Terminating Whistle Pigs: Clay’s Choice for Guns & Gear

I have had some people ask me about my preferred setup for terminating whistle pigs, so today I am going to discuss just that. What, exactly, is a whistle pig? Good question. For those of you who aren’t from the Northwest, a whistle pig is a relative of the prairie dog but smaller. And, fortunately, also dumber.

While you generally shoot prairie dogs from a distance, no such need with whistle pigs. You can shoot them from inside 50 meters and they typically won’t run and hide. In case the PETA spies are on the site today, they are a real pest.  Whistle Pigs procreate prolifically and the holes they dig are treacherous to cows and wild horses. Also, they are decimating the grub worm population. #SaveAGrubWormKillAWhistlePig.

Don’t feel bad about killin’ whistle pigs. All you need to see is one horse with a broken leg to understand why it’s critical to control the population.  (Photo: Air Force)

On to the gear you will need. Because of the size and bold nature of the whistle pig, you can approach shooting them many ways.  Long range, medium range and up close and personal.

We have some local clubs in Idaho that prefer to blast them from 1,000-yards out.  Other folks like to take ’em down at 400 yards with reliable varmint rounds like .223.  I tend to fall into the last camp, the rimfire crew.

I like rimfire because it isn’t uncommon to fire 300 to 500 shots in a day. That might sound unbelievable, but it is true. These things breed like bacteria. I have seen so many at once it looked like the ground was moving. And if you are cheap, which I am, that would add up fast in a centerfire caliber.

The Details on CCI’s VNT .17 HMR. (Photo: CCI)

SEE ALSO: Rimfire Shootout: Savage B-Series .17 HMR vs. .22 LR

As a recent convert to .17 HMR as my preferred rimfire round, I am using a Savage Arms B-17 these days. The .17 HMR has plenty of reach and it turns the target inside out upon impact. Generally, there’s no need for a follow-up shot.

I feed my B-17 CCI’s VNT ammo and could not be happier. It is extremely accurate, and the terminal ballistics are there in spades. The polymer tip and very thin jacket are a perfect combination for squirrel-sized rodents.

CCI VNT in .17 HMR versus Vienna Sausage can.

Up top, I prefer the Bushnell SMRS 1-6.5x24mm. In a day of shooting, targets can easily range from contact distance to 300 meters. The one power red dot is perfect for the walk up and the max 6.5 magnification is plenty for the range of .17 HMR. Not even close to what the optic was designed for but it works out very well.

Kool-Aid meets its match.

The last thing that is a must-have for me is the Camelbak Rubicon. Ever since I did a review on this pack last year, it’s been at my side.  I absolutely love it.

While it’s not the most popular technique, I prefer to walk between whistle pig dens so I get some exercise. With 30 pounds of misc. stuff in the Rubicon, including the water reservoir,  it makes for a good workout.  Toss in a brick of ammo and you are set for hours of entertainment.

Camelbak Rubicon with optional SR-25 mag pouch.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Briley May 21, 2018, 1:45 pm

    Years ago, my buddies and I shot so many, so easily, with .22 rifles that we resorted to using .22 pistols. We still killed a lot of sage rats and had a blast doing it. Unfortunately those days are gone now as houses and “ranchettes” have taken the place of alfalfa fields. However, unlike the pheasants that were so plentiful in days gone by, the rats still inhabit the area. Those little rascals are prolific and even the exterminators with their poisons can’t get rid of them.

  • Dale Gamby May 19, 2018, 1:00 am

    in pa . that is what we call ground hogs.

  • David May 18, 2018, 2:31 pm

    BSA is good for a .17 WSM.

  • Zupglick May 18, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Haven’t been sage rat shooting for a while. Used to have several colonies in the area (South-eastern Washington) but the development locally has destroyed them. Used a .22 cal. Benjamin air rifle.

  • johnny May 18, 2018, 10:36 am

    I’ve never heard them called whistle pigs. In Oregon, we call them sage rats. I’ve been wanting to go, and it seems I need to pick up a B17 now.

    • David May 18, 2018, 2:29 pm

      No! Buy a .17 WSM. LONGER SHOTS.

  • Grandpa Boomer May 18, 2018, 10:16 am

    This type of shooting sounds like a lot of fun. Are there outfitters to take a person where they could shoot a few dozen of these critters?

    • Mike May 18, 2018, 9:11 pm

      I live 15 minutes from the best whistle pig shooting in SW Idaho. I can hook you up! For $5,000.00 I will give you 3 days of non-stop whistle pig action!!! Your trigger finger will be black and blue by the 3rd day from shooting so much.

  • Altoids May 18, 2018, 9:59 am

    Wow what a blast! I used to pop those things in Northern Nevada in the spring. A buddy of mine and I ran across a hillside full of them and we could not keep our 10-22s loaded quickly enough, even with several 25 round mags.

    I even built a 24 inch barrelled AR for the purpose and regularly dusted them out to 250 yards or so, sending chunks scattered to the four winds using 55 gr soft points. At the time I had procured powder and projectile in bulk, and was loading .223 rounds for $.08 a copy on a Dillon.

  • tom May 18, 2018, 9:58 am

    Double your pleasure, double your fun. Put down that archaic piece and get a .17 WSM.

  • Mike Clark May 18, 2018, 8:27 am

    My personal favorite was is the 17 Mach 2. But it has been rendered obsolete by the 17 hmr. Such a tradgedy.

  • Cyrus May 18, 2018, 6:38 am

    . . . so put a $1000 scope on a rim-fire rifle. I thought you said you were cheap. I use a BSA Optics Sweet22 for about $70 +/- on mine

    • Jimbo May 18, 2018, 10:05 am

      BSA=shit glass

  • Robert Wilson May 18, 2018, 6:18 am

    On a recent trip to Montana to visit family who runs a ranch in Winifred, they took us p-dawg shooting. That much fun has to be illegal. My son in law was using a Savage B17 and that round was accurate and devasting on the vermin. I was using a 10/22 which did ok. i came back to Michian and my LGS had a Savage A17 with thumbhole stock. I gobbled it up. Since have put a Bushnell rimfire scope on it. Its ready for our next trip to Montana. Can’t wait. When we were done from that p-dawg shooting which we rolled around in a suburban from town to town. When we got back to the ranch and opened the doors…empty brass all around and falling out the door. So much fun we giggled like school girls.

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