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The Urban Hunter

Posted by on October 12, 2012

The use of airguns for urban and suburban small game hunting and pest control is one of my favorite topics to write about. A key factor for the rise in popularity of these guns in North America is that increasing urbanization has resulted in less land available for traditional hunting pursuits. If you spend time around more built up areas such as industrial complexes, railroad yards, landfills, golf courses, or other scenes from the urban/suburban landscape you’ll have noticed that they often become the home territory and feeding grounds for a variety of pest and small game species. Airgun hunting for small game and especially pest animals provides a service to the property owner while allowing the hunter to get in some fast action hunting, often much closer to home.  Where local regulations permit, it is often possible to obtain permission from owners and facility managers to shoot pest animals on their property (check to make sure local laws allow you to shoot an airgun in potential hunting spots). You can often get access to properties by letting the owners know that you will be safe and responsible. Explain that you will remove pest species that cause financial damage or present a health risk, and will use a type of hunting tool that minimizes or negates the risk of damage to people or property. When I am asking permission to shoot on a property, I’ll carry along a couple article reprints that discuss airguns and airgun hunting to share if they seem interested. I also keep a gun stowed in the trunk of my car (don’t walk up with a gun when asking permission!!) that can be demonstrated on request, and this has lead to more than one impromptu plinking session. A frequently encountered obstacle to overcome is concern over liability; carry a form letter which assumes responsibility for any damage that might arise, and releases the owners from liability for any injury that might occur while on their property.

A couple trappers I know have started running their lines in suburban areas, where they need a gun to dispatch trapped animals as well as for the opportunistic shots as they come along. The Verminator and the Marauder Pistol are two very different guns, either one a great choice depending of the situation.

Once you determine that the local ordinances allow you to shoot an airgun and have lined up a property to hunt on, you may feel that everything is set and ready to go. But things can still go wrong! You may find yourself in a legal shooting area with permission to hunt and an eye on legal quarry, only to find you must pass through a populated area where it is preferable not to be seen toting a gun. I had once arranged to shoot at a local lumber yard that was having a problem with pigeons messing all over the place. Walking from a parking lot to the yard, somebody saw me carrying a rifle and called the police. After discussing the situation and ascertaining that I had permission and was breaking no laws, I was allowed to go on my way. But this still cost me an hour of my precious shooting time, and it would have been better not to have been seen at all!  This experience gave me pause to consider what constituted the perfect hunting gun for urban hunting/pest control, and I formulated my own set of requirements. The gun must be quiet, compact, generate appropriate power for the intended use, accept various targeting accessories, and if it can be broken down for transport to my hunt site, all the better.

Just about any airgun is quieter than almost any firearm, some more than others. Spring piston airguns tend to be pretty quiet out of the box; most of the noise originates from the piston slamming home and is more of a low level mechanical twang than the sound of a firearm discharge. Pre-charged pneumatic guns tend to be louder, producing a firearm like crack though at a substantially lower volume.  While the report of even a high power air rifle is much quieter than a rimfire, there are ways to quiet these guns down further still, a PCP gun with a shrouded barrel can be as quiet as a whisper.

Urban hunting for pest such as pigeons, starlings, rats and smaller species typically occur at closer ranges, say inside of 25 yards. So a great deal of power does not need to be generated to achieve fast clean kills. One could argue that a gun producing 9-10 fpe is more than adequate for most pest control duties, and it certainly will cause less damage in case of a missed shot. I generally use a PCP with adjustable power and a shrouded barrel in these settings. If I intend to shoot something bigger such as a groundhog or raccoon I will opt for a more powerful pcp rifle or dial up the power on guns with adjustable power settings. There are spring piston airguns that have the power and range for larger quarry, but they tend to be big and bulky, so when I want to be discreet these are not my first choice. It is quite possible to find a substantially more powerful pcp in a compact and unobtrusive package, which makes them a better candidate for taking care of larger urban pest.

I mentioned that the gun should provide a means of mounting targeting accessories such as scopes, lasers, and lights. Iron sights are fine with respect to range, but as urban pest control often takes place in darker conditions I prefer a scope. A high power scope is unnecessary for the ranges typically associated with urban hunting.  However a lower power or adjustable magnification scope is very useful, especially in settings of low ambient light, such as hunting in a dark factory building or shooting rats at night. There are a couple of other pieces of gear that are of use in these conditions; such as a laser and a flashlight mounted on the gun using a specialized mounting system with remote switches that permit them to be easily set up and quickly deployed.

I have several guns that qualify as urban hunters; probably the best all-around urban hunting guns I am using are the FX Verminator, the AirForce Talon P .25 caliber carbine, and the Benjamin Marauder Pistol in carbine configuration.

The Verminator has everything I want in an urban hunter, it is hard hitting and very accurate magazine fed gun, has a short barrel that is effectively shrouded which in addition has an extra shroud extension that can further reduce the sound to a whisper. The airbottle, which serves as the buttstock, can be dismounted to pack the gun for transport. This Verminator incorporates an adjustable power control which I’ve dialed down to shoot pigeons in a barn, and then set it at full power to drop raccoons raiding a feeder. I’ve also switched to the longer barrel, dialed the power up, and shot prairie dogs with it at over 100 yards. If I had to pick one compact gun that does it all, this would [probably be the one.

The FX Verminator has it all, compact, quiet, high shoot count, accurate, adjustable power …. good for just about any game under anycondition.

Another gun I’ve been shooting recently is the Airforce Talon P, which was built as a pistol but is easily converted into a carbine. As a pistol it is a real handful of gun, but by adding a shoulder rest to the air reservoir/buttstock it becomes one of the smallest and compact carbines to be found, and the ergonomics are quite good. This gun is a single shot and is on the loud side; however it has an adjustable power control, is a hammer when dialed up, has good accuracy and a high shot count. It is also probably the most compact full feature airgun to be found.

The AirForce Talon-P is one of the most powerful compact airgun that I’ve shot. This gun has a bark, but will drop a big raccoon like a rock! This gun is capable of taking anything up to a bobcat or raccoon at closer range.

The last gun mentioned is the Crosman Benjamin Marauder Pistol, wearing the stock extension that is a standard accessory when you buy the pistol. Where the Talon-P is in my opinion a carbine that you can use as a pistol, the Marauder Pistol is very much a handgun that you can use as a pistol. Of the three guns discussed it is the lowest powered, though it has several great features. An 8 shot magazine, shrouded barrel that effectively suppresses the sound and a high degree of accuracy makes this a fine choice for smaller game and pests as either a pistol or a carbine as the situation warrants.

The Benjamin Marauder Pistol, can be used as either a handgun or a carbine, and though it has lower power than the other two guns presented, is a quiet, accurate, and multi-shoot. A great choice for smaller quarry.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, one of the most compelling advantages of hunting with airguns is that they open up new hunting grounds closer to home. Often these urban settings don’t occur in the aesthetically pleasing landscapes we all prefer to hunt in, but they do offer target rich environments that can provide a lot of shooting fun and practice for when we can get out to the country. I often hunt small game such as rabbit and squirrel, and even some pest such as prairie dogs, with an airgun rather than a firearm simply because I prefer airguns. However, when hunting small game or doing pest control in the urban or suburban landscape, I use an airgun, because it’s my only option.

 

11 Responses to The Urban Hunter

  1. Dave

    Jim, what FPE are you getting out of the FX Verminator? using what pellet?
    thanks, great blog btw

    Dave

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Dave,
      Appreciate the comments, I’m having a lot of fun with this blog! I used JSB Jumbo Diabolo for the most part, with the power set high. This gave me up to 850 fps, and with a weight of 25.4 grain produced energy in the mid to high 30 fpe. There is a write up over on my website (americanairgunhunter.com) showing the results using several different pellets, different power settings, etc. The address for that write up is http://www.americanairgunhunter.com/Verminator.html
      The Verminator Mk II is one of my favorite guns in quite a while, and I’ll be talking about it a lot more in future posts.
      Regards,
      Jim

  2. gabriel

    Hey Jim… Great write up… I have been following your writings since i got a copy of your book and was very eager to read your exploits in urban hunting, which is something i enjoy a lot. Also as a wildlife nuisance control operator, it serves me well to be informed about the type of hunting you describe as it essentially covers 85 % of the work i do.
    As another option I have used succesfully airguns (in pistol of carbine form) of the 13xx and 22xx families, somewhat modified. I found that the least amount of energy necessary is 8.5 fpe to be able to dispatch up to squirrel sized varmint. For Raccoons I find that 12 fpe is the minimum and such shots are to be taken relatively close (15 yards). The ammo type you use in this cases makes more of a difference that the amount of power in the gun. Predators work well on fur, but Hobbies do a number on avians… and the CP hollow points are great for those longer range shots.
    All this airguns wear 4x scopes that allow for quick target acquisition as well as adequate magnification for species ID and killzone establishment. All ideas sparked by your book and the chapter on pistol hunting…
    But i agree that the best tool stock is going to be the Marauder pistol, as well as a airforce talon in .22. By the way, I only use .22 caliber for work. There is enough weight, variety of pellets and flat trajectory for this type of shooting…

    • Jim Chapman

      Thanks for the feedback, sounds like you’ve built up a lot of experience and have provided some great first hand information. I have to run for a plane right now, but wanted to share your information and say thanks for submitting.

  3. Keith

    hi Jim

    i just finished reading your Practical Guide to Airgun Hunting and i’m enjoying reading about your experiences and learning about airguns here on your website. you’re a great writer, airguns are an amazing technology and hunting is a great excuse to enjoy being outdoors.

    i’m in a bad situation. my neighborhood has a large flock of feral chickens who are making my life miserable. the problem is that i work night shifts and the daytime wing-flapping, cackling and crowing are keeping me awake when i’m desparate to get some sleep.

    for several months i used a slingshot to try to scare the chickens far enough away so that their socializing wouldn’t be such a nuisance but unfortunately my next door neighbor feeds the feral cats who we also share the neighborhood with. the cats generously share their kitty-crunchies with the chickens (well, it might not be generousity). the chicken population is growing exponentially so the daytime noise problem is getting worse.

    i could move but i have as much right to live here as the chickens so i’ve upgraded from a slingshot and BBs to a RWS Diana 34 0.177 caliber air rifle and RWS Superdome pellets. i still hunt the chickens from a blind which has a clear view of an isolated patch of my garden fifteen yards away where i put out kitty-cruchies for bait.

    i’m not a marksman yet. i’ve been shooting about fifty Superdomes at a target fifteen yards downrange on one of my days off each week. my typical group of five shots measures about two inches across and every two or three targets i put a couple rounds three or four inches from the center of the other four. i’m embarrassed to say that that’s significantly better than when i first started shooting.

    i’ve discovered that i can’t aim at the roosters because of their constant herky-jerky movements. what has resulted in two kills is when i aimed at a spot about rooster chest height above the bait and then squeezed the trigger when a rooster passed through my sights.

    i apologize for the long introduction. i’d like to get your views on my equipment and technique and any suggestions and words of wisdom you may have for me.

    thanks, keith

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Keith,
      Thanks for the kind words about the writing, I had a very good time doing those books, and they are the result of some great hunting with great friends using great guns!
      Sorry to hear about your chicken problem …. but you can turn it in to hunting fun. I spent a day in exotic Africa….hunting chickens! On a trip over a few years ago, I had an opportunity to do a Guinea fowl hunt on the farm of a family friend. It turned out that they had a real problem with feral chickens, and had been trying to eliminate them for some time. I took a BSA Superten out bagged a couple dozen of the birds and had a blast. These feral birds get very spooky, and it wasn’t easy to get a shot through the thick brush. For those roosters try shooting them at the base of the neck which doesn’t move as much as the head.

      I see your in HI, I know a guy over there that shoots a lot of feral chickens …. must be a widespread problem, but easily solved with a tin of pellets 🙂

  4. Keith

    thanks Jim… the Polynesians brought chickens here possibly as long as two-thousand years ago… they should be made the state bird… i’m going to work on my markmanship and aim for the base of the neck… thanks again and good huntin’ to ya… keith

    ps please keep writing!, too!! k

  5. Margaret

    I hate all you are doing. You have not better things to do..do good things for people not for your self ego and let alone wildlife.

    I hope one day you all are going to be hunted in one way or another.

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Margaret;
      Not everybody hunts, not everyone has the same views, and that’s ok. But you should know that I feel hunting should be carried out under sound game management principles first, and second the game taken should be utilized. We are meat eaters by nature, and even those (one of my daughters included) that take the less natural path of being a vegetarian take life to exist. You see, those farms that grow vegetables denude the land of any existence for wildlife and indirectly is a bigger threat to wildlife than any number of hunters. So as I’ve told my daughter, choose that dietary path for health reasons, for taste, just don’t do it because you think it frees you of taking life. It’s just a less honest way of doing it. When it comes to pest control, very often that is done to protect crops, to remove animals that cause a health risk, are over populated, or causing other damage. The options are trapping or poisoning, which are indiscriminate and though effective, less humane. I don’t know if I’ll be hunted, but my time will come to be judged …. and after a lot of years on this earth, I’m OK with that.
      Regards,
      Jim

  6. Margaret

    Jim, i wasn’t expecting to find such a knowledgeable man in you. I feel also that you have a good heart. But then, since it’s the human society that makes this fauna unbalance, why you should be the one to try to fix, something that will never be fixed. That’s when it becomes a hobby and what you are doing every hunting season, it won’t help anyways for the next year. Let nature takes care of its nature. When there’s too many kind of animals, the predators will thrive on it and then the predators’ predators will do it.
    I come from a culture where we also sacrifice animals for religious purpose. I came from a background of heavy meat eaters. I choose to not eat meat when i got sick with an illness that even though i go through surgeries, it still comes back. Through internet studies i found out the reason of the cause of my illness. Now i am ok without meat. But then, the hunting meat it’s not full of artificial hormones and antibiotics as the animals on farm are, you would say.
    I just wish, since i will not be the one to stop from what you’re doing, you guys at least do a quick job, without pain to those innocent animals. I don’t know about the bullets you’re using. May be you can tell me more about it.
    I hate to say it: just make sure you aim the bullet to the core of their life and no pain shall be brought upon those poor hunted animals.

    • Jim Chapman

      Margaret;

      It is the objective of every hunter to put down the animal as effectively and efficiently as they can. That’s where the skill of getting into the right position, closing the distance, and having the discipline to wait until everything lines up; and passing on the shot when they don’t.

      Again, to put it in perspective, nothing in nature dies pleasantly….. the rabbit is killed by the fox and the fox by the coyote, and the coyote by the human hunter ….. and the coyote probably gets the best of it. Animals are neither guilty or innocent, they are part of an ecology, and balance of that ecology is the basis of managing populations.

      I know it is counter-intuitive to nonhunters, but I think you’ll find that hunters have a very strong emotional tie with, love and understanding of the game they hunt. If you don’t take the time to learn about and understand you quarry you will not be successful. We put more money and grassroots work into conservation than just about any group, and if not for hunters the state of wildlife management in the world would be quite bleak.

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