With the end of summer closing fast, many airgunners’ thoughts begin to turn to hunting, visions of small game and predators dancing in their heads. Fortunately two states have passed new regulations for the upcoming season that vastly expand airgun hunting opportunities.
In March, the state of Alabama approved airgun calibers of .30 caliber and greater for predators as large as coyotes, hogs and whitetail deer. With a deer season that extends through the end of January, Alabama is poised to become a popular winter destination for airgun hunters.
Tony Martins, an airgun enthusiast and writer based in Lakeside, Arizona, was instrumental in pushing through perhaps the most exciting airgun news for hunters. In an article he wrote for North American Hunter magazine, “Recognizing industry developments and growing interest among hunters, the (AZ Game & Fish) Commissioners voted 5-0 to adopt new regulations that allow eight big game species, as well as predators and furbearers, to be hunted with pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles.”
“The process took more than a year and a half, and included demonstrations and hands-on range sessions where a wide variety of air rifles were tested. Factors like accuracy as well as projectile type, kinetic energy and penetration were evaluated. At the conclusion of the study period, the following recommendations were approved by the Commission:
- Allow the take of big game animals including pronghorn, deer (mule deer and Coues whitetail), black bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep (desert and Rocky Mountain) and javelina, but excluding bison and elk, with “big-bore” PCP air rifles .35 caliber and larger, during general (rifle) seasons.
- Allow the take of predators, including coyotes, foxes and skunks and fur-bearing animals, including bobcats, raccoons, weasels, badgers and ringtail cats withPCP air rifles .22 caliber and larger, during general (rifle) seasons.
- Small game (rabbits and squirrels), other animals including coati and Gunnison’s prairie dogs, and birds including Eurasian collared-doves, crows and upland birds (quail, grouse, partridge and pheasant) will continue to be legal for harvest during general seasons with a variety of pneumatic weapons includingPCP’s, the popular break-barrels powered by springs or gas pistons, and the venerable variable pump and CO2 charged air rifles.”
Martins went on to quote AZG&F Commissioner Kurt Davis; “anything we can do to bring new or return former hunters to the sport will have long term benefits to hunting, shooting sports and wildlife management in Arizona. Airgun technology today represents one of those opportunities.”
Airgun hunting, like bowhunting, “is a close range precision shooting endeavor. With performance comparable to popular handgun cartridges and an effective range limit of only about 50 yards on big game animals with most air rifles, this hunting discipline has been practiced heretofore by a comparatively small fellowship of extremely dedicated enthusiasts, who understand and embrace the limitations,” stated Davis.
Martins’ article included data considered by the Arizona commission in determining the capabilities of airguns, “For example, technical data shows that kinetic energy produced at the muzzle by the typical .22 caliber PCP rifle easily exceeds the minimum standard of 12 foot-pounds of energy (fpe) established by the new Airgun Sporting Association for taking predators like coyotes cleanly, thus AZ allowed the .22’s. Likewise, studies show that the typical traditional pellet fired by most .25 caliber PCP’s weighs less than 28 grains and collapses on impact, failing to penetrate materials typically used for wooden fencing, exterior home walls and automobile body panels. Conversely, a number of .30 caliber PCP’s can shoot slug-type solid projectiles greater than 100 grains that can penetrate through each of the materials noted above. Thus, .25 caliber PCP’s were deemed suitable for “backyard” use while .30 caliber and larger PCP’s will be treated like powder burning firearms for safety purposes under the new AZ regulations.”
The new AZ regulations take effect July 1st, 2013, and can be reviewed online.
To see what’s legal in your state, click here for the Approved Species for Airgun Hunting chart prepared by Crosman / Benjamin.
Click here and turn to page 12 for Tony Martins’ full article in North American Hunter magazine.