Hunting with air rifles is one of the most preferred ways to hunt small game. Small game hunting is a great past time and air guns provide an inexpensive and challenging method for taking small game. Throughout this guide we’ll outline the key factors you need to consider when preparing for a successful hunting session

Accuracy and Energy

Firstly, it’s important to realize that hunting with an air gun is about accuracy and energy on target and not velocity.  small-game-hunting

Most typical small game such as rabbits and squirrels only require 7 to 8 foot pounds of energy for a clean one shot kill. This means you only require an air rifle that carries a 700 fps velocity with 8 grain pellets and you should be able to get the job done, if the shot is right on target.

Accuracy is going to play a key role especially if you are looking for a way to hunt humanely. A few inches off and you risk the chances of maiming the animal which results in a wounded animal and lost game.

What caliber is the best for hunting?

While every caliber should be effective for hunting, certain calibers outperform others.

1.77 Caliber

The .177 is a the smallest and fastest pellet gun caliber, and due to its size and speed it has the downside of going right through the animal’s body without touching any vital organs. The .177 caliber is an excellent choice if you are planning on hunting small game and using accuracy as your main advantage point. Other than that, although capable the .177 is not the most ideal caliber for hunting.

When looking at a .177 caliber you want your velocity to be at least 800 FPS.

.20 and .22 caliber

The .20 and .22 calibers are the best overall calibers for hunting. As mentioned earlier the .20 and .22 calibers are capable of generating the ideal amount of power since they deliver the greatest amount of accuracy and energy.
When looking at a .22 caliber you want your velocity to be at least 600 FPS.

Headshotsrobin-scoped

The most effective shot is a head shot. This is the humane way to kill and ensure instant death. If however you miss the shot or hit the animal elsewhere, you risk losing the animal. Although the animal will be injured, it can take days to weeks for it to die whereas a head shot results in instantaneous death.

What can I hunt?

Air rifles can be capable enough to hunt a variety of different animals including pests, small game, varmints, and predators.

Small game

Air rifles are ideal for small game hunting. The two most popular small game animals to hunt are the cottontail rabbit and the gray squirrel.small-game-hunting-squirrel

Cottontail rabbits are fairly easy to take with a heart or head shot. They are found wherever there is a food supply and usually eat farm crops and vegetation. You can even ask farmers to let you hunt on their grounds with an airgun because they tend to not be very fond of rabbits.

On the other hand, gray squirrels can be a trickier target. Gray squirrels have the ability to take a body shot and still be able to run long distances to escape. This makes accuracy an even more crucial element of the hunting process.

Pestscrows-pest-hunting

You can also hunt pests, but since pests can have many different definitions it’s difficult to decide which animal classifies as one. When hunting pests or small game you will have to follow local, state, and national laws so it’s best to check up on these before deciding what specific animal you plan on hunting.

Generally when hunting pests is concerned we’re usually talking about animals such as sparrows, mice, crows, pigeons, rats, and mice.

Predators and Varmints
Row of bobcat quarry

Row of bobcat quarry

Some may find it hard to believe but you can hunt predators such as coyotes and racoons with air guns.

I personally prefer to use larger calibers such as the .308 and .357 even though there are only a limited models of rifles available in these calibers.

Smaller caliber and lower power guns are suitable if you are hunting in a developed area and need to be quiet as possible. Guns like the AirArms s510, and the FX Royale are small caliber rifles that can hunt large game such as coyotes from a 50 yard distance.

You can use tools such as electronic callers to draw in game. If you’re going to be hunting at night it’s a good idea to make use of scope mounted lamps, red-dot sights, and night vision gear.

Know your effective range

gamo-field-targets

Gamo Field Targets

To know your effective range, use a couple gamo knockdown field targets and set them up in an open field. Next, measure 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 yard distances.

Once, you’ve set up your knock down targets; shoot 10 yards for the kill zone.  If you hunt free hand then shoot free hand, if you hunt with a rest then by all means use a rest.

The point of this practice is to recreate a typical hunting session. Simply repeat this test at the various distances until you cannot hit 5 out of 5 shots.  At that point, your previous position is your maximum effective range

Concluding Thoughts

Hunting with air rifles can be a cumbersome task and requires you to continuously work on choosing the right guns, and improving your techniques and gear. As an air gun hunter, it’s your sole duty to make sure every kill is humane and that you act with sportsmanship.

Before you shoot, you need to assess whether or not the animal qualifies for an air rifle quarry. For example, hares may qualify as a pest but they are too big to be able to get a humane kill with your common air rifle.

As an air rifle hunter it’s important to respect the environment, yourself, and the sport.