The decision date is near, with Texas Parks and Wildlife set to decide on the use of air rifles and bows for hunting season.
It's legal in Texas to hunt non-game species with an air gun, like feral hogs and exotic invasive species. But up until now, the use of air-powered guns has only been allowed for one officially recognized game animal: squirrels. With a decision to come on Thursday, August 23, hunting season in Texas could look a lot different come November.
The use of air rifles and bows (which TPWD has dubbed "arrow guns" to help include the different types of air bows) has been approved in several states, and by all accounts Texas seems poised to be next. In Wednesday's meeting Clayton Wolf (Wildlife Division Director) filled the committee in on the specifics of the proposal.
Air guns and arrow guns were proposed for use on deer, game birds (including turkey), alligators, and fur bearers.
The biggest questions, and the ones Wolf and his team tried to address, involved the ethicality and humanness of air guns on game animals. In other words, could an air-powered gun have a strong enough effect to kill, and not merely wound, a large animal?
There are a couple sections of the proposal, one being big game (deer and the like, plus alligators and turkeys) and the other being fur bearers (foxes, beavers, nutria, etc). The minimum requirements would vary slightly for each, but there are a couple of overlaps that we'll focus on.
Only pre-charged pneumatic would be allowed, meaning the hand-pumped versions (think Red Ryder BB guns) would be out of the question. Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) guns have helped bring air rifles into the 21st Century, using tanks and hose connections to properly, and sufficiently, fill the guns with air pressure.
In addition, the proposal suggests only big bore air guns be allowed (.30 caliber or larger) and they must have the ability to fire a projectile with a minimum weight of 150 grains and at least 800 feet per second muzzle velocity for big game.
The other significant change would add the application of official Hunter Education requirements for air guns. Wolf mentioned it's important that hunters "understand the equipment they're using, the limitations of their equipment," and in essence, know the best ways to reduce wounding loss.
Wolf also said that TPWD has some online guidance ready to go for folks that are contemplating using or buying an air rifle or aero gun for hunting, and hopes to be able to flip that switch quickly should the committee decide to allow air guns as soon as this season.
Air guns as hunting weapons has been subjected to public comment since it became a topic of consideration. Specifically in the big game area, Wolf said that they received comments from "118 individuals that agree, 18 that disagree, and 11 comments from individuals who disagree with specific parts of the proposal."
The Department was also contacted by Crosman Corporation, and Wolf was expecting a recommendation letter from them which they planned to get to the commission by the date of decision.
We'll await to see whether the proposal is passed, and fill you in on all the info once it's available.
Do you think air guns should be allowed for Texas big game hunting?