When speaking about air rifles, many of us are instantly transported back to our childhood. With memories of target practice from a very young with our Daisy air rifles, the process of migrating from air rifles to shotguns and slightly larger caliber rifles was somewhat of a rite of passage for many of us.

Today, air gun manufacturers and more importantly, the technology utilized to enhance these weapons is beyond impressive. While historically, air rifles such as the Girandoni Air Rifles were effectively used for exploration during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of western North America, the case is now being made for their effectiveness in modern big game hunting applications.

While some states, such as Arizona currently permit large game hunting for animals such as whitetail deer, mule deer, pronghorn, javelin, bear and mountain lion, there are tight restrictions with regards to the caliber being used. The state of Arizona mandates that a caliber of .357 or larger be used when pursuing big game animals using an air rifle. Other states that currently allow big game hunting in some capacity using air rifles include Missouri, Michigan and Virginia.

In late December New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation proposed regulations allowing for the use of airguns for hunting big game. The state already allows the use of airguns for the use of hunting small game, so for many, they believe this to be a natural progression.

The department, like many others across the United States and Canada, pays close attention to the advancement in technology and uses these findings in aiding them make informed decisions regarding the management of wildlife.

In addition to adding another weapon to the avid hunter’s repertoire, it is believed that the use of air rifles could also expand hunting areas, particularly those holding large populations of game such as deer, which have otherwise remained protected from hunting. Many proponents, including Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation believe that because these weapons are not as loud as conventional rifles or shotguns, these weapons might more suitable for hunting in areas with larger human densities.

Opponents, however, are under the belief that perhaps these air-powered weapons do not yield enough power to successfully kill a large animal humanely, and animal-rights groups are actively fighting the proposal for these and other associated reasons.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is currently accepting comments on the proposal until February 8, 2016. Voice your opinion via email at wildliferegs@dec.ny.gov using “air rifle regulations” in the subject line.