Ethical hunting is a hot topic for us. Actually, for me personally, and with that in mind, I hope you will indulge me in writing in the first person for this article. When I started in the sport, there was the “holy grail” of breakbarrel airguns that filled the pages of catalogs and covered the internet with the idea of hunting pigs with a .177 breakbarrel. This, of course, was the Gamo Hunter Extreme which promised 1600+ FPS and could drop big hogs with a single shot. This is a perfect example of Non-Ethical Hunting and even less ethical marketing.
Preying on Consumer Ignorance
The bottom line was that I fell victim to marketing hype. It’s not, nor will it ever be, ethical to hunt hogs with a .177 breakbarrel airgun. But, the practice of inflating performance numbers has been around for a long time and continues, specifically in the lower-end airgun market. Nearly every company is guilty of presenting FPS numbers (which usually have nothing to do with hunting effectiveness) as a means to lure the uneducated consumer into buying products that simply don’t perform up to the marketing hype.
What You Don’t See in the YouTube Hunting Videos
Here’s a question for you. If you’ve ever watched a hunting show, do you spend 8 hours watching them walk around the woods, scouting locations, or sitting for hours in a stand? Or, do you watch about twenty to thirty minutes of every member of the hunting crew just slaying it? Given that TV shows (and sponsored youtube videos) are mostly designed to help sell products, you will only ever see those products (and show personalities) performing in the best possible light. You won’t see all the time staging the shot or all the bad shots taken. You will only ever see the “best” shots dropping game with great effect.
As someone who has filmed hunting shows and videos for companies, I can tell you that a lot of work goes into delivering a compelling 30-minute episode. And, you are only seeing the best of the footage and their successes. Unfortunately, show personalities and companies aren’t forward enough to show you their failures, only their successes.
So, What Does it Take to Hunt Ethically with an Airgun?
If you are looking to be an ethical airgun hunter, then there are a few things you need to know. Perhaps the most important is to learn about energy on target or “Foot Pounds of Energy.” You’ll see it referenced as FPE. Most companies post exaggerated “FPS” or Feet Per Second numbers that don’t mean much. FPS can be easily manipulated by simply shooting lighter ammo. That’s why you see the phrase “with alloy pellets” added to most of the marketing materials surrounding these claims. The lighter the ammo, the faster it will fly. But in most cases, the lighter the ammo, the less energy is generated with less accuracy on target.
Consumers need to focus on the energy delivered, with accuracy, to the target. While Muzzle Energy is a good starting reference point, energy at the point of impact is where it matters. You may start with enough energy at the muzzle, but pellets lose energy very quickly, and by the time they get to 50 or 100 yards, that initial energy may be less than half or even one-quarter of where it started. This is why there’s a push for using slugs with airguns. They hold energy more like a bullet and are far more effective at range. So you need to do the math using the weight of the projectile, the velocity at the muzzle, and the ballistic coefficient, to know the limits of your airgun on the game you’re after.
If you are hunting large game and you suspect you’ll need 200 foot-pounds for a clean kill, you’ll want to find an airgun pushing much more than 200 FPE at the muzzle. You’ll also need to know at what range you go below your 200 FPE threshold with the ammo you’ll be using so you can keep all your shots inside that limit. Lastly, you need to make sure that you can put all your shots into the typical kill zone for the game you are after. If you do the work upfront, then you’ll find that you have a lot more success in the field when it matters.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Hunting with an airgun is not like hunting with a firearm. There’s a lot more going on; it simply takes more skill. But, it can be a very fun pastime and a great way to put meat on the table. If you want to know more about ethical airgun hunting, please look at our library of articles, as we’ve covered many of these topics in more detail. This article will help you choose the right powerplant for you next hunting adventure.