Monday, December 28, 2015

DEC Proposes Air Rifle Big Game Hunting

deer hunted with an air rifle in 2008The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is now accepting public comment on proposed regulation changes that would allow the use of large bore air rifles to hunt big game beginning in the fall 2016 hunting seasons.

DEC will accept written public comment on the proposed rule changes through February 8, 2016.

DEC is proposing to amend the regulations found in Title 6 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (6 NYCRR section 180.3) to allow the use of certain air-powered firearms for hunting big game.  According to a statement issued by DEC, “air-powered rifles that meet certain specifications, termed ‘big bore air rifles,’ have adequate downrange energy to effectively harvest New York big game species.” In 2010, DEC amended these regulations to allow the use of air-powered firearms for hunting small game.

“The popularity of air-powered firearms is growing, largely because of technological advancements,” said Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement sent to the press.  “These modern firearms produce the force necessary to efficiently harvest big game animals.  In addition, because big bore air rifles are not as loud as conventional rifles or shotguns, allowing their use may make hunting more acceptable in locations with higher human densities, including areas where deer are overabundant.”

Under the proposed regulations big bore air rifles would be allowed in most New York counties for taking big game where other types of rifles are allowed.

The proposed rule can be viewed on DEC’s website under Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Proposed, Emergency and recently adopted regulations

Comments may also be sent via email to:  (include “air rifle regulations” in the subject line) or by writing to:  Bryan L. Swift, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

Photo: A 14-year-old hunter with the first deer believed to have been taken with an air rifle in the United States in 2008.

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29 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    Wonderful idea. Air guns have been used to take big game since before Lewis and Clark. They took elk with the one they had, and mightily impressed the Native tribes. I’ve seen .60 caliber air rifles in action, and they are every bit as powerful as a cartridge gun. While somewhat quieter than cartridge guns, the rush of a large quantity of air from the muzzle still makes a noticeable noise. I use lower powered airguns for target shooting and pest control.

  2. Bellota says:

    I don’t hunt. What is the point of these weapons? Is it simply that they are quieter when discharged? If there was a hunter in the vicinity of my home or me, I would like to know that for reasons of safety.

    • John Warren says:

      Actually, the DEC press release argued that because these weapons are quieter, they will be able to spread hunting areas closer to residential areas.

  3. kathy says:

    Not sure I like the ” closer ” idea putting domestic animals at risk with someone careless with any weapon.

  4. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Hopefully Mr. Warren is correct in that it will probably allow management of deer in closer proximity to homes, etc., just as the use of Bows and crossbows have done. While many folks may be opposed to this concept, please consider the following:

    Approximately a year ago Time Magazine had a Whitetail Deer (Doe) with vegetation in its mouth on its Front Cover. The title of the article was “America’s New Pest” and whether you agree with hunting or not, this is the reality we are facing. Deer are overrunning residential areas and many. many municipalities are proposing drastic measures to control their numbers and minimize damage to homeowners’ gardens, plantings. Then there are Deer/Vehicle accidents, which can and do take both the life of the deer and vehicle occupants…………often the deer are only wounded to get away and expire painfully/slowly or killed/eaten by coyotes.

    Among the municipalities more recently in the news are New York City, Syracuse, nearby Hamilton and Colgate College as well. Most are proposing limited harvests by pre-qualified Archers/Crossbow users and in the future perhaps High-Powered air-rifle marksmen. I would add that “Birth Control” measures attempted in the past by some municipalities failed and the cost was prohibitive.

    NYS DEC is charged with management of our wildlife and, in my opinion, they do an admirable job, often in the face of criticism from various stake-holders. Whether its beaver, deer or bear issues too often the DEC staffers just can’t make everyone happy. Pro or Con….we should all participate in any Public Comment Period and hopefully everyone’s opinion will be weighed and a program/solution implemented that satisfies the majority and produces satisfactory results.

    Thank you


    • Dave says:

      That TIME piece was widely panned by a lot of people who actually study wildlife populations, because they understand that deer are a man made pest and their overpopulation is a product of wildlife managers artificially inflating their numbers, in large part to appease hunters.

      Their natural predators, when they haven’t been systematically eradicated from an area by hunters, typically have “open seasons” on them with no take limits. (see: NY’s Coyote Hunting Season)… and anytime the hunting community “feels” like the deer herd is small, they pressure wildlife managers to take measures to increase it (regardless of what the data might actually be telling them).

      So hunting, at least the way it has been historically managed, is largely responsible for producing this problem… to now suggest that it is also somehow the solution, strikes me as shortsighted.

    • Any community that’s “managing” its wildlife only by killing the wildlife is cheating. The first steps in proper urban wildlife management are to educate citizens on how to limit access to garbage and other artificial food, close entries to artificial shelter, protect pets and livestock behind fences and human supervision, haze the rare wild animals that approach human areas, and leave non-problem wildlife alone. Of course, all of those things involve work, so it seems easier to put lethal “management” into the hands of people who will simply assure their clients that they’ll “take care of it.” The bottom line is that they’re cheating.

  5. kkmac says:

    Is the accompanying picture one of a baby killing a baby? Are people for this so that six year olds can go out and shoot? The last thing we need is more guns in the hands of the incompetent.

    • Bruce says:


      The point is, airguns are more challenging to shoot accurately, and have a shorter effective range, so basic woods skills have to better. I’d rather have an idiot with an airgun nearby, than one with a rifle that can easily kill at over a mile.


      Poaching will not change. Some of them probably have been using large bore air rifles right along. What do poachers care about what’s legal and what’s not anyway?


      The only thing which will change will be the weapon used. All other hunting rules, licensing, etc. will remain the same.

  6. Charlie S says:

    The photo is disappointing. We should teach children to respect living things not put an end to their lives.

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      I agree that’s a poor choice of photo, but not for the reason you gave. It seems to give the impression that the woods are going to be full of kids and dangerous weapons. Like cartridge guns, the airguns in question are not something most would give their children to wander around in the backyard with. The kid in the photo has a center fire rifle, not an airgun.

      I would much rather see kids learn safe and responsible gun handling and respect for the law than not, and as long as dads (or moms) are hunters, a certain percentage of their children will be also.

      • John Warren says:

        The kid in the photo killed the deer in the photo with the air gun he is holding.

        • Bruce says:

          John Warren,

          Please enlighten us on what airgun that is. I’ve looked at pictures of many big-bore airguns, and none look as much like a normal centerfire rifle as the one in the picture does. Maybe I missed something.

    • JohnL says:

      Hunters respect the game they hunt and actually provide more for their species’ well-being through hunting license fees, etc, than their non-hunting counterparts.

      • Bellota says:

        Let me try to grasp this notion. Hunters “respect” game animals by killing them? Native Americans respected the game they hunted because animals served as a means of survival (food). Present 21st century hunters hunt for “sport.”

        • Paul says:

          And food.

          • John Warren says:

            And the thrill of killing an animal.

            • Bill Ott says:

              Most of us that post here eat animals. If I had to kill what I ate, I would probably eat less meat. If I were to tour a slaughterhouse or poultry/egg farm, I would perhaps change my diet. We do not see where our meat comes from, and probably would not like seeing it.

              • John Warren says:

                Agreed. I was a long time hunter, spent some time as a vegetarian, and now try to eat mostly local meat and fish. There are lots of reasons why people hunt, but the claim that food is a big reason is, I think, overstated.

        • JohnL says:

          Sorry you can’t grasp the notion that I have the same respect for the animals I hunt that the Indians (Native Americans) had/have. In modern terms, try thinking of it this way. For every 100 lbs of venison (or whatever) I shoot, kill, and eat, that’s 100 lbs of beef cattle that someone else doesn’t have to kill for us. At least that’s true of us meat eaters. Happy New Year All!

    • says:

      Agree, Charlie S. Thought the picture was a joke……..sadly, it wasn’t.

  7. I took a look at the specs of a couple of the “big bore” air rifles online. There’s a wide range of power between models and between shots as the compressed gas reservoirs are depleted. Even the most powerful air rifle (145 gr @ up to 800 fps, and at a pretty hefty price) was much less powerful than a .30-06 deer rifle (about 165 gr @ about 2,800 fps). Of course, power isn’t the only factor in a humane kill, but it’s one that should be considered.

    • Bruce says:

      Scott Slocum,

      I’m sure the state is making evaluations, and will determine the power range and minimum caliber suitable for legal use.

      As Peter Capstick said, the most important factor in a clean kill of big game animals is the shooter’s ability to deliver the bullet to the right address under the given set of circumstances. He was talking about African game of course, but the principle is the same.

      Any responsible airgun hunter will not go into the field with a partially depleted air reservoir, any more than a gun hunter will go with only 1 cartridge, no matter how good he is. Like muzzleloaders, big bore airguns give the hunter what amounts to a single shot, albeit faster to reload.

      We can’t do much about those who choose not to be responsible.

      • Bruce says:

        Let me amend my answer somewhat. Until today, I didn’t realize that some big bore airguns have magazines and some sort of bolt action, so reloading can be fast.

    • Boreas says:

      IMO, a 30-06 is overkill, so to speak, on whitetails. I used to use a 6mm/.244 and it was terribly lethal because of its velocity. One of these airguns would be fine in the hands of a competent hunter at short range. Just as with an arrow or shotgun slug.

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