Hunting with Airguns in Texas: Following Laws and Regulations

By | October 11, 2015
Please note that all information contained within this article is subject to change as federal, state, or local laws are modified. Always check with the state for the most current guidelines, statutes, and laws. You can contact your state for more specific inquiries at any time via their website (https://www2.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/webcomment/)

The following information was collected from sources on September 24, 2015.

 

Air Rifles and Air Guns

While air rifles are considered safer than traditional guns or BB guns, they are still regulated for safety and control by the Federal government and should not be mistaken for toy guns. However, they are not considered firearms under federal statues due to their projectiles being expelled by non-explosive force. In Texas, air guns are considered a non-powder gun and are subject to many of the same laws and rules as a traditional firearm. That being said, there are no regulation rules towards the purchase and possession of air guns and air rifles in Texas (http://smartgunlaws.org/non-powder-guns-policy-summary/).

Air rifles are highly favored as a beginning weapon for youth hunting. This is due, in part, to the lower cost of owning and operating an air rifle in comparison with a traditional firearm. They are typically lighter in weight as well, making them more manageable for youth to operate safely. So, what is the legality of hunting with an air rifle in the state of Texas?

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife (https://tpwd.texas.gov/regulations/outdoor-annual/hunting/general-regulations/means-and-methods), it is legal to take any game animal (large or small) or game bird with any legal firearm with specific exceptions. Texas recognizes legal firearms to be any device that is intended, designed, or adapted to eject a projectile such as a bullet or pellet through a barrel using a force that is created by an explosion or burning of a substance. It is considered illegal if it has an integral knife or blade on the ‘firearm’, or was manufactured prior to 1899 (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.46.htm).
So, even though it is legal to hunt all game and animals with any fire arm, there are exceptions that apply to the use of air guns as they are not considered a firearm per se. For instance, it is not lawful to use an air gun or air rifle to hunt any game bird or game animal except for squirrel. In order for this to be legal, the air gun must be a designed air rifle that is shot from the shoulder and uses the power of a spring, air, or other non-lighted compressed gas. The projectile, bullet, or pellet, must be at least 1.77 caliber (4.5 mm) and have a minimum velocity of 600 feet per second. There is no restriction on magazine capacity and semi-automatic capacity rifles in Texas as well. It is worth noting that both handguns and shotguns are considered ‘means not allowed’ in regards to drawn hunts. The only exception is eastern turkey which is exclusively hunted using shotguns (https://www2.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing/regulations.phtml).

 

Game versus Non-game Animals and Birds

However, if an animal is a non-game animal (non-protected) it can be hunted with any firearm that is legal, pellet gun, or air gun. Examples of non-game animals in Texas include but are not limited to armadillos, bobcats, coyotes, frogs, mountain lions, porcupines, turtles, rabbits, and prairie dogs. These animals have no closed hunting season and do require a hunting license. They can be taken at any time by lawful means on private property. It is also recommended to use precaution when taking wild animals, particularly armadillos, as they may carry diseases such as leprosy.

Black bears are considered protected non-game animals and are not legal to hunt at any time.

Non -game (non-protected) birds may include, but are not limited to, starlings, house sparrow, pigeons, and crows (if substantiated as a nuisance).These may be hunted at any time.

Protected, and therefore illegal to hunt, birds include hawks, eagles, owls, and songbirds.

It is unlawful to take any non-game animal or bird for commercial purposes from public land or water (https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/online-course/wildlife-conservation/non-game-animals).

Essentially, one can safely assume that if the animal or bird in question is non-game (non-protected) or squirrel, they can hunt it in Texas so long as they have obtained the proper permit and are using a legal firearm, pellet gun, or air gun.

 

Youth Hunting

Hunting is not an activity for only adults however, and many parents prefer to involve their children in hunting and hunting safety at a young age. Youth hunting is legal in Texas and is defined as any person 16 years of age or younger. Permits and licenses do apply. These currently (09/24/15) cost $7.00 to $48 depending on season and type of game and do not require state stamp endorsements. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on age limit for possession of air rifles and air guns (http://pelletgunzone.com/air-gun-laws/). Texas Parks and Wildlife operates a Texas Youth Hunting Program for anyone 9-17 years of age (http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/youth_hunting/tx_youth_hunt_program/).

For children aged younger than 9, they must be accompanied by an adult while hunting. For youth ages 9-16, they must first complete a hunting safety training successfully or be accompanied by an adult. All hunters, young and old, are required by law to wear hunter orange on public land (and it is highly recommended on private property).

 

Conclusion

By and large, it is not overly difficult to legally hunt large non-game animals, small non-game animals, or bird in Texas. While there are some restrictions, it is a simple matter of checking with the Texas Parks and Wildlife for a summary of rules and regulations. So, buy your permits, wear your orange vest, and have a happy hunting season!

 

Contacts for Additional Information

As previously stated, one should always seek clarification through their local government as well as state and federal authorities for the most recent updated rules and regulations. Local police can inform you of local ordinances, including local protections or concerns for specific wildlife. For state wide rules and regulations the Texas Parks and Wildlife can be contacted at the following information:

4200 Smith School Rd
Austin, Texas 78744
Email: education@tpwd.texas.gov
Phone: 512-389-4999
Fax: 512-389-8673

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