Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cross Training With Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dogs and Family

If elk hunting were a competitive sport, there would be many articles about “cross training for elk hunting.” Some people actually do treat elk hunting, or any hunting, as a form of competition, but I thumb my nose at them and treat elk hunting as a time of friendship, fellowship and goodwill with my comrades.

The problem with only hunting elk is elk season is just a few months long, and if done right, ends with shooting only one rifle round at one elk each year.

To solve that problem an elk hunter can cross train with other hunting and shooting activities.

Our first shooting spot. Jacob, Austin, Dan and Brian drawing beads on 'dogs.'

In addition to extending hunting opportunities and improving marksmanship, cross training allow people like me to engage in more friendship, fellowship and goodwill with my comrades.

Jacob Carroll scoping a 'dog' with his Thompson Center Encore in 22-250.

This past week the stars and planets aligned and gave some members of my family a chance to cross train, shoot some prairie dogs and wish my nephew good luck.

My nephew, Jacob Carroll, came home on leave before being deployed to Afghanistan for a 12-month tour with the 82nd Airborne Division. Although a little early for good prairie dog shooting, it provided us an excuse to enjoy Montana’s outdoors. Surprisingly, temps hit the 80s for the first time this year.

Lots of sun and fun.

Dan Clowes instructing his son Austin on shooting procedures.

My brother, Brian Carroll, his son, Jacob, his son-in-law, Dan Clowes, and Brian’s grandson and Dan’s son, Austin Clowes met in Great Falls. We drove north to Big Sandy, Montana and then east to an area south of the Bear Paw Mountains. If you know the story of the Nez Perce Indians you may have heard of the Bear Paws.

The Bear Paws aren’t far from where Nez Perce’s Chief Joseph finally surrendered to the Army, ending the last serious Indian fighting in Montana in 1877.

Dan and Austin Clowes and Jacob and Brian Carroll "sneaking" on some 'dogs.'

There wasn’t any serious fighting south of the Bear Paws last week. Prairie dogs pups hadn’t yet emerged, and the older, smarter prairie dogs hid in their burrows after only a few shots rang out.

The Carroll crew just moved down the road to the next place we had permission to shoot and engaged another town. Few shots were fired and even fewer dogs were dispatched.

Looking down the working end of a Remington 700VS in .223.

We all had a great time, allowing us to send our best wishes to Jacob before his deployment. The Carroll family seems to always have a connection to the military. During World War II, our paternal grandfather, Arthur Carroll, worked for Bell and Boeing Aircraft. Our father, Craig Carroll was a fighter mechanic in the Air Force in the late 1950s and worked on military missile projects at Vandenburg Air Force Base, California in the 1960s. Brian was a nuclear power plant operator on a fast-attack submarine. Our brother, Michael Carroll, who didn’t go to Big Sandy, was a crew chief on Chinook helicopters, and I was a paratrooper in the Panama Canal Zone.

Besides reaffirming our military heritage, we were able to pass on our hunting ethic to one of the youngest of the Carroll clan, Austin Clowes who is 8-years old. Under watchful eyes he was supervised in safe gun handling and enjoying some of what Montana has to offer.

Austin Clowes with his Ruger 10-22.

After a long day lying in the sun, we returned to Great Falls got a shower and clean clothes at the Hilton, dinner and a drink at Chili’s and an evening exchanging stories—past and long past.

Our arsenal. Top to bottom: Ruger M77V in .223, Remington 700VS in .223, Ruger M77V in .243, and Thompson Center Encore in 22-250.

I hope everyone’s week was as memorable as ours.

I wish Jacob Carroll all the luck in the world.



Anonymous said...

Now that looks like a lot of fun. Wish I was there with ya.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Best wishes to Jake, also. And a safe return.