I have been a fan of airgun hunting for several years now. From small bore (.177-.257 calibers) to big bore (.308-.50 calibers), there is an airgun out there for every hunter’s needs. Now that big bore airguns are legal for hunting native game species such as the beloved whitetail deer here in Texas, there is even more to celebrate about these quieter and cleaner alternatives to the “powder burners” we all know and love.
What initially caught my eye when I entered the world of airguns was that I did not have to spend a fortune to purchase or maintain one, the ammo was cheap and fairly plentiful and airguns also run cleaner and quieter than many firearms. Want an integrally suppressed airgun? Consider an Airforce Texan SS from Airforce Airguns. Since it’s not a firearm, you don’t have the same NFA rules and hoops to jump through that your firearm-owning buddies have to abide by. What’s more is that you don’t have to go through an FFL dealer to get one. Simply order dealer direct or through a retail supplier like Pyramyd Air and get it shipped straight to your front door in most states!
Texas Parks and Wildlife department took a hard look at airguns for hunting native game species more than a few times this past year and again right before the new state fiscal year and hunting season started. Here are the rules and recommendations from them:
“Alligator, game animals, furbearers, squirrels, and non-migratory game birds (except Eastern Turkey) may be hunted with air guns and arrow guns provided:
- Alligators, big horn sheep, javelina, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and turkey may be taken only with pre-charged pneumatic arrow guns, or pre-charged pneumatic air guns.
- Pre-charged pneumatic air guns must fire a projectile of at least 30 caliber in diameter and at least 150 grains in weight with a minimum muzzle velocity of 800 feet per second or any combination of bullet weight and muzzle velocity that produces muzzle energy of at least 215 foot pounds of energy.
- Squirrels, pheasant, quail, and chachalaca may be hunted with air guns that fire a projectile of at least .177 caliber (4.5mm) in diameter producing a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second.
- Arrows or bolts used with an arrow gun must conform to the same standards for projectiles for archery.
- Arrow guns may not be used to hunt deer or turkey during archery season.”
Furthermore, the state of Texas’ Outdoor Annual Hunting Regulations also issued a statement of guidance to help hunters make good choices when using airguns and arrow guns. Here is a portion of that statement from their website:
“Although big game animals have been harvested with air guns at distances greater than 150 yards, the effective range is recommended to be 75 yards or closer. Beyond 75 yards, the ability of some models of air guns or arrow guns to be lethal becomes diminished, so it is critical for hunters to know the limitation of the model of air gun being used and practice with the equipment just like with any sporting arm.
Shot placement into vital organs (heart, lungs) is also critical in order to minimize wounding loss since cause of death from air guns and arrow guns would be more similar to archery or historic muzzleloader equipment rather than that of a centerfire rifle. Similar to archery hunting, hunters taking animals with an air gun or arrow gun are encouraged to wait an hour before going to retrieve the deer or other game animals, allowing sufficient time for the animal to expire. Above all, hunters should strive to take ethical shots which will greatly reduce chances of wounding loss.”
As an avid airgunner, I recommend hunters consider airguns as effective as say a muzzleloader/black powder weapon. Big bore guns project a lead slug through the air in much the same way a “smoke pole” does. With the modern advancements of airguns, they are now more than ever accurate and lethal weapons in the hands of a good shooter. The capabilities on what an airgun can do in the spectrum of accuracy and distance is amazing. Much like I have written about bowhunting, one of the reasons I hunt with an airgun is because of the challenge of having to get closer and make better shot placements than I alternately could do with a traditional centerfire rifle, which sometimes allows for a margin of error.
As with any weapon, it is vitally important to know your weapon’s strengths and limitations. Much like a black powder weapon, an air rifle’s slug travels slow but hits like a sledgehammer. The sheer fact that airgun hunters like Rick Ward “The Urban Airgunner” and Eric Henderson from Adventures Afield, among many other avid hunters, have made so many ethical harvests of both predators and big game is a testament that this is a more than capable weapon for hunting our native game species. From wild hog and African game like the oryx or addax to common Texas exotics like the axis deer and red stag, airguns have proven effective in the field for many years already. The fact that Texans can now use them to hunt some of the most sought after game species during the respective hunting seasons for them is another advancement to our hunting heritage and tradition that just can’t be found anywhere else on earth.
Story by Dustin Vaughn Warncke