AIRGUN REGULATIONS STILL “UP IN THE AIR”
Below is a list of changes in our hunting regulations for the upcoming seasons. All seem to make perfect sense to me and are justifiable, with the exception of the snafu regarding the use of big bore airguns. This year, for the first time I can remember, the printing of our Hunting Annual is being held up until a final word on hunting with airguns is given at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners’ August 23 meeting. Traditionally, the Hunting Annual is available on April 15 when licenses go on sale. We that enjoy shooting and hunting with big bore airguns, or those that are considering purchasing a big bore, are in limbo until the Commissioners make a ruling on this issue. The list of regulation changes below is ‘a done deal’, they are now on the books as law. Read them over and we will discuss the air gun issue at length later in this column.
- Open the general dove season in the South Zone on Sept. 14; earliest starting date for the region since 1950.
- Shorten the Eastern spring turkey hunting season by one week, while retaining the current closing date of May 14. Impacted counties are: Bowie, Cass, Fannin, Grayson, Jasper, Lamar, Marion, Nacogdoches, Newton, Panola, Polk, Red River, and Sabine. The Commission also approved closing the Eastern turkey season in Upshur and San Augustine counties.
- A 9-day buck-only mule deer season with no special archery season, opens in Lynn County .
- Restriction set for mule deer bucks at a 20-inch minimum outside-antler spread of the main beams; Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Motley, and Hall counties.
- Clarification was made on deer antler restriction regulations. In each county where antler restrictions are imposed, a person who takes a buck in violation of antler restrictions is prohibited from subsequently harvesting any buck deer with branched antlers on both main beams, in that county, during that current deer season.
- Lastly, The Commission adopted changes that simplified archery regulations by removing requirements for broadhead hunting points to have two cutting edges and a cutting width of 7/8 of an inch. Also removed, were the minimum pull requirement of 125 pounds and the minimum crossbow stock length of 25 inches.
- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission re-evaluated a proposal that would permit the use of air guns and arrow guns to take certain game animals, game birds, alligators, and furbearers. Discussion resulted in rescinding the previous rule they adopted in March. They requested staff modify their recommendations and propose new rules to be considered by the Commission at their next scheduled meeting in August.
THE AIRGUN ISSUE
Earlier this year, Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Alan Cain set up a special hunt for spike whitetail bucks. Eric Henderson, a well-known spokesman for air gun enthusiasts and host of Adventures Afield, came along to introduce Mr. Cain to shooting and hunting with the .30 Caliber Airforce Airguns “Texan” air rifle. Cain learned firsthand the power of big bullets and air pressured to 3,000 psi. This was Cain’s first time to shoot a PCP (Pre-charged pneumatic) rifle. These rifles develop 500-foot pounds of energy and develop velocities of 800 plus fps. The air rifle proved its worth on this hunt and several deer were cleanly and humanely taken.
I’ve used big bore air rifles, shooting big 350 grain soft lead bullet by Hunter’s Supply, to harvest about 25 wild hogs, a couple of axis bucks, and even an aoudad. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these PCP air rifles have the capability to take big game. At the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Commissioners meeting back in march, held in Lufkin, the Commissioners approved PCP air rifles. Cain was present to tell the tale of his hunt and present the positive results. But, later I’m told, one of the commissioners was approached by an outfitter that had used a particular air rifle on a hog hunt with less than stellar results. The air gun regulations were already being written at this time. Perhaps they did not include enough ‘language’ to accurately describe which air guns were and were not acceptable to use. I believe the first regulation simply addressed caliber, stating the rifle must shoot a 30 caliber or bigger bullet.
Just because an air rifle can fire a 30-caliber bullet doesn’t necessarily mean it develops enough velocity/foot pounds to get the job done. When I read the draft of the first regulation, I could see that more ‘language’ was needed to describe just “which” air guns would become legal. I believe it needed to be clearly stated that the rifle needed to be capable of pressuring up to 3,000 psi. via an air tank or hand pump. The regulation clearly needed a bit of added verbiage to avoid confusion. But, why wait until the next scheduled meeting on August 23 to make the final ruling? All the commissioners had been presented with the facts months ago pertaining to the power of PCP airguns. The delay resulted in our Hunting Annual running late. Think also of the impact on all the hunters interested in purchasing a big bore air gun to hunt with. Will there be a season in Texas for them to put the rifles to work? They have to wait until near the end of this month to find out. Though the wheels of government often turn slowly, this issue has plenty of science and first-hand testing to prove the point. I cannot see why the commissioners have delayed the passing of this air gun regulation for so long. This issue should have been resolved months ago; not doing so is inexcusable in my humble opinion.
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