One of the perks of my role as an Airgun writer is that I get to travel to a lot of different places to hunt. One of the questions I get fairly regularly is where do I like to go and where would I recommend others give a try. To this end I’ve picked my five favorite destinations, but have to tell you up from this was not easy, because I have had so many great hunts around the country (and outside).
My criteria for this selection is based on the following; a) enlightened wildlife management and hunting regulations, b) quarry species, availability, populations, and opportunity, c) ease of travel and available options, d) overall cost of the trip (travel, license, guides, trespass fees, etc). I have mostly included those destination in the USA, but have added in a couple of international locations that might be considered once in a lifetime or unique hunts.
1. Variety: Arizona – This state opened up all it’s hunting, small and large game, to Airguns with the exception of elk and turkey. You can hunt cous deer and mule deer (only place to do this legally in the US), javalina (only place in USA), pronghorn (only place in USA), black bear, mountain lion. There is a lot of small game: gray squirrels and Albert’s squirrel, cottontail rabbits, quail. Varmint species; jackrabbit, ground squirrel, prairie dogs, Eurasian collared doves, and predators such as coyote, fox, raccoon and bobcat. License costs are reasonable, though you will have to put in for the draw on most of the big game species. In my quest to hunt all the North America species legal with an Airgun, Arizona is a must hunt state. It is worth mentioning also that there is a lot of public land to hunt in Arizona, and self-catered hunts are a great way to go, especially for the small game and predator opportunities. However, unless you have the time to scout the areas for yourself would suggest a guid for your big game hunts. To set up a hunt here you can contact Kip Perow over at AOA, they are outfitting some great hunts.
2. Predator and Hog Heaven: Texas was where we started the big bore/ big game hunting revolution a decade back, for three reasons…… Hogs, exotics, and predators! This state has (slowly changing) anomalous laws with respect to hunting Airguns. No game animals could be taken with air, but any unprotected non-game animal could. This meant no squirrel, turkey, javalina, deer (squirrel now allowed BTW), but you could shoot rabbits, ground squirrels, prairie dogs for smaller game. But it was the huge population of predators (especially bobcats), hogs, and exotics that keep me coming down several times every year. I would mention that while I hunted rams and other exotics in the early years, mostly because we were severely limited as to huntable species, I don’t hunt rams any longer. However, when you get into the free ranging blackbuck and aoudad, this becomes a world class destination for firearm, archery, or Airgun hunters. Even when hunting high fence in Texas, these ranches are so large that the hunts are still very fair chase and the antithesis of canned hunts. I don’t hunt African exotics because, well I can go to Africa and hunt more species and take more game for less, so find it hard to justify. One thing about the Lone Star State, there is virtually no public land so you’ll have to pay either a guide or a trespass fee for anything you do. License fees are reasonable, and Texas has inexpensive license options that cover varmint, predators, hogs, and exotics for short (5 day) hunts.
3. Turkey and Game Birds: California – face it, when you think shooting and hunting California does not immediately come to mind as a destination. However, the Golden State was one of the earliest to embrace Airgun hunting and write it into their regulations. All small game hunting is permitted with Airguns here; rabbits, squirrel, quail, chucker, and turkey. But it is the turkey that make this a destination spot. It is one of two spring hunting opportunities for turkey in the country (Maryland allows airguns for turkey, but only in fall). But here is what makes it great; there is a huge population of turkey, the seasons and bag limits are generous (three birds per season, one per day), and while private land is much more productive there are both private and public land opportunities available. If you want to take a turkey (legally) with you Airgun, this is a must-go-to destination. Licenses are reasonable, though they can be less convenient to acquire than in many states, until you are in the Fish&Game system and and have an ID number. If you travel in from out of state, be sure to bring your hunter safety ID and/or a current hunting license from your home state (I’d recommend both on your first trip). The guy I’d put you onto to set up a great Turkey hunt is Parrey Cremeans in Redding California.
I’ll follow up next week with Part II of my favorite Airgun hunting destinations!