Air guns? New fishing, hunting regulation proposals may raise eyebrows

HARLINGEN — They’re not your grandpa’s BB guns.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are proposing several changes in hunting and fishing laws and are seeking pub-lic comment before TPWD commissioners vote them up or down.

Several will be of interest to Valley outdoor sports enthusiasts, like raising the king mackerel daily limit from two to three fish, as well as starting regular dove season in the South Zone a week earlier in mid-September.

But the most interesting development in the mix of potential changes would allow hunters to use pneumatic air rifles and air bows to hunt game animals in Texas.

John McCaslin, president, Air Force Airguns of Fort Worth

“It’s been typical for the various game commissions in the various states that these guys are thinking Red Ryder when people are talking about air guns and they can’t wrap their heads around it, they have to see it. Once they see it, its like, ‘OK, I get it.’”

Big-game guns

They’re not talking rabbits and squirrels — it’s white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep.

“We were skeptical at first and we said we want to do some research so the Crosman Corporation, which is a big, active maker of air guns, they came down and gave us a demonstration,” Alan Cain, TPWD’s white-tailed deer program leader, said yesterday.

“Another company was out of Texas — AirForce Airguns, an air gun manufacturer — and there was a guy who uses their air guns and he came down and brought a .308 and a .45-caliber and we did research and he was successfully able to harvest three white-tailed deer in our study,” Cain added. “It worked fine — very lethal, quick, humane, and not a whole lot different in my mind.”

These new single-shot air guns are technological marvels, and instead of using a handle pump or a small CO2 cartridge, they depend on larger, onboard compressed air tanks. At AirForce Airguns of Fort Worth, some of the in-demand rifles come in dif-ferent sizes including .22-caliber, .25-caliber, .357 Magnum, .308-caliber and even a .457-caliber.

AirForce Airguns’ prices range from around $600 to $1,200 per rifle, depending on caliber, optics and accessories.

Changing minds

“What is a key thing for us is to get people who shoot firearms to actually see these things as a viable alternative,” John McCaslin, president of AirForce Airguns, said yesterday. “Most people see air guns and Red Ryder comes to mind.

“It’s been typical for the various game commissions in the various states that these guys are thinking Red Ryder when people are talking about air guns and they can’t wrap their heads around it, they have to see it,” he said. “Once they see it, its like, ‘OK, I get it.’”

The pre-charged pneumatic guns, known as PCPs, operate at around 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, or the same as a Scuba tank, whereas a normal pellet or BB gun operates at about 600 to 900 psi. After shooting a certain number of rounds, a larger tank like a Scuba tank is used to refill the PCP rifle’s air chamber to shoot some more.

An air bow looks like a rifle, but instead of a bullet-like projectile, it uses pneumatic power to fire an arrow tipped with a broad-head.

Taking alligators, deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, javelina and turkey will be restricted to air guns .30-caliber or larger. Air guns propelling a smaller .177-caliber projectile or larger could legally be used to take squirrels, quail, pheasants and chacha-laca, if the TPWD proposal passes.

McCaslin said the ballistic performance of the high-tech air guns is about on par with a muzzle-loading rifle.

“You can shoot completely through a deer without any trouble with our stuff,” McCaslin said.

Earlier dove season

Another of the TPWD proposals of interest to South Texas is a one-week earlier opening to regular dove season in the South Zone, which includes the Valley.

“We’re trying to get a start of a week early, around the 14th or 15th, to maximize some hunting opportunities there in Septem-ber,” said TPWD’s Owen Fitzsimmons, webless migratory bird program leader. “It’s good news for South Zone hunters.”

Fitzsimmons said if the early start is approved, another week would be removed later during the split dove season, so the number of available hunting days in the season would remain the same.

The Special White-Winged Dove Season held the first two weekends of September would remain unchanged.

Key TPWD proposed changes

Largemouth bass: Change to 14-inch minimum and revise slot limits at selected lakes/reservoirs.

King mackerel: Increase recreational bag limit from two to three fish per person/day with 27-inch minimum length unchanged.

White-tailed deer: Standardize the general deer season statewide to open the first Saturday in November and end on the third Sunday in January. This would add two weeks to the North Zone season to match the South Zone.

Air guns, air bows: Allow the take of alligators, game animals, non-migratory game birds and furbearers with air guns and air bows. Take of alligators, deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, javelina and turkey will be restricted to air guns .30-caliber or larger. Air guns propelling a .177-caliber projectile or larger may be used to take squirrel, quail, pheasants and chachalaca.

Pintails: Increase the daily bag limits on northern pintails from one to two per day during the 2018-19 hunting season.

Dove: Add a week to the early segment of the South Zone Dove season during the 2018-19 seasons which could allow the regular season in the South Dove Zone to open as early as Sept. 14. The proposed amendment would remove a week from the winter segment (December-January) in the South Dove Zone.

Bag limits: Increase the possession limit from two to three times the daily bag limit for chachalaca, ring-necked pheasants and squirrels.

Read the TPWD proposals here:

https://tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/