint Rifles and Woodchucks and Woodchuck Rifles for the umpteenth time in the last two weeks and I am getting excited. Been over at the reloading shop after work a lot in the last two weeks and at the range on weekends. Wife getting pissey.
As I have grown older more and more of my chuck and prairie dog shooting is being done with my Sako and CZ mini action rifles, off a Harris Bi-pod. One would think that as a guy gets older, and fatter, the luxury of spotting from 400-600 yards away and shooting from a stool set up behind a bench would have a certain irresistible allure, but, in my case, it has worked the other way.
I didn't fire a single round of 243 or 22-250 last year off my benches using a tripod rest and bags, and I have two of each and they are all wicked accurate. In years past I ordered a thousand bullets for each caliber and shot them a lot off my benches.
I will probably take advantage of the fact that my long range colonies were not shot last year and have some good sport this spring shooting them at long range though. Can't let a colony go un-shot too long or my alfalfa grower friends might decide to let "interlopers" shoot the colonies he tells them: I already have a guy who comes over from Tacoma and shoots the rockchucks on the property. Can't have that!
I put 6.5-20 Leupolds, or even heavier Nikon 4-20 Monarchs & Super Slam 4-20 scopes on our walking around varmint rifles and even with a Harris S25 Bi-pod on them they are perfectly comfortable to lug them up a talus slope when chuck shooting or around a prairie dog town.
Last year I shot 17 Hornet out of Bridget's Contender setup. Never even shot my 22 Hornet or 204 CZ 527s once at varmints. Since Bridget passed Hunter Ed and will be shooting this year, I put the short stock back on and that is her setup, and it shoots sub half inch groups... If I had any sense I probably should have just ordered a second MGM 17 Hornet Contender barrel for myself and set up a second Contender (and saved myself a pile of money).
But I am a bolt action guy and went with a CZ even though I rarely use the magazine and rely on a Calhoon Single Shot Sled for 99% of my chuck shooting. Bridget is right handed, but left master eye. I had Contender frames and a kid's stock and setting her up that way was an easy call. I expected inch groups, it shoots 1/2 inch TEN SHOT groups out of a really dirty barrel! Hey, I am talking about putting two hundred rounds in your right hand BDU coat pocket and going for a stroll. I couldn't GAS about first shot out of a clean, cold barrel. We are not carrying around our rifle cleaning gear and these rifles better not "go south" before we decide to head back to the truck for a banana a Twinkie a Coke and a sammich and to clean them.
And even though I spent the "big bucks," get this... Bridget's gun has pretty coarse cross hairs and mine all have quarter minute dots (kids are better off with a bold cross hair for at least the first couple years), but unless I load my ammo out too long to fit in my Calhoon modified CZ magazines, I am getting about .7 inch groups from my CZ. I am not going to load two lots of ammo, one for magazine feed and another for shooting off a single shot sled. No way, no how.
That is probably academic anyway, now that Bridget has a hunting license, and Bridget was "the spotter" all last year, I probably will not get the opportunity to shoot much this year anyway. What's fair for the goose is fair for the gosling. Wouldn't you say? From here on out, I think daddy is going to be spotting instead of shooting as two more chuck shooters come up behind Bridget.
I didn't know what to expect last year out of the 17 Hornet re: terminal performance... if I didn't already have ~ 2,000 rounds of 22 Hornet ammo sitting in the shop - I would definitely have gone that way. I bought my 22 Hornet long before the 17 H Hornet came to be, it is a great round BUT FOR when your scope is set at 20 power, damn it all anyway, the recoil jumps it off the chuck. Now, with the 17 Hornet, at the range, I see paper fly as the bullet hits the target, and I can call my own shot in the field. EVERY TIME. Not that missing is a big issue at 22 Hornet ranges, but I want to see where the bullet hits the chuck, and with 22 Hornet, ain't happening... unless I turn the scope down, way down. With the 17 Hornet, I see the bullet wound as the bullet hits home. Wow, says I, kids today don't know how good they have got it.
We need 2K rounds/gun when we go to Montana for a week and I cannot see building up our stock of 17 Hornet brass enough for me to make the switch for a week of prairie dog shooting as in the cards. As it is, Bridget has 400 and I have 400 and I am on the hook to build Bridget's stockpile up to 2k before we go to Montana this summer, the thought of another 1,600 rounds of 17 brass for me is.... well yesterday I had to buy a new garage door AND a new deep freezer. Ain't happening!
I am always looking forward to shooting chucks and prairie dogs, but this year with my oldest daughter looking forward to saddling daddy with a taxidermy bill to have her first rockchuck mounted, with two glass eyes, this coming season is really something special to look forward to.