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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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Coyote Hunting After Dark

by Ron Stephen


Last week a bunch of our regular shooting group met at our favorite permission. We had a great time as usual, and got to start enjoying the comforts of our new Shootin’ Shack.

shootin shack

The first night I slept in the rear bunk, I noticed the window had these odd looking latches that the other windows did not have.
HMmmm,…. I wonder what those things are ? ? ? OH !, Well Check THAT out !,… How Convenient !,… It’s a built in Snipers post.


I got up the following morning, and enjoyed the welcome luxury of being able to make a pot of coffee, and relaxing at the dinette.
As I was sitting there, I wondered if the crank open windows might open far enough, to allow my barrel to stick out while my rifle is sitting on the bipod. Well it was just perfect, (with the help of a few Airgun World magazines) to boost it up a little, SWEET ! hahaha

evol .30
So I’m sitting there sipping my cup of ‘Joe’, waiting for the gang to start showing up, and just enjoying the quiet morning as I gazed down the firing line. Way down at the 100 yard rock, I think I notice a little movement. Should I put my boots on ?,…. Nahh,…The coffee is hot, the outside is cold, the window is open, and the heater is nice in here. The rifle is chambered, and just needs to be cocked. I’ll sit right here and see if the movement comes back. Wait,… yep,… I see something…It’s a big fat Ground Squirrel that is completely oblivious to the fact I had previously zero’d the new American Air Arms .30 EVOL at that exact same rock, and I was in the trailer just waiting for the opportunity. Yep, This is going to be a good story for the guys when they get here in a little while. I take another sip of java, set down my cup, and get into position. I’m thinking to myself, “DANG this is nice to have a shooting bench from INSIDE the trailer”. I’m just LOVING it ! Right about then, Mr. Dirt Rat decides to jump up on top of my rock to take a look around and start his day. Suffice to say,… His day didn’t last very long. I served him up a 44.75gr JSB breakfast, delivered at 925 FPS, straight to the fuse-box. Good way to start of the day for me,…. not so good for Mr. Fuzzy Tail.

100 yard ground squirrel kill evol .30
evol .30 ground squirrel kill

So the gang started showing up and got themselves going on the target range and having a great time. We have lots of skilled shooters and lots of Really Cool “toys” to shoot. They were all very anxious to get to try out the new EVOL test gun.

shootin shack
airgun shooters

I had brought some nice Smoked Bacon and Cajun spiced Sausage from the hog Jeff and I had raised last year, and since this IS a Chicken farm, We get to pick the Eggs still warm from the chickens. It doesn’t get much better than that! Lets put on another pot of coffee while we’re at it.

ron cooking
So the day is going great, We are having a fantastic time throwing all kinds of lead. Every thing from the little QB’s to the various big bores, some slug pushers, and exotic customs, and fancy bullpups, you name it !

airgun shooters
So some of the guys had to hit the road, and Nick and I had decided to stay the night and play with his Thermal stuff. MAN !,… He’s got some SUPER DUPER COOL TOYS to play with. He was using his .308 Slayer, and had loaned me his totally custom .257 Condor, Built by the “.257 Master”, Mr. Doug Noble. OH yeah,… I’m a very lucky guy,… and this is going to be a GREAT Night ! If you ever get a chance to shoot one of Doug’s masterpieces, I suggest you Do NOT pass up that opportunity. I guarantee you will NOT be disappointed. Nick and I set up our benches so that we can collectively cover a 180 degree sweep. We turn some tables on their sides to give us more cover, and to block the cold nights breeze. We set up a propane heater between us and get ourselves all comfortable for a long night of scanning the darkness.
I always enjoy a long night hunt with Nick (because he brings some good munchies to snack on too)

sunset night coyote hunt

So after darkness came, we started seeing all kinds of bunnies and rats running around, and the Coyotes were plentiful howling and yipping it up off in the distance. Some time had passed and we had spotted a quite few. They were way too far out of range, but they would be coming in soon for their nightly feedings of dead chickens. (since this is a chicken farm with 40,000+ chickens, there are several dead chickens per day that get disposed of), and the Coyotes are accustomed to their nightly raids. We had popped a few rabbits to pass the time, (and to have for fresh rabbit stew), and the Coyotes were starting to gather in more closely.

evol .30 night hunt

We started working with the caller and sqweekers and soon were spotting A LOT of Coyotes, (I’m talking about over 25 of them) but they were all staying too far out to get a decent shot. At one point, we spotted SIX of them coming in together, but they would not come in any closer than about 300 yards. Way too far for a night time shot. After a while, Nick went to take a little nap due to not feeling too well, and I stayed out to keep the watch going. I guess about an hour had passed and I had seen several Coyotes within 100 – 150 yards, (which is well within range of Doug’s .257), but they were on the move, and did not present themselves with a decent shot, so I waited. (NOT an easy thing to do !) A little while later, I get a text from Tom over at American Air Arms, asking how it was going, and how everyone liked shooting the EVOL today. I had my headset with me, so I gave him a call back while sitting at the bench and scanning thru the scope. As we were talking, a bunny pops out at the same rock that the mornings Ground Squirrel was sitting on. (Apparently this bunny “hadn’t gotten the memo”). So while I’m on the phone with Tom, I point the phone down range and I re-send the memo out again to Mr. bunny. This time he received the message! Tom said that he could even hear the impact over the phone. Then,… to my surprise,… and only moments later, I see a larger movement down at the end of the range. Yep it’s a Coyote !, and he’s coming right down the middle of the range, directly at me !

Heck, I got so excited I didn’t know what to think ! I’m still on the phone with Tom, and I’m Whispering to him the play by play as the Coyote is coming in. He’s just as excited as I am, and is whispering back to me Then he says “Hey Why am I whispering too ? I’m on the phone !” The Coyote is about 150 yards out and he’s swaying his way in kind of slow. I know the .257 is zero’d at 125 yards, and I’m getting ready for the shot. The Coyote begins to trot right to me, and I’ve got “Buck Fever” so bad at this point, I didn’t realize soon enough he was at the 125 yard mark, and he kept coming in closer. My heart is racing and my excitement almost got the best of me. I’ve been waiting for this all night, and I’m about to blow it. He’s trotting in and approaching the 100 yard mark. (yep,… it’s the same rock where Mr. Bunny and Mr. Ground Squirrel were reading their mail). I suddenly realize that I’ve got to stop him, or I’ll probably shoot high and miss. I let out a “Woof”, and he stops dead in his tracks facing right at me. He’s instantly on FULL Alert, ears raised, chest high, and hunched down on his rear haunches.
He’s spooked and was about to bolt away. I’ve only got one chance and maybe 2 seconds, to place the cross-hairs to take the shot.
My heart is POUNDING SO HARD THE GUN IS BOUNCING !

I put the cross-hairs at the lower part of his rib-cage, figuring that should be just enough hold under to make a good heart / lung shot,… and I let the “Fat Lady Sing”and  I was dead on the target. The impact sounded like a fastball hitting the catchers mitt. I think Tom could hear that impact over the phone too!  I started giggling like a little girl and was telling Tom “I got Him! I got Him! ” Tom was cheering me too ” Right ON Buddy ! Congrats !” Upon impact, the Coyote spun around 3 or 4 times like a kids toy spinning top. It was pretty wild, and then he bolted about 6 or 8 feet into the weeds where I could not see him. I was going crazy that he was hit, and might get away. I told Tom that I had to go chase him down to finish him off, and would call him back. He was saying “go Go GO !!!,… GO GET HIM and Call me Back !” I had previously loaded the EVOL, and had it sitting behind me, de-cocked, just for this purpose. I cocked the EVOL as I headed down the shooting lane into the darkness, and not knowing exactly where the Coyote might be, it was a little spooky. I knew that if it was wounded, it could come out of a bush at me and that could be dangerous. I had my Laser Designator lit up on the EVOL, and a bright flashlight in my hand. When I got up to the point where I had lost sight of him, I slowed my pace and gathered my senses. Heart pounding and breathing racing, I turn into the brush and I’m scanning left and right watching for anything that moves and ready to let the EVOL bust off a round. I go no more than 20 or 25 more feet into the brush, I find the Coyote already down and lifeless. He’s completely limp, eyes open, tongue hanging out, and no breathing. Apparently He didn’t make it as far as I had thought. I held back for a few moments to make sure he was down for good. I circled around behind him and gave his head a little poke with the muzzle of the EVOL. “Go ahead and twitch sucker, .. and I’m putting 85 more FPE into your noggin’ !” 2 or 3 pokes with the muzzle confirmed he was already expired. Good !, It was a good hit and a fast kill.

ron with his .257 coyote kill
I flipped him over to reveal the .257 had passed almost completely through the length of his body. It exited just forward of the rear leg, with a  massive hole and bleeding. This dog was basically “dead on impact”, but it just took him a couple of seconds to realize that,… and to have the decency to fall down. WOW ! What a RUSH that was ! MY First YOTE ! WOO-HOOooooo ! (No,… I did not take him down with the EVOL)
This pic is when I first went out to get him, and I grabbed up the EVOL to take with me, rather than reload the .257, (and not to mention the LONG gun that it is to try and carry)

evol .30 coyote
Nick had woken up when he heard the shots ,but I was already heading out after it, by the time he made it out of the trailer. The Coyote and the bunny I had got only moments before

.257 coyote kill
When I came dragging it back, Nick was sitting at his gun and was just smiling like nobody’s business and congratulating me on getting my first Coyote. I think he was just as proud and happy as I was, when I came out of the darkness with the dog in tow.

coyote rabbit kill

THANKS Nick from Nielsen Specialty Ammo ! for loaning me your awesome rifle and Thermal to give me the opportunity to get my first trophy yote… And THANKS to Doug Noble for building such an AMAZING Rifle! MAN ! I’ve gotta get me one of these .257 Bad-boys someday !  Nick and Doug are both out at the farm right now. They just sent me a pic of Doug and his Coyote that he just got tonight, , but You’ll have to wait for him to tell all about it.

doug noble .338