I have spoken in the past about the fact that airgun hunting is gaining popularity in the US, in part because of increasing urbanization which has resulted in less land available for traditional hunting pursuits. If you look in fields, small woods, areas around railway tracks and industrial buildings you’ll find these areas often become the home territory and feeding grounds for a variety of pest and small game species. Just as frequently you’ll find that a firearm, even a .22 rimfire (if you can find ammo) is not a practical method because of the noise, power, and carry range. Airgun hunting for pest animals provides a service to the property owner while allowing the hunter to get in some exciting hunting and a little off season practice close to home. It is often possible to obtain permission from owners and facility managers to remove pest species that cause financial damage or present a health risk using a 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 gun stowed in the trunk of my car that can be demonstrated on request, you don’t want to make an initial approach with gun in hand so leave it in the car. This has led to more than one impromptu plinking session and a new airgunning convert to boot! When asking permission the landowner will sometimes voice concern over liability; I carry a form letter which assumes 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.
The guns I prefer for urban hunting duty have changed with new guns coming to market, but the criteria for choosing an urban hunting gun has not changed much over the years. It depends on what type of game, what is the range, is there more than a normal concern about collateral damage, do I need to be discreet? Answering these questions caused me 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 accurate, quiet, compact, generate appropriate power for the intended use, accept various accessories such as lights, lasers, and these days even cameras, and I prefer a gun that can be taken down, folded’ or telescopes. Often times you need to make either a stealthy approach to the shooting area or keep a low profile while shooting so a compact and quiet gun is a basic requirement, along with accuracy and appropriate power.
Unless you getting into an unshrouded big bore, most airguns are quieter than firearm, some more than others. The Pre-charged pneumatics that I am focusing on in this post 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, a shrouded barrel can be made very quiet.
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 fpe is adequate for most pest control duties, and it won’t cause damage in the case of a missed shot. If you need to shoot something bigger such as a groundhog or raccoon a more powerful pcp rifle makes sense.
I mentioned that the gun should provide a means of mounting targeting accessories such as scopes, lasers, and lights. In my opinion a scope is essential gear on an urban hunting gun, both because surgical precision is required and urban pest control often takes place in darker conditions where a scope will collect light and enhance accuracy in low ambient light situations. A high power scope is unnecessary for the ranges typically associated with urban hunting. 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.
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. Urban settings are all around us and offer up opportunities in target rich environments that can provide a lot of shooting fun and practice.