Hunting is always in season, at least in one shape or form. Each new season is a chance to test your skills anew, practicing the craft with weapons of various kinds like shotguns, bows, and rifles.
Airguns present an increasingly viable, unique method for hunters to try new things. There are varying airgun hunting laws by state and game, as with all weaponry. Each state has specific rules, making knowing the regulations much more critical.
So, where can you hunt big game with an air rifle? Let’s find out!
Big Game vs. Small Game
Looking at where you can hunt big game with an air rifle or which states allow you to hunt big game with an air rifle (or small game) requires an understanding of what type of animal is considered a small game and big game.
Typically, the animal’s size determines the type of game, making it much easier to remember than a set of arbitrary parameters.
For example, rabbits, squirrels, coyotes, foxes, grouse, geese, turkey, and similar animals are considered small game.
Likewise, moose, elk, bears, wild boar, bighorn sheep, deer, mountain goats, and similar species are considered big game.
Pellet Calibers for Hunting Large Game With an Air Gun
If you want to have a go at hunting large animals like deer with your air rifle, these are the best calibers to choose from:
Pellet Calibers for Hunting Medium Game With an Air Gun
Medium-sized game includes animals such as raccoons, foxes, or even bobcats. For these, your best bets are:
Pellet Calibers for Hunting Small Game With an Air Gun
Squirrels, rabbits, birds, and even yard pests qualify as small game. If the reason you’re seeking to hunt with an airgun is to rid your yard of uninvited guests, you want to consider the following calibers:
Can You Hunt With an Air Pistol?
You can hunt with an air pistol if it has ample power. If you need a break for your air rifle and want to try your hand at hunting with an air pistol, a PCP air pistol in the following calibers will be best:
Airgun Hunting Laws by State and Game
It’s plausible to ask if a state doesn’t have a specific law against hunting with an air rifle, can you still do it? Thankfully, hunting with an air rifle has become popular enough to define the rules in each state clearly.
Alabama allows big game and small game hunting with an airgun. Some game, like the crow, has specific seasons during which you can use an airgun. Other animals, such as whitetail deer and frogs (yes, frogs), require a certain caliber.
Local jurisdictions may have different laws concerning the use of airguns.
With recently loosened restrictions, Alaska has seen an influx of hunters over the last two years. While big game hunting is popular in The Last Frontier, it is not allowed with an airgun.
Small game hunting with an airgun is carefully regulated but legal in Alaska. Creatures like the snowshoe hare and spruce grouse are fair game in season.
Arizona has room for small and big game hunters who wish to incorporate air guns into their repertoire. Most animals that have a season are open for air rifle hunting.
From skunks and turkeys to mountain lions and black bears, airgun hunting is a viable sport in Arizona.
Airgun hunting in Arkansas is legal for big game and small game. Most creatures have a caliber requirement. Feral hogs, in particular, can only be hunted on private land with permission.
While airguns are perfectly legal in Arkansas, hunting wildlife with an arrow propelled by compressed air is not.
While California is not the most popular hunting destination in the United States, there is room for airgun hunting. Certain species within the big game and small game categories are legal to hunt in California.
The biggest game in California – bears – is not legal to hunt with an air rifle.
In Colorado, big game hunting with an airgun is illegal. This law also prohibits airguns that shoot arrows, although bow hunting is otherwise allowed.
Small game hunting with an air rifle is allowed in Colorado, though subject to specific requirements.
Connecticut allows small game hunting with an airgun. Some small game, such as opossum and raccoon, have specific requirements that only apply to hunting on private land.
Other small game parameters exist, such as caliber standards and state land expectations.
Delaware’s selection of creatures you can hunt with an air rifle is small, especially compared to places like Alaska and Colorado. No big game hunting is allowed, but hunters can use airguns for gray squirrel, pheasant, quail, and rabbit.
Taking your airgun to Florida might be the best idea if you’re an avid hunter looking for some new challenges.
You can hunt everything from squirrels and sparrows to bobcats and armadillos. You can even hunt alligators with an air rifle if you’re feeling particularly bold.
Georgia allows airguns in big and small game hunts. Some big game, like black bears, can only be hunted during primitive weapon hunts or seasons.
In Georgia, hunters of game-like turkeys and whitetail deer can use arrow-shooting airguns as well as air rifles.
Hawaii has some of the strictest airgun laws in the United States. The state wholly prohibits them on all public lands in Hawaii.
You can use airguns for hunting game such as axis deer, mouflon, feral hogs, and feral goats on private lands, as long as you have the owner’s permission.
Idaho doesn’t have many restrictions on hunting game with an air rifle. The state allows you to hunt big and small game an airgun. Plus, there are even recommendations for you to use larger calibers on creatures like black bears.
I could even hunt porcupine with an airgun in Idaho if I wanted to.
Illinois does not permit big game hunting with airguns, and the state restricts most of the small game to dispatching animals in traps.
In Illinois, you can use an airgun on partridge, pheasant, turkey, and quail. However, it must be an air shotgun. On state-owned land, you must use a .22 caliber on opossums.
Indiana allows big and small game hunting with air rifles. Squirrels and groundhogs, feral hogs, whitetail deer, and various other species are all fair game with an airgun.
While only allowing people to hunt specific animals with airguns, Indiana does not have as many additional requirements for hunters in the state.
In the middle of the heartland, Iowa allows only small game hunting with airguns. And not every small game creature is listed as eligible.
In Iowa, hunters may use airguns for coyotes, feral hogs, fox, rabbit, and squirrels. Although regulations may differ with each locality, Iowa has fairly standard expectations for when airguns are appropriate to use.
Kansas is a veritable goldmine of available creatures like hare, armadillo, and woodchuck for all the small game hunters out there.
Feral hogs are fair game with air rifles, but only with special permits and private land.
The bluegrass of Kentucky is rife with big and small game, providing varying species hunters can use air rifles on. You can find Birds like quail, small furry creatures like otters, and even bigger game like whitetail deer and feral hogs.
To hunt game like squirrels and raccoons, Kentucky requires at least .22 caliber.
If you were hoping to hunt alligators with airguns, then don’t go to Louisiana. No big game hunting is allowed if you’re using an air rifle.
Small game like coyotes, rabbits, and armadillos are up for grabs in Louisiana. You can even go after some feral hogs if you’re feeling inspired.
Maine might be the place to finally bag that black bear I’ve been dreaming of taking. The state recommends using at least .40 caliber, but as long as it’s larger than .22, you are good to go.
Hunting with an airgun is legal for most small game as well, and you can even go after a moose if you feel so inclined.
Maryland is open to airgun hunting for big and small game alike. Some specific parameters exist.
For example, you can only use airguns that shoot arrows if you’re hunting turkey in the spring season. And if you’re hunting black bears, you must have at least .40 caliber.
Massachusetts may not be the first state that comes to mind when you’re planning your hunting trip. But small game is abounding in the northeast, and Massachusetts is no exception.
Big game hunting is not allowed, and that state prohibits airguns that shoot arrows for small game and some bird hunting.
Michigan is open to big and small game hunting. Various kinds of squirrels, bobcats, badgers, and black bears are all on the approved list of Michiganders who want to try their hand at airgun hunting.
The state explicitly prohibits the use of airguns that shoot arrows, regardless of the season.
If you go hiking in Minnesota, you may stumble upon a black bear, but you may not shoot them with an airgun. Big game hunting with airguns is not allowed in the great northern state.
Small game hunting is a different story, however. For unprotected species, airguns are legal in Minnesota.
Hunters must wait for an emergency ruling to go after weasels.
Like Hawaii, Mississippi has some of the strictest laws concerning hunting with airguns. Whitetail deer is the only approved species for hunting with an air rifle.
Mississippi is one of the nation’s leading spots for whitetail deer hunting. So despite the limitations, there is still an excellent option for airgun hunting.
Like most Midwestern states, Missouri allows a fair amount of airgun hunting. Small game is most prevalent, but whitetail deer is also on the approved species list for firearms seasons. The only requirement is that it must be at least .40 caliber.
Montana doesn’t allow big game hunting with airguns, but small game hunting is permitted.
You can even hunt weasels with an air rifle in Montana.
Nebraska is home to some beautiful big game creatures. Not only do whitetail deer run rampant, but mule deer, pronghorn, elk, and bighorn sheep roam free on the plain.
If you’re looking to bag some big game with an airgun, Nebraska is not the place to do it. Small game is allowed, but big game is strictly prohibited.
If you’ve ever had a desire to hunt jackrabbit with an air rifle, you might be able to fulfill that dream in Nevada.
The western state doesn’t allow big game hunting but has plenty of small game airgun enthusiasts who are welcome to go after. You can even hunt beaver if you want.
A small state like New Hampshire has a smaller game selection to offer hunters around the United States. When it comes to airgun use, big game is out of the question.
There are a few small game options, like a squirrel (gray and red), hare, pheasant, and rabbit. The woodchuck is also an approved species, and porcupine and chipmunk.
Unlike other states we’ve seen so far, New Jersey defines an airgun as shoulder-mounted, between .177 and .22 caliber, and does not shoot arrows.
Airgun hunters are welcomed in the Land of Enchantment for small game like coyotes, grouse, and squirrels.
The state makes recommendations based on ethical standards they would like hunters to abide by on their trips. For example, the airgun should be at least .22 caliber.
Big game hunting in New York with an air rifle is not likely to happen any time soon. But small game hunting is legal and accepted for skunks, starlings, or weasels.
New York has specific definitions for an airgun, including its caliber size and muzzle bore. Since BB and pellet guns are also considered firearms, it should come as no surprise that the state has more strict definitions.
If you’re looking for a state that has loose restrictions and treats air guns like other rifles or pistols, then North Carolina might be the place to plan your hunting trip.
Big and small game hunting is legal, and you can use airguns during firearms season to take any animal you would otherwise hunt with a firearm.
Unlike North Carolina, North Dakota does not consider an airgun a firearm. There are slightly tighter regulations surrounding airgun hunting, especially regarding different calibers and the projectile type.
However, big and small game hunting is allowed in North Dakota.
Small game hunting in Ohio is the only hunting permitted with an airgun. However, the small game list of approved species is long enough to keep adventurous hunters occupied for some time.
Wild boar is perhaps the most exciting species approved for airgun hunting. I’ve heard they can be a bit cantankerous, so watch yourself out there.
Feral hogs and badgers fall under the list of approved species for air rifle hunting in Oklahoma. However, since those animals are technically small game, no big game hunting is allowed.
Other approved species on the small game list in Oklahoma include river otter, raccoon, groundhog, coyote, bobcat, and nutria.
Nutria doesn’t show up on every list of approved species for airgun hunting, but it happens to be on Oregon’s list as well. While only small game hunting is allowed in this West Coast state, you can still find some excitement going after coyotes or feral hogs.
Home to the great chocolate factory and a plethora of small game hunting for airgun users, Pennsylvania requires at least .22 caliber for most air rifles.
Some animals, like mink, muskrat, and otter, may only be taken with an airgun if you are dispatching trapped animals.
The littlest state in the United States only allows small game hunting for airguns. And the small game list is equally small.
In Rhode Island, the approved species list is limited to rabbits, squirrels, and woodchucks.
Wherever it is legal to take an animal with a rifle in South Carolina, it is also legal to use an airgun its stead. The state considers airguns lawful for hunting and allows their use for big and small game.
While South Dakota doesn’t allow big game hunting, you can hunt small game creatures like cottontail rabbit, fox, gopher, and porcupine with an airgun.
There is also a special provision for predators, such as coyotes and black bears.
The list of approved species in Tennessee is longer than many of the other states in the region. Between big and small game, hunters have a wide variety of options.
I found it particularly interesting that Tennessee is the only state allowing air shotguns on moorhen.
It’s no wonder that the big state of Texas allows big and small game hunting, with a list of approved species almost longer than my arm. There are some specific requirements for the airguns that you should check out before planning a trip.
You can take everything from a black bear to a skunk with an air rifle in Utah. Some species are limited to firearms seasons, like mountain goats.
Of all the states in the United States, Vermont is the only one that has vague regulations. The guidelines don’t explicitly outline airguns as approved weapons for hunting. However, they don’t restrict them either.
Virginia has pretty standard regulations, allowing some big game and some small game hunting with air rifles.
It’s small game hunting only in the state of Washington. However, it’s one of five western states that allow the hunting of marmots with an airgun.
West Virginia doesn’t have any specific guidelines for airgun hunting. Small game only is allowed, and the approved list of species is relatively manageable.
The state that loves cheese doesn’t have as much leeway for airgun users. You can hunt small game in Wisconsin, but nothing more significant than a bobcat.
While Wyoming allows airguns for small game hunting, it does not define an air rifle as a firearm.