Sports
Why hunt with an air rifle?
By Luke Clayton
Dec 24, 2023
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Have you ever stopped and pondered the question, "Why do I or why might I enjoy shooting and hunting with rifles powered by compressed air?" From a practical standpoint, there are many pros and cons to hunting with air, just as there is with any “tool” used for hunting.

In Texas both small and large game with the exception
of eastern turkey may now be hunted with PCP air guns.
So why has shooting and hunting with modern PCP air
rifles become increasing popular the past few years? I truly believe that many veteran hunters welcome a new
challenge and air gun hunting for big game certainly fills
the bill in that regard. Airguns are now on the market that have more than enough power to harvest the largest whitetail deer or wild hog but many older hunters still equate an airgun to the old “pump up” rifles they shot as kids.

I began, as did many hunters of my generation, hunting squirrels and rabbit with an iron sighted pellet rifle and then graduated to a single shot .22 rimfire. I’m not sure back in the sixties or seventies if there was a regulation for hunting squirrel with air rifles but a few years ago, air guns were make legal for hunting squirrel.

As a teenager, I was given a trusty 30/30 for hunting deer. I discovered bow hunting in my mid-twenties which is form of hunting that I still dearly love.

Muzzleloaders came next when I was in my thirties. Learning about muzzleloaders was fascinating to me and I thoroughly loved developing the perfect loads and shooting my smoke poles. I hunted with them for several years and still, while on story assignment occasionally pack one of my front-stuffing rifles to the woods.

So, why did hunting with a muzzleloader, a style of rifle that has greatly been improved upon since the days of
Daniel Boone, appeal to me? When I began shooting muzzleloaders 35 years ago, I could buy a very economical and reliable center-fire rifle for less money.

A center-fire rifle was much more fool proof, a rifle where
I simply slid a round into the chamber, pulled the trigger and didn’t have to worry about keeping my powder dry or if my round ball or conical bullet properly seated. When I squeezed the trigger on my center fire, it always went BANG!

So why did I and many other hunters venture away from our roots shooting center fires and become bow hunters or muzzleloader shooters? I’ll tell you exactly why; it was the challenge of learning something entirely new! I won’t mislead you; if that old lever action 30/30 would have been my only option, I would have been hunting with it today. But it wasn’t my only choice. We hunters have many options and I cannot understand why more of us haven’t broken out of tradition and tried new and challenging ways to spend our time afield.

The same analogy I’ve used for bows and muzzleloaders
most definitely applies to air rifles. Yet, about 11 years ago, I became totally enamored with learning all about
today’s PCP air rifles. This was something entirely new to me. Yes, I’d shot “pump up” air rifles as a kid and young adult. I loved shooting them but never considered them as being reliable game getters under the wide variety of conditions we encounter when hunting.

Enter the PCP air guns.  

I was lucky to have some good teachers that made my learning curve much quicker. You might say I took to shooting my PCP rifles like a mallard takes to water! I love shooting but I shoot to hunt, if that makes any sense. Other than the sheer joy of punching tight groups into paper targets, I am ultimately preparing for the next hunt when shooting at the range. It’s important to me to know exactly where to set my sights and where my bullet will be at varying distances when the moment of truth comes and it’s time to squeeze the trigger on my air rifle.

Luke with a wild boar he took with his Seneca 50 caliber Dragon Claw air rifle in Oklahoma a while back. (photo by Larry Weishuhn)

I’ve used my Air Venturi .25 caliber Avenger PCP air rifle
to cleanly harvest just as many squirrels and rabbits as I
could have taken with my scoped .22. The Avenger is
just as accurate as my best .22 rimfire and dispatches
small game with authority.

In the past decade many states have allowed the use of
air rifle for both large and small game hunting. I’ve seen
what the power of a well designed air rifle can do. A few years ago I watched a good friend take a rogue 850-pound Zebu bull with a big-bore air rifle.

In my early seventies, I am obviously from the “old school” when it comes to shooting and hunting. Before
my education in modern day PCP air rifles, I too would
have been skeptical if someone told me there “air gun”
would cleanly kill an 850-pound animal. But, as the old
adage goes, “I’ve seen the light”!

I truly believe if more and more officials that are instrumental in making the game laws in the various states were subjected to the knowledge I’ve gleaned in the past half decade, they would readily promote the legislation allowing the use of using air rifles for hunting.

If you are interested in learning more about shooting
and hunting with PCP air rifles, visit
www.pyramydair.com. Here you can learn a great deal
about the different rifles and equipment.

Luke and Larry Weishuhn’s book, “Campfire Talk” is
now available through
www.catfishradio.org