Hunting Regulation for Airguns
Where Can You Hunt With Your Airguns?
So the decision has been made to obtain an air rifle and hit the field in pursuit of game, the next question will typically be what the legalities are? The regulations relating to airguns vary from state to state, and it depends on whether pest control on private property or hunting of small game is the objective.
State laws change every season, and it is the hunter’s obligation to be current on those pertaining to the jurisdictions under which they hunt. Almost every jurisdiction requires that the hunter has a hunting license, even for pest control. A detailed list outlining the current regs for every state is outside the scope of this chapter; however we will take a look at the regulations in several of the states in which the author hunts most frequently;. These include Arizona, California, Nevada, Indiana, Kentucky, and Texas which will give an idea of the regulatory landscape.
Arizona: Is one of the states that clearly spells out the use of airguns as a valid hunting tool, and allows pneumatic airguns to be used for taking of non-game animals. They even provide for a special limited weapons seasons for tree squirrels, rabbits, and other game. Like most of the west, there is a lot of public land to hunt.
California: Allows the use of gas powered guns for the taking of small game animals, including rabbit, squirrel, quail, and turkey. It is stipulated that when hunting turkey the caliber of the airgun must be .20 caliber or larger. Non game species such as sparrows, pigeons, starlings, ground squirrels, coyote and jackrabbit may also be taken with airguns. California is my favorite airgunning state, because in addition to the intelligent regulation pertaining to airguns, there are literally thousands upon thousands of acres of public land to hunt.
Michigan: Game, including deer, may be taken by firearm, bow and arrow or slingshot and in some instances by crossbow. By state law definition, a “firearm means a weapon from which a dangerous projectile may be propelled by an explosive, or by gas or air. Firearm does not include a smooth bore rifle or handgun designed and manufactured exclusively for propelling by a spring, or by gas or air, BB's not exceeding .177 caliber.Thus, all air rifles, except smooth bores designed and manufactured exclusively for propelling by a spring, or by gas or air, BB's not exceeding .177 caliber, could potentially be used to hunt.
Nevada: is one of the jurisdictions that do not specifically address airguns, but states that unlike large game, small game may be taken with handguns and rifles without stating the power source. Nothing is contained in the regulations regarding the method of take for non-game animals. There is no closed season on those species of wild animals or wild birds classified as unprotected. Coyote jackrabbit, skunk and weasels, and all species of mammals which are not classified as game, fur-bearing, protected, threatened or endangered animals. These include marmots, chipmunks, English house sparrows, starlings, porcupines, skunks, rats, moles, voles, pocket gophers.
Indiana: The regulations don’t call out airguns specifically. However, they do state that gray and fox squirrels may be taken with any equipment and ammunition during squirrel hunting season. The regulations are the same as when hunting with a firearm, you must have a hunting license, meet fluorescent orange clothing requirements while hunting squirrels when the season overlaps deer season, follow the same limits and seasons as firearm. It is legal to hunt squirrels from a boat that is not under power derived from a motor, which is an interesting way to hunt. I gave it a try after reading the hunting experiences of Randy Mitchell down in Kentucky. Shooting into or disturbing a drey or squirrel dens is illegal at all times. This is illegal in almost every jurisdiction and it is really poor form to boot. It is illegal to hunt or possess flying squirrels, which are a protected species in Indiana. Pest birds such as English sparrows, starlings and feral pigeons (except homing pigeons) may be killed at any time and in any number. Brown headed cowbirds, common grackles, red-winged blackbirds, rusty blackbirds, Brewer’s blackbirds and crows may be controlled when they are damaging trees or crops, and hunting under a depredation permit is discussed later.
Kentucky: Allows the use of air guns for the taking of small game animals, including rabbit, squirrel, and non game species such as sparrows, pigeons, starlings, ground squirrels, coyote may also be taken with airguns. In 2004, the regulations were reinterpreted to allow the use of large bore airguns for taking whitetail, but it was further stipulated that the guns must be converted into muzzle loaders and used during the primitive weapons season.
Texas: Does not allow the taking of any game animal with airguns, but does allow the taking of exotics. Therefore you can take rabbit, ground squirrels, prairie dog, coyote, bobcat, feral hogs, rams, and other non-indigenous species. You cannot take squirrel as they are a game animal in most of the state, though in certain areas they have been delisted and can therefore be taken with air power. Texas is my destination spot for big game airgun hunting.
Missouri: Specifically calls out that; guns powered by spring gas or air are allowed for hunting game, with the exception of turkey. Under the tireless grassroots campaigning of airgun hunter Ken Cox down in the Show me state, deer season in 2008 will be the first in which big bore airguns will be allowed. The regulations state that an air powered gun .40 caliber or larger, charged only from an external high compression air source (hand pump, air tank, or compressor) is permitted.