One of the reasons that airgun hunting has gained popularity is that increasing urbanization has resulted in less land available for traditional hunting pursuits. The observer of nature and wildlife will also note that these built up areas; such as industrial complexes, railroad yards, dumps, or other tableaus from the urban landscape often become the home territory and feeding grounds for a variety of pest and small game species. Airgun hunting for pest animals provides a service to the property owner while allowing the hunter to hone his shooting skills and have a little off season practice close 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. The process of gaining access is helped along by demonstrating that you are responsible, explaining 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 often carry along a couple articles or books that discuss airguns and airgun hunting to share if they seem interested. I also keep a gun stowed in the trunk of my car that can be demonstrated on request, and this has led to more than one plinking session! A frequently encountered obstacle to overcome is concern over liability; I carry a form letter which states I assume responsibility for any damage I might inadvertently cause and to release the owners from liability for any injury that might befall me while on their property.
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. This is when a stealth gun, one that is either very compact or a takedown, and quiet, is a huge advantage. The gun must also be quiet, 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. However it is not easy to find one that is truly compact or can be taken down. Pre-charged pneumatics and CO2 powered 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 or CO2 gun with a shrouded barrel can be as quiet as a whisper, and this is a standard component of a stealthy urban hunter in my opinion.
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 12-14 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 lower power 12 fpe PCP for this type of shooting, such as the Marauder P in carbine trim. If I intend to shoot something bigger such as a groundhog or raccoon I will opt for a more powerful pcp rifle. There are spring piston airguns that have the power and range for larger quarry, but they tend to be big and bulky. 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 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; the aforementioned Benjamin Marauder P as either a pistol or carbine, the handy little Brocock Specialist ,22 as a carbine that offers a step up in power at around 20 fpe, and the FX and Kalibr are excellent examples of the class of guns available based on a bullpup design. They are very compact, powerful, accurate, and quiet with a multi-shot magazine. One of my favorites for stealth hunting whene noise isn’t a primary concern is the little AirForce Talon P in carbine configuration. This gun a barely larger than a handgun and can generate about 50 fpe, which is well in the range to kill a suburban coyote at 50 yards.
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’m on my way out tomorrow, first to So Cal for a couple days then on to Arizona. I’m meeting up with Kip and Robert at AOA, then Kip and I are heading off to hunt javalina under Arizona’s new airgun regulations, then I’m out for a few more days of predators, desert varmint, then meeting up with my buddy Scott for a couple days of dairy farm pest birds. Going to do a springer only day as well, because I had such a good time with these guns previously!
Then in the first week of March I’ll be in Vienna for several days then up to Scotland on business, but I’m trying to open up a day so I can swing down to the Daystate factory for a looksee, and if that happens should have some very good stuff to tell you about!