Attention Texas squirrel hunters: Thanks to a recent vote from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, you will soon be allowed to hunt squirrels with air-powered weapons. The new law, which was a part of the “2014-2015 Statewide Hunting Proclamation” discussed at a TPWD meeting on March 27, laid the groundwork for more open-ended hunting laws in numerous ways, including the adoption of air rifles for squirrel hunting use.
“The proposed amendment would also make air guns meeting certain specifications lawful for the take of squirrel,” the Hunting Proclamation read. “The department has determined that modern air rifles have achieved ballistic performance characteristics that approximate those of rimfire ammunition at close ranges and are capable of humanely killing squirrels at such distances.”
In other words, the Parks and Wildlife Commission has ruled that air guns are now powerful enough to serve as a humane and fair game method for hunting and killing squirrels. Not just any air gun will fit the bill though. As the proclamation explains, only rifles “meeting certain specifications” will be protected under the new amendment, meaning that hunters will want to check the wording of the law (and check their own weapons) before assuming that their air guns are ripe for squirrel shooting.
Specifically, air rifles used to hunt squirrels going forward will need to shoot at least a .177 caliber pellet (if not larger) and will also need to project that pellet at a speed of 600 feet per second. Older air guns weren’t typically capable of reaching such specifications, but most newer models are.
The question for some longtime hunters will be: Why anyone would even want to hunt with a less powerful weapon? However, numerous members of the hunting population in Texas have shown excitement and anticipation for the new air rifle allowance, with their reasoning running a range of explanations. From those who think that air rifles in hunting will help to grandfather young shooters into the hunting experience to others who believe that the gentler “pop” of an airsoft gun will help hunters preserve their hearing, there are many perceived benefits to allowing air guns in squirrel hunting.
Furthermore, modern air guns are as powerful as certain types of rifles (specifically the .22 guns often used for squirrel and other varmint hunting) and can present a certain challenge and learning curve of their own. Some hunters looking to add a bit of spice and extra difficulty to their squirrel hunts will enjoy having a wider range of firearm options to choose from.
The allowance of air guns for squirrel hunting isn’t the only change the Texas residents will notice next season as a result of the 2014-2015 Statewide Hunting Proclamation. On the contrary, the document included various other provisions that the Parks and Wildlife Commission approved, including expanded mule deer hunting seasons throughout the state and the implementation of an archery-only open season.