Sage Rat Hunting Sight-in Strategies

Sage rat hunting in Oregon has exploded in popularity.  More and more hunters are taking to the fields  of Southeast Oregon each year to take advantage of the target-rich environment set up by the habitat found in the alfalfa pivots in this region.  The alfalfa pivots are The Perfect Storm of soil, weather and nutrition that cause unnatural overpopulation of sage rats (Belding’s Ground Squirrels).  So, how do we get the most out of our firearms to maximize our hits (and fun) when shooting sage rats?  We’ll give you some ideas that may help!

Your sight-in strategy matters!

First off, sage rats are small targets.   The body of a sage rat is not much larger than the cardboard inside a roll of toilet paper, and when the babies appear, the targets sometimes more closely resemble a walnut in size!  Precision and accuracy are necessary to consistently hit them but your sight-in strategy can also make the difference as to whether you or your buddy takes home the hit-percentage bragging rights!  Sight-in too closely and it increases the number of targets on which you need to hold over.  Sight-in too far away and mid-range misses can rob you of your sharpshooter title!  We’ll look at some sight-in distances for common cartridges used in the sage rat fields.


Rimfires are not all created equal.  Historically, more sage rats have died at the hands of .22 long rifle (LR) shooters than any other firearm.  Of those, the Ruger 10-22 has probably accounted for the vast majority of those kills.  The 10-.22 is fast, accurate and inexpensive to shoot and does so with virtually zero recoil and a mild report.  It’s a blast (pun intended) to walk your shots onto target well past 100 yards but the .22 works best at point-blank to 100 yards in the hands of most shooters.  A strategic sight-in with a 75 yard zero will give you a great opportunity to make good hits in the effective range of this great little cartridge.  (Choose hollow-point (hp) bullets for the best chance of anchoring your targets quickly and beware of ricochets!)

A new King?  Around No Off Season a new king has emerged.  The .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) has supplanted the .22 LR in popularity and ammunition expended.  Accuracy and range are almost ideal for sage rat shooting, and although not as inexpensive as .22 LR, the ammunition is reasonably priced especially if you shop sales during the year.  This round makes 150 yard shots relatively easy unless the wind is really blowing!  You will give up little with a 100 yard zero for your .17 HMR rifle but 125 yards may be even better.  With your groups printing in the center of a 125 yard bullseye, you won’t really think about holdover out to 150 yards, then holding at the top of the back or head (standing targets are much more forgiving in elevation) will garner quite a few extra yards to your effective range.  A 150 yard zero is not a bad option for the experienced shooter who naturally holds a little low on the targets at the height of midrange trajectory around 100 yards.  (Poly-tipped ammunition anchors ‘rats better and has fewer ricochets than the hollow-point bullets.)

The .22 WMR (Commonly referred to as a “.22 Magnum” or  a .22 Mag” for short.) is the parent case for the  .17 HMR.  The .22 WMR cartridge carries more energy than the HMR but isn’t quite as flat shooting.  A similar sight-in strategy will still get you in the ballpark.  Bullet construction deserves a deeper look with this cartridge. 

Purchasing poly-tipped .22 WMR ammo (i.e. Hornady V-max) is suggested.  A .22 WMR with the original solid and hollow-point ammo is one of the highest ricocheting combinations requiring  more care around irrigation pivots.  In the hands of experienced shooters using sufficient restraint, it will work fine but less so with other shooters.  While more expensive, you may find the poly-tipped ammo to be more accurate, flatter shooting  and more deadly than the older, blunt-nose ammunition.

Finally, the relative newcomer to the rimfire ‘rat cartridges is a little speedster known as the .17 WSM.  Utilizing cases for nail guns used in the construction field, this cartridge bridges the gap between the rimfire and centerfire worlds.  For those wanting more reach but not wanting to handload, this is a great option.  The report of the WSM is slightly louder than the HMR but the sound of the bullets hitting target is audibly louder as well.  Calm days make this a legitimate 250 yard rimfire!  Your sight-in strategy should reflect this.  A 150 yard zero is the minimum suggested sight-in distance for this little rimfire.  A 200 yard zero for the experienced shooters is a viable option.  (Poly-tips versus hollow-points are still a great idea to minimize ricochets and maximize lethality.)

The Centerfire Zone

Centerfire varmint cartridges enter an entirely new realm of reach, energy and target reactivity!  The .223 Rem is still at the top of the hill especially with those who don’t handload their ammunition.  Other offerings include a multitude of .17, .204, and .22 caliber cartridges and wildcats that work splendidly for sage rats.  Centerfires particularly offer something over the rimfires on the windy days which seem to happen frequently in sage rat country.  Slightly heavier bullets deflect less in wind and the larger cases can push them faster creating laser-like trajectories and minimum wind deflection.  A 200 yard zero will require only slight adjustments on horizontal targets at the height of mid-range trajectory usually occurring around 150 to 175 yards.    

Although it has little to do with sight-in strategies, a few more tips on bullet selection are in order when you graduate to centerfires. 

A major caveat when shooting the .223 cartridge is to resist the urge to buy the bargain basement, full metal jacket ammunition.  It’s cheap, it’s tempting, and it’s dangerous!  Full metal jacket bullets can be abbreviated “FMJ”.  It may also be called “Green-tip” or “Ball ammunition”.  If there is not a hollow point, exposed lead or a poly tip, it is full metal jacket construction.  FMJ bullets ricochet terribly and are a major hazard to irrigation equipment, livestock and neighbors!  No Off Season and other outfitters and landowners will not allow any FMJ bullets on their fields.  Some hollow-point target ammunition also utilize tough bullet jackets that tend to ricochet.  Always listen for the “zing” of skipping bullets.  If it is occurring on a regular basis regardless of the cartridge or bullet, be extra careful about what is beyond your target.  Every cartridge ricochets in certain condition; some are just worse than others. 

Higher caliber varmint cartridges (6mm/.243 on up) as well as long range rifles/cartridges require the right circumstances to be safe.  Another consideration for the larger cartridges is recoil.  Larger cases and heavier bullets create more recoil.  Even larger .22 caliber cartridges such as the .22-250 and .220 Swift, while extremely deadly and more effective in the wind, will likely cause the rifle to jump off target requiring a spotter to call the shot and robbing the shooter of some in-scope action.  This can be mitigated with a suppressor or a muzzle brake but the latter increases muzzle blast significantly.

Sage rat hunting is one of the most fun past times the shooting sports has to offer.  These sight-in strategies will help increase your effectiveness on these small, challenging targets and may help you get bragging rights when the dust settles and you’re rehashing the day’s sage rat shooting with your family and friends!

Sage Rat Hunting: Choosing a time

Someone said that “The best time to go hunting is when you can.”  That’s probably true,  but timing your sage rat hunting requires some planning!  Several factors will help determine how to maximize your fun shooting these prolific little varmints.  Weather, hay growth and cartridges of choice all influence when you will find the most satisfaction hunting sage rats.  The timing of the babies surfacing is another factor affecting target numbers and high-volume shooting. 

The weather on a given day influences target number more than any other factor.  As with anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather tends to get better as we move from winter into spring.  Generally, the later the hunt, the better the weather tends to be.  Any given day can be cold and blustery in the High Desert country of Eastern Oregon, but the temperatures gradually creep up and the likelihood of precipitation gradually decreases. 

Calm, sunny days are what everyone hopes, and, while optimal, they are not absolutely critical for good shooting.  There’s no welfare in ‘Ratville, so the sage rats still have to come out and make a living sometime!  Cold, windy weather just causes them to come up a little later, hug the ground a little closer and run for their dens with less provocation. 

The downside of those sunny, warm days is hay growth.  The warmer and sunnier the year, the more quickly the alfalfa grows.  The taller the hay grows, the more difficult it is to spot targets.  These are the trade-offs.   Everything has its advantages and disadvantages! 

As with the weather, the timing of the babies coming above ground can’t be predicted.  We have seen a few of babies as early as the first week of April but it is usually latter April before they begin to come up in numbers.  There is always a good supply of next-generation targets by the first week of May.

So, what’s the best time to book your hunt? 

To fully answer that question, the cartridges you like to shoot also come into play. 

For hunters who prefer to shoot primarily centerfire cartridges, early hunting has some advantages.  Early season hunts risk poor weather but they also provide the sage rat shooter the first crack at a population that’s had months to forget the report of a rifle.  Early hunts also offer larger targets.  (The larger males seem to be the first to arrive above ground as they are moving among the burrows, taking care of business, and providing for the next crop of targets.)  Perhaps most importantly, there is rarely much hay growth in early April.  The short hay makes almost every ‘rat in the field visible, so a centerfire shooter can really stretch the barrel of their varmint rifle!

For those who prefer shooting .22 LR, later hunts work well since it’s fairly certain that the babies will be up providing more targets within the reach of the .22’s.  No Off Season recommends May hunts for those wanting to primarily run rounds through their favorite .22.  The risk of hay growth is offset by the number of targets providing closer shooting.

For the full arsenal hunters, especially those with a .17HMR or a .17WSM in their stable, the time of year is far less important.  These versatile rounds can reach out in the early season and are still affordable in the target rich environment of May. 

Knowing the factors affecting shooting can help you zero in on the best shooting possible.  But, within these parameters, it’s still true that “The best time to go sagerat hunting is when you can!”

Tim Titus

Remember, “No crowds, no limits, no seasons…no bad days!”

Long Range Chucks

LR ‘Chucks. My brother Terry and I did some long range rockchuck hunting today. Terry built a 6.5 SAUM last year but has had little time to shoot it. It performed admirably hitting this ‘chuck at 687 yards! A Stiller Predator action, Pac-nor barrel, McMillan A-3 Sporter stock, Jewell trigger, Defensive Edge muzzle brake and a Nightforce ATACR 5-25X scope round out the package. After hitting his chuck, we got some valuable dope on his gun and load at 900 and 1030. Good stuff!

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Adjusting Pressure & Altitude on your Kestrel 4000 Series

Your Kestrel 4000 Series Weather & Environmental Meter will measure air pressure in order to calculate barometric pressure and altitude. Changes in either air pressure or altitude will affect these readings, so it is important to make adjustments as necessary if you bring your Kestrel to a higher or lower altitude.

To adjust the altitude, first you will need to obtain a barometric air pressure reading from a local weather source to use as your reference pressure. Once you have that reading, scroll to the “Current Altitude Screen” on your Kestrel. Once you are there, press the center button to enter the adjustment mode and then use the right and left arrows to adjust the reference pressure.

As you are doing that, you will notice that the altitude reading will change as your reference pressure changes. When you are finished, press the center button to exit the adjustment mode.

To adjust the barometric pressure, first you will need to obtain your altitude from a topographical map, landmark or the Internet. Once you have that number, scroll to the “Current Barometric Pressure Screen” on your Kestrel. Once there, press the center button to enter the adjustment mode.

Again, use the left and right arrows to adjust the reference altitude. Again, you will notice that the Barometric Pressure will change with changes in the reference altitude. When you are done, press the center button to exit the adjustment mode.

*From the Kestrel Tech Team

NOS Long Range Shooting School

No Off Season put on its first long range shooting school for my cousin, Kristy Titus.  Kristy is an up and coming outdoor TV personality and, as such, wanted to increase her knowledge and competency in long range shooting.  We don’t pretend to be experts in the field but I felt we could give Kristy a good foundation to start her on the right path in long range shooting.

Ben spotting and evaluating Kristy’s benchrest technique

The course began with classroom time on equipment, shooting form and technique and ballistics.  We then mixed range time with classes on ballistics programs, MOA calculations and use, wind doping and environmental factors affecting shots as well as slope shooting.  Ben demonstrated LR reloading techniques.

At our range, we worked on Kristy’s benchrest technique, evaluated her rifle’s performance and introduced her to more of the equipment she would use in her long range shooting.  We had her shoot a rifle of known accuracy to evaluate her BR shooting and got her on gongs at 200 yards.  Kristy is a representative for Swarovski so we got to enjoy using some nice optics she brought for the event.


After getting her shooting form and techniques headed in the right direction, we moved right into prone work on the gongs.  She practiced with a headwind and then went on to 400 yard gongs in a full value crosswind.  We wanted her to use the same tools in the class as she would on her own so, even though we took weather with the Kestrel 4500 with HORUS/ATRAG ballistics, we had her work her firing solutions on the Shooter program on her Smart Phone.  Her first 400 yard shot in the full value crosswind was a hit and she was able to put a three shot group on it measuring just over one MOA.  Not bad for her first time shooting that far.

400 yard gong

After still more class time, graduation day found us heading to the rockchuck fields for some in-field practice and evaluation.  Kristy’s first opportunity came on a steep uphill shot into a quartering wind at 211 yards.  Kristy made perfect adjustments and sent the big rockchuck into the air!  Let’s just say that Kristy’s natural enthusiasm really came out!  Her next shot at 270 yards in the opposite direction resulted in a consecutive hit on another steep shot in the wind.  At that point she would have been rightly content to stop if her instructors hadn’t urged her to move to the portable bench to try some 650 yard ‘chucks.

At the 650 yard bench

Again, Kristy used the Shooter program to input the shot parameters.  She dialed her solution into my rifle scope (Her gun was not quite ready for this kind of shot) and after two very near misses, she had her first direct hit on a 650 yard rockchuck.  To say she was stoked might be an understatement!  We may have just created another LR varmint hunting addict.  A few minutes later she took another turn on the rifle and scored a first-round hit at 650.  She was virtually in disbelief at what she could accomplish with some basic knowledge and the right equipment.

Kristy and Ben with some of the day’s rockchucks

We really enjoyed taking someone with very little long range knowledge and experience and in three days have them start making hits on targets the size of a football at 3/8 of a mile.  I’d say she graduated with honors.  Thanks for coming over, Kristy!

Kristy’s Blog of the event can be seen here:

NOS’ First Major Sports Show

No Off Season is back from our first-ever major trade show, The Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show, held at the Expo Center in Portland, Oregon.After finding out No Off Season was headed for Portland, a friend of mine who has done many trade shows in another industry asked if we shouldn’t maybe go to Eugene or Central Oregon for our first show.I simply replied, “No.Portland is our market.”The PNW Sportsman’s Show is billed as “The Biggest Sports Show West of the Mississippi” with an attendance of some 60,000 to 70,000 people.They expected 25,000 people through the doors on Saturday alone!Talk about jumping in with both feet!To top it off, after a very busy winter, we didn’t pull the trigger on this venture (or adventure) and secure our booth until a week prior to the show opening.Needless to say between ordering supplies and materials, arranging printing, ordering an additional banner, arranging travel and accommodations, packing displays and inventory and all the other small things it takes to set up an effective booth, it was a challenge just to get to the Show.

2012 PNW Sportsman Show booth

John Collett, my sales rep for the show, was extremely helpful and secured a great booth for us.  NOS had a corner location at the end of an aisle giving us extra room to interact with the public and display the NO Off Season wares.And, interact with the public we did!Thank you to all of the great people who stopped by and waited patiently to learn about our hunts and our products.And, my apologies to those who stopped and weren’t able to stay long enough for us to meet you.We really appreciate the overwhelming support and attention you all paid to our display.Sales and bookings exceeded our expectations.We are just now coming up for air after booking the many hunts and shipping the many orders for products that were placed at our booth and on-line after the show!

The taxidermy mount of Ben’s 1044 yard rockchuck was a real hit as was the fluttering MOJO Critter and Jack Attack decoy. The long range rifle display caught the eye of many of the hardcore shooters at the show.I joked that by the end of the first day my MOJO decoy had already attracted more hunters than it ever had coyotes but then it was in front of more hunters in a single day at the PNWSS than it ever had been on coyotes!Interacting with so many predator hunters and varmint shooters was a treat for us.We learned a lot about the products that drew special interest and those that are better served with on-line marketing.And, the calendar has filled significantly with sagerat hunters interested in an above-average varmint shooting experience.I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. A little experience goes a long way and even with the overwhelming success of this show, we hope to be even better prepared to take care of our customers the next time around.Without you, No Off Season is nothing!

Thanks to O’Laughlin Trade Shows for putting on an outstanding event and a special thanks to my wife, Lori, and to my son, Ben, for all the hard work and help you both were in making this happen.You guys are awesome! No Off Season has offered to do seminars for the 2013 Show on either Coyotes 201: Advanced Tactics or Long Range Varmint Hunting.Let O’Laughlin Trade Shows know if you like the idea of one or both topics.The e-mail address is or call them at 503/246-8291.Let them know you are interested in Tim Titus and No Off Season doing some seminars.

Thanks again for your support and for your business!


A 1264 Yard Rockchuck

My nephew, Gus, took a rockchuck at 1264 yards.

Here’s the hero shot.  (Red arrow shows the location of the rockchuck.)

Hero Shot
The Hero Shot

And, now the story.

It’s getting close to the time our rockchucks will be going down for the year so I wanted to make a hunt this week.  My youngest son, Ben, has held the family record for the longest rockchuck shot.   He took one this spring at around 1100 yards.   But, since Ben was out of town visiting his brother, I asked my nephew, Gus, if he wanted to go along.  Gus was game so we headed out to try to get to a promising looking canyon I’d seen while hunting the previous week.  The road was horrible but we eventually made it to within a short hike of the canyon. 

 The canyon was wider than I had imagined.  It turned out to be a little over 800 yards across.  We set up on the rim and began glassing.  Eventually I spotted a couple of rockchucks beyond the far rim of the canyon standing up in the grass.  They offered good shots but poor spotting.  Gus ranged the area with his Leica 1200 at around 1250 yards.  He only had ten rounds of ammo for his .308 with him.  He told me that the previous two rounds from his .308 had scored on two sage rats and one bear and he wanted to keep his string going.  I suggested that if that was the case, he probably wouldn’t want to start shooting at 1200 yard rockchucks.  But, being the sensible young man that he is, he decided he might as well take a poke at them anyway.

Gus had not shot this particular load past 500 yards.  The longest kill he’d made with the gun previously was around 550 yards on a prairie dog on our Wyoming trip two summers ago.  With no drop chart we just discussed things and took a guess based on the drops for my rifle and adding more for the rainbow trajectory of the big 175 grain SMK.  I told him to dial in 48 minutes of angle elevation and five MOA of wind.  It didn’t  instill a lot of confidence in him concerning our dope when I told him I hoped I could see his shot in the field of view of my spotting scope!

Location of shot
Shooting Location

Gus shoots a Remington 700 SPS in a B&C stock (I think) with a Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14X scope.  It definitely wasn’t too much magnification for the situation!  He told me later that the horizontal crosshair was covering the whole ‘chuck.  He dialed up, settled behind the rifle and squeezed off the shot.  I was actually able to call the cold-bore shot.  It was within about one minute on windage and several feet low.  I told him to take one minute of wind out and come up another six MOA.  That got us in the ball park on the next shot and he ended up with 58 1/4 minutes of elevation in the scope and three minutes of wind.  For reference, that elevation equates to over 60 feet of holdover at that range!

The shots from that point on were all very close.  He was close enough that he was scaring the rockchucks off with each shot.  We’d then have to wait to find another in a position where I could spot the shot before he could loose another round.  Long story short, on round number seven I saw no dust and the rockchuck took off like a scalded cat across the rocks and onto an angled face of a ledge where it launched itself into the air off a 40 foot cliff!  We could see it wasn’t running correctly but didn’t know whether Gus had just hit it in the leg or what.  He felt good enough about it to want to go check.  I on the other hand wasn’t nearly as excited.

One challenge of long range shooting is the retrieval.  This ‘chuck was a long ways away and across the canyon.  Because of the rimrock, I didn’t know how far we’d have to go just to get to the bottom of the canyon which also happened to have a good sized stream running through it.  But, being the good uncle I am, I went along.  It took us over a half mile and an encounter with one very large rattle snake to get to a spot we could descend into the canyon.  When we got to the stream, the run-off made it more like a small river and that was where the whole Good Uncle thing gave out!

Gus stripped down to his skivvies and carried his pants and shoes across the swollen creek.  I didn’t know if he was going to be able to stay upright in the current but he’s shaped like Gumby so he doesn’t displace lot of water.  He made it out, got dressed and headed up the other side of the canyon.  I watched through the spotting scope as he approached the bottom of the bluff.  A minute or so later he was holding up his 1264 yard rockchuck!  The shot turned out to be a centermass hit with close to a one inch exit.  The rockchuck was dead before he hit the ground.

Fording the creek
Gus refording the creek with his trophy

It took nearly three hours to get to the ‘chuck and make it back to our shooting location where we finished the “photo shoot”.   Gus took several readings with his range finder.  The average turned out to be 1264 yards.

Gus was really looking forward to rubbing his new record in his cousin’s face.  Ben had pretty well stopped reaching out past about 1100 yards thinking his family record was safe.  I can already envision Ben’s drive to move beyond 1264 yards.  He’s got his work cut out for him but somehow I think he’s up to the task!

I never fired a shot but it was good day with a good kid and one exceptional shot.

Mix and Match Varmints

My son, Ben, is my varmint hunting partner.  I’m not sure if the relationship will last when he has enough gas money to strike out on his own but, for now, its working.  We had a nice day on tap so we set out to look over some new rockchuck country.  The day turned into a mix and match of varmints and rifles as events unfolded and we adapted to what the day provided.

As we four-wheeled through the desert, we glassed likely looking areas for rockchucks.  Unless we spot several rockchucks, we usually just keep hunting allowing the singles or doubles a chance to propagate.  Eventually we spotted a number of ‘chucks scattered among some rocks in a sage basin.  This wasn’t typical rockchuck habitat with a rim and scattered boulders on a hillside.   But we take it as we find it and Ben got out his .17 Fireball to try for the first ‘chucks we found that were within 250 yards of our location.

Ben shoots 25 grain Hornady hollowpoints and, more recently, 25 grain Berger Match Varmint bullets from his .17.  These do double duty on varmints and predators so even though there is not as much splat factor for the red mist crowd, it allows him shoot one load from his rifle.  Ben took a couple of rockchucks from our first position then graciously offered to let me take one with his rifle since I had only brought my RF binos along.  The little Fireball was a pleasure to shoot and allowed me to take my first .17 centerfire varmint with virtually zero recoil.

From our initial vantage we began to glass further into the basin and saw a fair number of rockchucks out beyond 300 yards so we decided to go back to the truck for our longer range rifles.  I was in between scopes on my .243AI so I got my Cooper M21 Varminter in .204 out and Ben got out his M700 .243AI.  We skirted behind a low ridge and came over the top as if we were on a big game hunt and rolled out the shooting mat setting up just over the ridge.  After removing some grass from in front of the hide, we settled in and began to alternate shots from 365 yards to 475 yards.  The lone shot at 475 went just wide but we took several of the ‘chucks from 365 to 425 yards.

When we felt we’d done enough damage to the local population, we went out to take a survey of our shots.  We took some photographs but were interrupted several times by jack rabbits as they moved through the sage.  Not to let a wayward varmint go to waste, I took several off-hand shots at the rabbits from 75 to 125 yards but I quickly learned that I needed to get off my bipod and do some more position shooting!  The rabbits were obviously not very wary as they would only run a few yards and stop thinking of fangs rather than bullets.  The couple that did meet with my 39 grain Sierra BlitzKings showed some serious splat factor. 

We returned to the truck and went a little farther down the two-track before sighting a rockchuck on a point of rocks at 545 yards.  This time we broke out the portable shooting bench from the back of the truck.  The wind was almost full value at 15 mph from left to right.  Ben doped it almost perfectly and his first shot went within inches of the rockchuck.  A quick adjustment and the second shot rolled the rockchuck off his perch.

I glassed around while Ben went after his rockchuck carrying my Savage .17HMR.  Shots at jack rabbits sounded as he made his way out and back with his “trophy”.  I found a few more ‘chucks in the opposite direction so I turned the bench around and took a large one off a rock pile to the north with a perfect headshot.  When Ben got back, we traded shots on another rim to the east shooting at around 330 yards.  Again, Ben got some HMR shots at rabbits as we went out to bring back the rockchucks for a picture.

Some good times and some good shooting on a mix and match varmint day.  We left the sage rats alone for our guided hunt customers or we could have made it a varmint hunting trifecta.  There will be time for them later as there is No Off Season!

Sage Rats Go Mainstream

No Off Season just finished filming a sage rat hunt with Scott Haugan for an upcoming episode of his show, Game Chasers, on the Outdoor Network.  Scott and Tiffany Haugan with their two sons, Braxton (9) and Kazden (7), and their cameraman, Travis Ralls, came to southeast Oregon this week to film the episode.  Scott was focusing on the opportunity to start young shooters and train with multiple weapons for other hunting endeavors.  They also spent a lot of time documenting the damage caused by sage rats and the need to control these destructive varmints.

Scott and Kazden
Scott and Kazden

 The weather was terrible the day they arrived.  Ice cold winds of 25 mph were the order but the kids as well as the adults were able to get some decent shooting in between warm-ups in the truck!  The second day was much better with sunshine and only a moderate breeze.  The looks on the boys’ faces as they whacked ‘rat after ‘rat was priceless.  Although they may have to edit it out of the final cut, the boys giggling as they made a good shot or the sage rats did acrobatics just makes me happy!  (There were a few giggles out of the adults too!) 

 They all shot with everything from .22 single shots to AR15’s.  Scott and Tiffany as well as the boys did quite a bit of archery shooting with Judo points and they even did a little shotgun shooting off sticks to get the kids ready for upcoming turkey hunts.  These boys have literally hunted all over the world.  Braxton shot a zebra and Kazden shot his first wildebeast in Zimbabwe last year but both of them thought the sage rat hunting was over-the-top for volume and action! 


 They all enjoyed just hanging out and experiencing ranch life.  Two of the local buckaroos roped a couple bull calves that my brother, Todd, needed to castrate–just impromptu entertainment on a working ranch. A game of horseshoes whiled-away some time while Scott and Travis filmed and did interviews.  (I had to sign a “Model Agreement” for Travis to use some interview footage.  If you saw my old, fat butt, the last thing you’d expect is for me to sign a “Model Agreement”!) 

 They stayed in the B&B on the ranch and we fed them BBQ and dutch oven desert but they never required nor asked for (and didn’t receive) any special treatment.  Although I didn’t know what to expect going into this project, the Haugan’s are just a neat family with very well-mannered kids.  I dealt with Scott in the planning and throughout the filming and never saw him make a bobble with me or his family–just a genuinely nice and very likeable guy.  

Scott, Braxton and Kazden
Scott, Braxton and Kazden

The weather just kept getting better with warming temperatures and less and less wind  They made some shots at over 200 yards with the centerfire rifles and plenty of close range shots that kept the kids interested.  We missed an opportunity at a badger on the final morning.  It left the field before Scott could get on it. 

 It was an enjoyable hunt for everyone.  The episode will air next March on Scott’s show Game Chasers on the Outdoor Channel. 

Travis the Cameraman
Travis the camera man

 No Off Season and sage rats are going main stream!  Stay tuned!

More information on our guided hunts

and Check out Scott’s blog  

Calling all Long Range Varmint Shooters!

We’re going through a transition.  I hate that word.  Transition generally denotes change and change is not always comfortable but I find the transitions in the predator and varmint hunting world are easier because they hold promise.  I love to call predators.  It’s one of the most exhilarating things in the world but after a long, cold winter of piling on layers and fighting the snow, the varmint fields start to look pretty inviting.   The colony varmints are starting to come out now—actually they’ve been starting to come out for weeks but the transition in the weather isn’t keeping up with the desire of my mind!  Our sage rats are trying to get out between rain showers and snow squalls and icy winds .  The “‘rats” don’t offer the heart pounding excitement of a charging predator but, hey, there’s something to be said for a hunting sport that doesn’t require a 4:30 alarm and can see hundreds of rounds fired per day! 

The sage rats offer the shooter an unequalled opportunity to burn ammunition and utilize that last quarter inch you wrung out of your handloads at the range.  This early season ground squirrel and prairie dog shooting is made for the accurate centerfire rifle.  It’s just as hard for the grass to go above ground as it is for the squirrels so the cover is almost non-existent.  With relatively exposed targets and large ones at that, we get to stretch the legs on the heavy barrel rifles with the Hubble-like scopes.   Accuracy trumps terminal bullet performance now and laser trajectories make reaching the practical limits of your rifle’s accuracy on a target that only spans two inches less than a mathematical, computer-driven event and more a relaxed chance for trigger time.  We just bust out the benches and shoot!  That said, the rockchucks have been peeking out about as long as the sage rats.

Our country doesn’t hold a lot of rockchucks so we have to practice self-imposed conservation measures to keep from shooting them out.  What that means for others is up to you but for us, we’ve put a self-imposed limit of “No rockchucks under 1000 yards ‘til May.”  A few years ago 400 yards would have been just as realistic in conserving the resource.  For you, the minimum range may be much further.  My son, Ben, connected on his first rockchuck of the season last year at 1044 yards so, “Game On!” as they say .  The size of rockchucks makes them a viable long range target.  They will weigh up to maybe fifteen pounds in our area.  So, now the need for a dedicated long range rig comes into play and, yes, you better get to the computer or, better yet, carry one with you.  One nice thing about long range rockchuck shooting is that there are generally multiple targets at similar ranges and they don’t necessarily run off when the shots are coming out of the next zip code.   This allows a shooter with a spotter to “walk” onto target.  It doesn’t make it pure sniper “one shot, one kill” stuff but it allows newer long range shooters a chance to work their way into the game.  “One shot, One kill” stuff can be progressed into as the LR shooter gains experience.

A few good sage rat shoots have kept the reloading press busy already this spring but the big events have been our LR rockchuck attempts.   The first two attempts resulted in more data-gathering sessions than killfests.  Does  “No animals were harmed in the process of this shooting” mean anything to you?  On the third try of the year, it started to come together.   My son, Ben, and I each connected on 1000+ yard rockchucks in one evening. 

You can read the whole story here: 

1000+yard Rockchuck

It felt like sweet success but I’ve also come to know that “Pride comes before the fall.” So I won’t hold my breath that the feat can be repeated any time soon.  But, you know what?  Today is another of those rare-for-this-spring sunny and calm days.  Maybe we should go out to see if it was just a fluke or not…..