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Potting sodpoodles: discovering a couple of unlikely prairie dog hotspots.

LET'S FACE IT, you're depressed. Turkey season, though spectacular, can now be filed under "memories," and unless you're headed to Africa or Argentina, where summer is fall and vice versa, well, sir, it's a long time until September and the arrival of hunting season.

Or is it? Thanks to the prolific prairie dog, there's no reason to sheath that red-hot centerfire or .22 Magnum for the summer. Throughout the West, as well as in many of the plains states, prairie dogs provide incredible gunning opportunities.

Keep in mind, however, that the prairie dog--and especially shooting prairie dogs--is not without its controversy. In Reader's Digest condensed form, the federally endangered black-footed ferret feeds on prairie dogs and resides in deserted dog dens. No more prairie dogs, no more dens. No more dogs and dens, no more ferrets. It's a twisted web, one with admittedly far-reaching implications for shooters, non-shooters and anticonsumptive users alike. So what does this mean? Just this: We strongly recommend that anyone planning a prairie dog shoot on the federal lands mentioned here, or on any public land (local, state, federal, etc.), consult with appropriate state wildlife agencies, just to ensure that area-specific regulations have not changed recently, and that your enjoyable prairie dog shoot doesn't become a media circus.

Utah

Slightly less than half of the entire state of Utah--yes, entire state--is BLM owned and administered: twenty-two million acres, give or take a section or two. With that in mind. finding a place to spend an afternoon shooting a prairie dog or two shouldn't be a problem.

First things first: Should you be planning a shoot in the Beehive State, contact the appropriate public land administrators listed here.

Much of the public prairie dog gunning takes place in the eastern portion of the state. Visitors should know that public lands are closed to dog hunting April 1-June 15 for breeding and rearing purposes. And, specific areas within BLM holdings, such as the Coyote Basin area along the Colorado state line southeast of Vernal, are closed to prairie dog shooting altogether due to on-going black-footed ferret reintroduction efforts. Still, there's plenty of free-roam federal land east of Price or south of Vernal that definitely warrants investigation.

North Dakota

North Dakota offers dog shooters a year-round season, as well as a very affordable license fee of $15, plus a $2 nonresident hunting/fishing/furbearer certificate. And while the nod goes to Utah in terms of sheer public land, North Dakota shows no shortage when it comes to opportunity.

Located along the western/south-western edge of the state, the Medora Ranger District encompasses the southern portion of the Little Missouri National Grasslands: some 525,000 federal acres, with another 723,000 state and private acres scattered liberally about. Again, up-to-the-minute information regarding possible closures is highly recommended.

Along the ND, SD border, gunners will find the Grand River Ranger District. home to the Grand River National Grasslands (155,000 acres) and the Cedar River National Grasslands (6,700 acres), both a couple hours southwest of Bismarck.

Information about gunning the dog towns on these prairies can be obtained by contacting the Grand River Ranger District.

INFORMATION

UTAH DIVISION OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES. 1594 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84116; (801) 538-4700; www.wildlife.utah.org

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. UTAH. 440 West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, UT 84101; (801) 539-4001

MEDORA RANGER DISTRICT. 161 21st St. W, Dickinson, ND 58601; (701) 225-5151

GRAND RIVER RANGER DISTRICT. P.O. Box 390, Lemmon, SD 57638; (605) 374-3592
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Title Annotation:PUBLIC LAND
Author:Johnson, M.D.
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:589
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