Sports
Big-bore air rifles for hunting deer? Very possibly!
By Luke Clayton
Nov 10, 2017
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A few years ago in Waco at an outdoor show, I was first exposed to the power of modern day air rifles. AIrforce Airguns had a booth set up and were allowing visitors to test fire their Condor, a PCP style small bore air rifle that is charged to 3,000 psi. via an air tank. There, I met John McCaslin with Airforce Airguns and after a few shots with the Condor, I was thoroughly convinced that their rifle packed plenty of ‘uumph’ to cleanly harvest rabbits and squirrels and even predators such as coyotes.

The problem was that in Texas at that time, there was no season for hunting squirrels. The truth is that I, like many older Texas hunters, had been killing squirrel with the pump up pellet guns since we were kids. It’s just what my generation did and most of us had no idea that it was not legal; back in those days, it might have been. Regardless, every country boy I knew that had a “pump up” air rifle used it for squirrels. 

Then a few years ago, TPWD made it legal to harvest squirrel with air rifles. While doing research (testing) in preparation for allowing air rifles on a single game animal, the eyes of many people that make the laws that govern the hunting of wildlife in Texas were opened.

Also a few years ago, Airforce Airguns introduced it’s “Texan”, a .45 caliber big bore air rifle that when shooting a 350 grain lead bullet and charged with air to a pressure of 3,000 psi., developed 500 foot pounds of energy which is in my opinion, enough to harvest any game animal in North America. Before the Texan, big bore airguns were largely custom made rifles with pretty steep price tags.  The Texan was an instant success and America now had an air rifle powered by air with enough power to cleanly harvest big game that was affordable and available to the general public. Since the Texan came out, many other companies have started producing their version of big bores.

I and about nine other people had the opportunity to test the Texan before production began and it was quickly learned that these rifles packed enough punch to cleanly harvest big game. I personally have killed upwards of 20 wild hogs and several exotics with mine. Regular readers might remember me writing about  using the Texan to harvest a couple of Zebu bulls that had turned into renegades and were chasing hunters up trees on a friends' ranch. With the big 350 grain bullets I shoot from Hunters Supply, the rifles humanely dispatched both these big animals which were later turned into tasty steaks and hamburger!

The changing of game laws is a process in Texas and rightly so. With the facts established that air rifles are now available that when loaded with big bullets cleanly kill game, it was time to let the state officials that make the game laws aware.

Crosman Arms first petitioned Texas Parks and Wildlife and requested the department take a close look at modern day big bore air rifles. They brought their big bore rifles down to the Kerr Wildlife Management area and did some test shooting with TPWD officials. This test shoot was an ice breaker that opened the door to the next stage of testing that would, in my opinion, help seal the deal.

Eric Henderson with Adventures Afield, a Youtube based outdoor adventure series, contacted Alan Cain, Whitetail deer program leader for TPWD and offered to bring the big guns out, the Airforce Airguns Texans,  for a bit of hunting research. Cain set up the “test hunt” on a ranch he was working with and history was made. I have had the opportunity to visit with Cain extensively after the hunt for my outdoor radio shows and he was obviously impressed with the power of the Texan.

“We harvested spike bucks on this controlled and made shots out to 120 yards which shot completely through the deer, harvesting them as cleanly as any center fire rifle bullet would do,” he recalled.

Cain later spoke at the TPWD Commissioners meeting at Lufkin and presented his findings to the commissioners. There were a few legal issues raised but it appeared all the commissioners were convinced with the fact that big bore air rifles pack plenty of punch to harvest deer-sized game.

Alan Cain, whitetail deer program leader for TPWD with a spike buck he harvest on a research hunt with an Airforce Airguns big bore air rifle. (photo courtesy Eric Henderson with Adventures Afield)

It will be important for all interested in the use of big bore air rifles on deer to stay tuned in to the proceedings beginning in January. Then, the public will have the opportunity to voice their opinion at TWPD meetings.  I, for one, will be there and give my account of my big bore rifle cleanly killing two big mean Zebu bulls as well as a host of tough hogs and other exotics.
I’m convinced that big bore air rifles will be allowed for use on big game in Texas, I just hope it’s as soon as next year!

Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com.