Prairie Dogs and Coyotes can be real problems for landowners across the country. To allow for growth of your typical game, deer, turkey and quail, etc., the predator population has to be checked. Prairie dogs carry disease and their holes can be detrimental to cattle and horses. Obviously hunting both can be rewarding so finding one gun that will dispatch both handily is ideal. They hype surrounding the .224 Valkyrie had me thinking this might be the way to go. It’s supposed to be a true 1000 yard round launched from the compact AR-15 platform. I picked up an LWRCI DI rifle and some Federal ammo from our friends at DFW Shooting Sports and headed for the Texas Panhandle to see how the .224 Valkyrie would measure up to the hype.
Setting up the LWRCI DI .224 Valkyrie
Friday around noon, SHWAT™ Pro Staffer Casey and I headed over to DFW Shooting Sports to gather some guns, optics and ammo required for the weekend. Store manager JD joined us as we piled into his brand new 4×4 Ford pickup. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed for the Panhandle and arrived in time to have a little shooting light left to zero our rifles. The forecast had chances of showers for the panhandle region but we hoped for the best. Sure enough, the clouds rolled in heavy but allowed us to get our equipment loaded and guns sighted.
For the LWRCI .224 Valkyrie, I opted for the FLIR 736 given its 6x zoom. With coyotes our targets for the overnight hunt I guessed we might have some longer range shots. Firing just a couple of rounds I knew I was going to like the feel of this rifle. Even before pulling the trigger I noticed that it carried lighter than it looks. The 20 inch cold hammer forged barrel, 16 inch M-Lok handguard and Magpul MOE Rifle fixed stock surprisingly weigh in at only 8.15 pounds.
Coyotes in the Distance
At 9:30 PM we rolled, heading out to get this hunt kicked off. The night was crisp but the smell of precipitation hung in the air. The rain was not too far away, the thunderhead clouds ready to cut this hunt short at any time. Still, that didn’t dampen our hunting party’s spirits as we pulled onto the first property just south of the interstate. The three of us are what I would consider novice predator hunters, however we had done our homework and knew if we were going to get any action we needed to get in, get set up, and do so as quietly as possible. Coyotes and bobcats are extremely smart and very aware of their surroundings. Just ten minutes after getting set, we could hear howls from coyotes coming in from different directions but by this time we were just a little too late to put our new Primos Alpha Dogg Predator to work. The rain started, slowly at first but soon it intensified. Having spent lots of time in the panhandle working and hunting, I know these showers often come and go. I hoped we might have a chance to do some calling in between the waves of showers, but this time that wasn’t the case. The rain never let up and after about an hour we called the hunt off and headed for bed in hopes of getting a jump start on the next day’s hunting adventure.
Prairie Dogs Round 1
Day two rolled around and our excitement to get an animal of any sort was at an all-time high. The clock struck 9:00 AM and we downed a quick breakfast to hold us over for a while. The rain had cleared and although it was still cloudy, it was go time. We needed to get our gear switched over to day optics and this time I chose to equip the LWRCI DI gun with a Leupold Mark 4 LR/T 4.5-14×50.
Again, zeroing was a breeze and only took a few shots to dial in. It was plain to see that LWRCI’s .224 Valkarie could drive tacks, so we decided to shoot a group at 100 yards to see what kind of accuracy we could get. The Federal Ammunition 60gr V-Shock Nosler Ballistic Tip produced a 5/16 inch group (0.3125 inch) on the first three shots fired. No need to go any further there, I’d call less than 1/3rd MOA, more than capable and I’m more than a little happy with it. Now we were ready to put this bad boy to the test on something more than paper.
On this weekend trip coyotes and bobcats weren’t the only prey on our list. We’d also do our own prairie dog challenge. Why prairie dogs you might ask? Well, after years of farming and ranching experience, we’ve always had an issue with livestock breaking legs in prairie dog holes. By taking out a few, we were doing the local ranchers a favor. Plus, name a more difficult target to hit than a 3-5-pound prairie dog scurrying across the ground through a wheat field. JD, Casey, and I couldn’t help but smile as we sent rounds ripping into the field at an extremely quick rate.
By then, I’d really fallen for the LWRCI .224 Valkyrie as I was able to reach prairie dogs at a couple hundred yards with ease. The 60 grain ballistic tip round by Federal carried a unique sound that I had never heard before. Time from muzzle report to impact was extremely short as that round whizzed through the air at a deadly pace. I knew the .224 was a fast round, but I thought it was really cool that I could hear how fast it was. This is especially crucial when it comes to taking ethical long range shots on live animals. Whether you are hunting for sustenance, or in this case predator/varmint control, you want to dispatch your prey quickly and efficiently. It’s hard to do that if you are not accurate, and it’s hard to be accurate at distance with slow moving rounds.
Hiccup in the Hunt
Earlier in the day, I got something in my eye and the discomfort grew throughout the day. Unfortunately, it became severe enough that I didn’t feel comfortable shooting that night. That might have made the coyotes happy, but Casey didn’t need much convincing to carry on the task that I had set out to do. The goal was to take down a coyotes at range and see how well the Valkyrie performed in that role.
As I lay in bed constantly flushing my eye and allowing it to rest to ease the pain, Casey equipped the Valkyrie yet again with the FLIR 736. With a quality American Defense Manufacturing mount, the optic took no additional adjustments to get to zero. He was having too much fun with my new favorite rifle while I was incapacitated. Rivalry and camaraderie are so closely related…
With me now out of commission and Casey and JD not knowing all the land we were allowed to hunt, Casey wasn’t able to get the 400 or 500 yard coyote shot we’d anticipated. That didn’t stop him though, and he was able to bag a coyote at 238 yards. As much as I would like to have taken that shot I was thrilled to hear the news. The Federal projectile entered, went through the vitals and exited the other side. The coyote just dropped.
The Long Shot
Sunday rolled around. Given the success of the night before and the exhaustion that JD and Casey were experiencing, we decided to take a more relaxed approach to our few hunting hours left. Since we had so much fun at the prairie dog town, we decided to head back there and really put the Valkyrie to the test. Sure, a few hundred yards is a far enough shot to take down most animals, but Casey and I wanted to really see what kind of accuracy we could get at longer distances.
This time we set up on a nearby hill with 10-15 miles per hour wind almost directly in our faces, but with a slight left to right component. Even though we had the new Vortex Fury range finding binoculars, we had a hard time getting exact distances due to the level ground and lack of anything bigger than a prairie dog to hit with the laser. Measurements came in anywhere from 485 yards to 520 yards on the farthest hole out. This variation could have been due to our inability to get steady. I’m no experienced long range shooter, yet even with an awkward angle and unclear yardage we were still able to dial in on a prairie dog with just a few rounds.
The Freedom Armory Suppressor we mounted to the LWRCI .224 Valkyrie kept us dead silent as far as the prairie dogs could tell. They never knew a round was inbound. As I began lobbing a few rounds down range with Casey spotting, I sorted out the wind’s affect on the Federal bullet’s trajectory. Of course, the prairie dog decided to dive once I locked on. No worries, it allowed for me to relax my bad eye that was profusely watering by now.
Within a matter of minutes, JD, now behind the Swarovski spotting scope, confirmed the same prairie dog was back out. With the wind unchanged, I sent another round, but I was just a few inches high. The next shot was just shy of the prairie dog that was lying flat across his hole wondering what was going on. As I took one more deep breath, I gathered my thoughts and made sure I took my time. No telling how many more chances at this one we would have.
I squeezed trigger and sent the final round flying. A brief moment later JD yelled out in excitement, “Oh my God, blood went everywhere!” That’s when I knew the job was done. Anxious to check the true yardage, we decided to take off on foot with the Vortex range finding binoculars to range from the now dead prairie dog’s hole back to the truck. Confirmed, 512 yards! I had a smile on my face that was from ear-to-ear by then for two reasons: One, because that was by far my longest shot with any gun on a live target and two, because I absolutely loved how well the LWRCI DI .224 Valkyrie performed.
More than Words
Like most hunts, hiccups will occur forcing changes in your well-thought-out plans. Still, I can honestly say the LWRCI DI .224 Valkyrie and Federal ammo combination performed exceptionally well. The rifle proved a light weight, extremely functional, ambidextrous “tack driver.” Obviously I think highly of its performance and don’t have a doubt it my mind that you will too. Don’t take my word for it, get behind one yourself. In fact, I’m putting my money where my mouth is here. This weekend I’m going on a competition predator hunt with some friends back home and instead of my usual familiar gun I’m taking the LWRCI .224 Valkyrie. Enough said.
About the author: Robert Ramsey is what most would consider a well-rounded hunter. His appreciation for the outdoors began long before he was even old enough to hold a gun. His family has owned a ranch since a few months before his birth, and it was there that he spent many hours hunting with his father and learning everything there is to know about being an ethical sportsman. He’s hunted everything from small game to large – dove, quail, duck, turkey, alligator, rams, whitetail, hogs and much more. Follow him on Instagram: reckless_rob_479