Hunting can be quite the exciting challenge for an outdoor enthusiast. This is especially the case when the prey happens to be in the form of small, difficult-to-hit, and increasingly-cunning creatures. Your success here depends on several factors, the most important of which is the means you will be using to take down your targets. This makes it crucial to understand the basics of hunting small game with a pellet rifle before heading down to the woods.
Why Use An Air Rifle For Small Game Hunting?
Truth be told, a pellet gun isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of hunting. But don't dismiss them just yet --- air guns have some unique characteristics that make them far better than firearms when it comes to small-game hunting. These include:
- Affordability: Although high-end models can be expensive, air rifles tend to be much cheaper to shoot than firearms.
- Accuracy: Most air rifles will easily dispatch small animals from 40 yards away, depending on the kind of pellets one uses.
- Less destruction: Although a pellet gun wouldn't stand up to a regular firearm when it comes to power, a decent model will pack enough to take down prey without blowing it apart. Not to mention the fact that they're quieter, which translates to less-spooked prey and a friendlier interaction with nature.
Now that you know why an air rifle would be the perfect for your next hunting trip, the next step is to choose from the various mechanisms available. One of the more popular configurations out there is the pre-charged pneumatic, a type of pellet gun whose defining element is the tank of compressed air from which the name derives. Capable of firing multiple pellets between refills, these guns allow you to hit targets in quick succession. And when the reservoir runs out, refilling can be done manually using a stirrup pump or from a specially-designed bottle. The former is cheaper but requires a bit of effort, while the latter makes the task more convenient, albeit at a price.
Spring-loaded air guns are ideal for individuals looking for a simpler, less-expensive option. These take longer to load compared to their automatic counterparts, and you will have to cock a large spring every time you want to fire yours. Spring-loaded rifles also tend to recoil and, as such, you'll have to adjust your technique accordingly in order to shoot accurately.
Ultimately, your choice of air rifle will all come down to your personal preferences. So don't think too much about the price of any particular make or model, but rather your ability to shoot accurately and thus take down prey humanely. As a rule of thumb, however, there's a number of things you'll need to consider when shopping.
What To Consider In A Hunting Air Gun
Air Rifle Caliber
Air guns come in several calibers, but the .177 and .22 are better suited for hunting small animals. The former would be your ideal option if you prefer hunting birds, while the latter works for larger animals like rabbits and squirrels. Although a few rifles stand out as exceptions to this rule, it should work for the majority of air guns you'll come out there.
Pellets For An Air Rifle
Your options here include domed and wadcutter-style pellets, the former of which is compatible with most air guns. Like the name suggests, these are usually domed at the top, which makes them more accurate and gives them a better spin. On the other hand, wadcutter-style pellets have a flat head and what they lack in terms of accuracy they make up for by being less penetrative. This would be particularly helpful when you need to hit targets without causing damage to the surroundings.
The type of pellet that you choose will affect accuracy and penetration, so take time to think about your plans as far as hunting goes. Besides, it's worth keeping in mind that not all rifles prefer the same pellets, even when they're of the same make and model. This means you might need to try out quite a number of guns to see what suits your plans.
Air Rifles Accuracy
This is perhaps the most important consideration when it comes to hunting small game with a pellet rifle. Because the targets are small and quick, it's easy to miss but virtually impossible to get a second chance. And while you'll be looking for the most accurate gun you can find, there are other vital considerations which might lead you to think otherwise. For instance, the kind of loading mechanism you prefer could leave you with no option but to choose a less-accurate rifle. This would also be the case if the need for minimal penetration forms your top priority.
Scopes For An Air Rifle
These often come in handy when shooting at small targets and, as such, the question becomes what kind of scope you should look out for. First things first: scopes made for pellet guns are quite different from those tailored for firearms. So make sure to purchase the right scope for the specific gun you plan to buy. Also remember to check for the availability of an adjustable objective, plus the zooming capabilities of each scope as well.
Other Aspects For Air Rifle Hunting
No matter how long it takes to find the perfect air gun, be sure to evaluate products based on these factors. There's also a few other points you need to keep in mind to achieve success, including:
- Practice: As they say, practice makes perfect. Fortunately, pellets can be found at multiple outlets in most areas, and they're quite cheap.
- Camouflage: You want to stalk in as close to your prey as possible, so make sure to cover all exposed skin.
- Be ethical: Because air guns are less powerful compared to firearms, try as much as you can to connect with head shots only.
Not only can hunting hone your mental discipline and physical balance, but it also gives you the perfect opportunity to interact with nature. As always, it's very important that you choose the right gear for your hunting trips, and this begins with shopping for a suitable air rifle. So keep these points in mind, particularly if this is the first time you're going out for small-game hunting.