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Airguns, where to hunt?

Many who are new to the sport of Airguns may eventually want to get started in hunting with them. Getting started in hunting may be discouraging with the thought of having to get a hunting license and simply finding a place to legally hunt. I will use the State of California as an example as this is where I have the majority of my hunting experience. Today with the larger selection of Airguns it’s possible to hunt a wider variety of animals. As a new hunter it’s very important to take a Hunter Safety Course that goes over the basic laws, safety and ethics of hunting. Several ways of going about getting a Hunter Safety, but the easiest way would be to take part of it online followed by a 4 hour follow up class. After both the online and follow up class is successfully completed we are able to buy our license that is good for a year before having to renew it. This license is to be carried with us at all times during any type of hunting situation and is strongly enforced by both the Game Warden and local law enforcement.


After you have gotten your hunting license now what? Well, what are you interested in hunting is a first step. California has a good amount of small game that we are legally able to take with an Airgun. Subsection 311(f) identifies small game Airgun hunting legal in California. It allows any caliber of pellet to be used for hunting small game, with the exception that one must use a caliber of at least 0.177 when hunting wild turkey. If turkey hunting is your goal, make sure the air gun you use is 0.177 caliber at a minimum. Those who want to go hunting with Airguns are allowed to take non-game species, such as pigeons, starlings, coyote, ground squirrels, and jackrabbits(All Year). Those interested in California small game or non-game hunting should check for additional regulations regarding allowed hunting times and locations, as the rules varies by species hunted.


After you have decided what your able to hunt you obviously need to find an area to legally hunt. Some of us that have been doing this for years have whats called a “Permission” private land that the owner has given us permission to hunt on. These are not always easy to get but with work can be quite rewarding for both the hunter and landowner. The next option is hunting on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The State of California hunting regulations must be followed on Federal Lands. All hunting in California is regulated by the California Department of Fish and Game. You must have a valid hunting license. It is your responsibility to know all laws and regulations related to the use of firearms in California. Are there areas on public lands which are closed to legal hunting? Yes. You may not hunt near BLM campgrounds or within Off-Highway Vehicle areas. Hunting maps are available from the California Fish and Game and from sporting goods stores and gun shops. Where can I get topographic maps? Topographic maps are for sale from engineering firms and sporting goods stores. You can also order on-line from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Does BLM have other maps for sale? Yes. The BLM maps, known as “Access Guides” are for sale in the California District office and they sell for $4.00 each, show public and private land ownership, and are at a scale of one-half inch to the mile. Can I drive anywhere I care to on public lands when I am hunting? No. Vehicles are restricted to designated routes of travel as posted and as shown on BLM maps. Vehicles are prohibited in all wilderness areas. Cross-country travel is permitted only in the off-highway vehicle areas. Target Shooting is allowed on public lands, unless posted “No Shooting”. County shooting ordinances and codes must be followed on Federal Lands. In addition, you must provide your own targets and remove your debris and targets when you leave. Several phone “apps” can be bought online and in many cases are the easiest to use as they are essentially Google Map overlays.

  • When in doubt about an area check with local sheriff or land management agencies before using an area for shooting. Do not shoot on private land without the owner’s written permission.
  • Find a safe backdrop to shoot into. Shots fired across open desert can travel up to two miles or more in distance.
  • Shoot only retrievable, freestanding targets. It is illegal to shoot trees, bottles, or other objects. Take all used targets with you.
  • Do not shoot within 150 yards of any man-made object, camp, domestic livestock, or occupied dwelling.
  • Play safe and use caution. Shooting has a great risk for injuring people at great distances.
  • Many of these areas are closed to target shooting during fire season excluding hunting.

With so many Airguns available now it’s sometimes difficult to choose a gun that’s right for the situation. Years ago we really only had three or four calibers to choose from such as .177,.20,.22 and .25 that was considered big. Today we have many types of piston guns and powerful PCP’s that now include Big Bore calibers up to .45 and .50. The PCP guns have really taken off and are available to just about anyone, even on a budget.

Airgun pellet selection

If we are hunting small game animals it narrows the field of whats needed to ethically kill but a few things need to be understood. When hunting with Airguns we are dealing with projectiles that are for the most part subsonic and lose fpe (Foot Pounds of Energy) very quickly. When hunting with an Airgun such as a .177 we are dealing with primarily a short range caliber as this fpe is lost very quickly the further the pellet travels from the muzzle. Most all Airguns give best accuracy at subsonic speeds so lets just set the examples given to 900 fps “feet per second” A smaller caliber can sometimes provide good accuracy at longer range but may not hold its energy well enough out past 60 yards to make an ethical kill. Many factors can effect fpe in any given caliber such as weight, speed etc, the goal is to find a pellet that shoots most accurately out of your gun. I use a .30 PCP rifle that produces 85 fpe at the muzzle and its pellet can hold that energy very well out past 100 yards. I choose this caliber due to the wide range of species I can use it for as well as being better suited to hold true in the wind at longer ranges than a smaller caliber. Again, we have larger “slug” shooting guns but these are true Big Bores and are beyond necessity for small game application besides possibly Coyote’s. The best thing a new hunter can do is to practice, getting familiar with how the gun shoots along with learning holdover and hold-under techniques at various ranges. Targets set at various ranges are always a good way of learning where to aim in different situations and familiarity with judging distances. Another great way of practice is using plastic spoons set up at various distances, this is a very cheap way to improve marksmanship and is very similar in size to a small animals kill-zone.


When we are familiar with how our gun is working it may be time to put together a “kit” that we will venture to the field with. This kit may change between the animals we are hunting, seasons and the length of time we are hunting for. This is just a basic list of items I carry and it may lengthen depending on the hunt.

john with backpack airgun hunting

  • Backpack
  • Food, snacks, water etc,
  • Tools for doing simple repairs or adjustments in the field
  • Rangefinder
  • Binoculars
  • Extra pellets, magazines
  • Shooting sticks or Bi-pod if desired
  • Map of area being hunted
  • Hunting License
  • Knife
  • Extra Air (Buddy Bottle) if applicable

(Note) Always good to let someone know where you are and to dress accordingly with changing weather conditions.


Hunting with an Airgun can be a very rewarding experience and offers the hunter a challenge that sometimes cannot be found with a traditional firearm. One of the keys to being a successful Airgun hunter is shot placement and the ability to get closer to the animals we are hunting. Learning to get closer to the animals we are hunting takes skill, patience and the willingness to learn from mistakes.

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WAR Hunting Jackrabbits

Sometime has gone by since this hunting trip had taken place but has always been one of my most memorable Airgunning trips. I had acquired a cabin in the high desert for a week so planned to spend some of it with a good long time friend of mine. Matt and I have been hunting buddies in the powder burning world so I was excited to finally get him out to try for some Jackrabbits with Airguns. Matt had never really shot a PCP before, yet is a very accomplished big game hunter. He is used to long hunts for game such as Elk, Bear, Deer and a variety of exotic animal hunts. This morning we got out to the location early with the .22 Benjamin Marauder and the Wicked Air Rifles FLEX .30 prototype that I had acquired for about a week. I went over a few things with Matt such as how to load the magazines and how to fill the gun, zero range etc,

I too brought a buddy bottle with us to fill with and I think Matt was very impressed with the simplicity of being able to fill the guns in the field. These small bottles have made my hunting adventures much more pleasurable and make venturing into the desert much more long-lasting. This particular bottle is a carbon fiber 90CI 4500 psi that I picked up from Mac1 Airguns that is perfect being its lightweight and fits into a backpack fairly easily.

We set out and almost immediately saw quit a few Jackrabbits, that .30 was making some long shots out past 150 yards. We both ended up spotting a Jackrabbit at around 90 yards and both moved in on it. The Jack started running and we both ended up connecting hits at the same time,very heart pumping and exciting. Not sure who’s shot took it down so we shared some pics with both rifles.

For me it was just about being out hunting with my life long friend and showing him what Airguns are capable of in hunting. This was such a memorable day and can only say it was one of my favorite hunts in a long time. After Matt bagging his first Jackrabbit with my Marauder I think he may have gotten the Airgun bug, I hope. After spending a little more time shooting and having lunch Matt was on his way and left with a great memory of his first Airgun hunt. I hope that Matt will join me again very soon and possibly even invest in something Air powered for some future hunts.


Today was nearing my last day of the trip so I got up super early around 5:15 am and drove several miles down the mountain and into the Desert Jungle. The morning was cool and had almost a beach breeze going on,very beautiful sunrise it was.

The area I was hiking into was a place I had found days before, it was one of very few places that offered a good field of view and had a very good overlook to hunt from.

The area I was looking down on was fairly flat with short bushes and some larger Joshua trees near the outer area. I used a laser link to find 200 yards where I sat and waited for a Jackrabbit to get into that range, really was hoping to make a long range kill today. By this time the sun was bringing them out from cover and soon the amber ears everywhere in the distance. The first Jackrabbit I encountered into my range was moving along a trail, stopping frequently, usually behind something. Hunting Jackrabbits gets frustrating because they move directions so quickly and are sometimes impossible to see, especially at 200 yards.

I sat for over an hour waiting until one finally stopped and sat coincidentally right under the Joshua Tree that marked 200 yards. Very slowly I aimed right at the top of his head at 4 1/2 mill-dot holdover and slightly to the right for the breeze over my right shoulder. I fired and could see the pellet arch down and right into his head, couldn’t hear any hit. The Jackrabbit flopped down, kicked a few times and was out like a light.

I cant tell you how happy I was, so amazing what these modern PCPs are capable of. Being that I have been using Airguns for over 30 years to hunt with I would have never imagined how far they have come in just the past several years. Days like this make me grateful to be in the “Golden Age Of Airgunning”


Day three I had arrived just before the sun came up and decided to hike out to another area that I know to be busy with Jackrabbits. Both my packs were full as I wasn’t sure how long I would be out, brought my buddy bottle, water, snacks and plenty of JSBs. The area was very sandy with rolling hills that made for good spots to hunt them from a distance. I knew the gun would shoot 100+yards easy, problem was the wind was gusting over 35 mph. My first kill was sitting at 50 yards downhill from me between two Joshua trees. The entry was right below his neck and he fell over like a sack of potato’s.

I was very pleased with my first kill of the day, the Jackrabbit was quite large too at near “11 lbs.” Kept moving towards the South where I planned to explore a different area and as I was walking could see a few juveniles running about. By this time it was getting warmer with still plenty of wind, although wind makes stalking much easier. I even shot at a few ground squirrels that were climbing through some of the fallen Joshua Trees. The desert was very beautiful and made me grateful for such a wonderful place to visit and hunt. After shooting through my magazine I decided to stop for a break and refill the gun in a big open field.

As I sat and had a smoke I could see a Jackrabbits ears moving along the grass in the next field over. “Excitedly” I grabbed the gun and slowly headed over trying to stay low to the ground as not to spook it. I was able to get within 60 yards where I felt comfortable to make the shot, it stood up on it’s hind legs and THWAPP,right trough his leg and into his chest.

At this point I was getting tired and started my loop back to where I had parked my tuck, about 4 miles away. While hiking a mile into it I came to a large field surrounded by Joshua trees with a few scattered knee high bushes in the middle, great prime spot to sit. I knew that several Jackrabbits may be hiding in this area as it was looking almost to good to pass up.

After several minutes, sure enough I spotted one and was able to use the bipod to take aim at 70 yards. I took a heart/lung shot that allowed the Jackrabbit to run for several feet before collapsing.

Over the past week I have spent some much needed time in the high desert, a place full of great hunting opportunities. I had the opportunity to be the first to shoot a great American Made gun as well as the shared memories with a great friend. Airgunning is a passion and can only hope that through some writing that I may share with others as I have been so freely given. Keep on shooting and remember, “The best gun is the one your shooting”