I’ll never forget my first morning deer hunting on public land near my childhood home in southern Wisconsin, a state with more than 600,000 deer hunters. For nine days a year, the state could field the world’s seventh largest army. Since hunters are required to wear blaze orange during the gun deer season, come November the Wisconsin woods and fields take on the look of a never-ending pumpkin patch—a loud one at that.
As I sat in a makeshift stand consisting of a board wedged between two branches about 15 feet off the ground, dawn brought a nearly steady barrage of rifle reports on the order of an Antietam reenactment. Until that time, I had no idea whitetail deer could run that fast. A blast from a .30-30, .270, or .30-06 (all common calibers used for deer hunting) will carry for miles, like gunpowder-induced thunder. The notion of a quiet morning communing with nature in the deer woods was, instead, something more akin to a day at the local gun range.
Is it any wonder, then, that hunters in droves are paying hush money for compound bows, air bows, silencers and now, new air rifles that deliver never-before-achieved lethality while greatly reducing noise? The trend of ditching ear plugs for weapons that don’t rock the forest (or your ear drums) is a theme that’s booming among America’s 15 million hunters—and nearly everyone seems happy about it.
One brand that is at the forefront of hunting’s quiet revolution is Umarex, purveyors of top-of-the-line air rifles. The company is helping change hunting’s trajectory with technological breakthroughs that have transformed an air rifle’s capabilities—dramatically. While Lewis and Clark used a primitive air gun to take more than 1,000 animals on their famed Voyage of Discovery, new Umarex models are light years from the early air guns—think the difference between the Wright Flyer and Apollo.
At the heart of this quantum leap is a patent-pending valve. The valve, along with a unique regulator, instantly pulses a jet of compressed air at 3,000 pounds per square inch behind either a 550- or 250-grain slug. The result is that the slugs travel at 760 feet per second or 1,000 feet per second respectively. Translated, that’s a wallop. The aptly named Umarex Hammer.50 caliber air rifles are now being used across the globe to hunt everything from deer in the Midwest to bears in Canada to 2,000-pound Cape buffalo in Africa. Indeed, these aren’t your granddad’s air guns.
In addition to significant noise reduction (hearing protection isn’t necessary when shooting Umarex air rifles) they do not kick like traditional centerfire rifles as their light recoil is more of a firm push rather than the sharp jolt common to other rifles. Moreover, air rifles are not subject to the same Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms regulations as centerfire and rimfire firearms and can be purchased direct from Umarex rather than through a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer.
The company has taken their technology to the archery market as well, offering CO2-propelled air bows that are marketed under the names AirJavelin and AirSaber. Their recent launches of the AirJavelin Pro PCP and the AirSaber Elite X2 double barrel arrow gun have been category redefining—to say nothing of looking like something out of Mad Max. The bows are powered by an onboard tank that will deliver up to 25 effective shots before needing recharge. With the air regulated to 1,500 pounds per square inch, arrows will launch at 370 feet per second, delivering plenty of energy to take deer and other game inside of 60 yards. With an over-abundance of deer in many suburban and semi-rural areas, Umarex’s air bows are finding a significant market where stealth is a requisite. The air rifles and air bows are a popular choice for vermin control anywhere you don’t want to alarm the neighbors.
As legions of hunters embrace modern air rifles, a growing list of states have created hunting seasons expressly for the guns. Moreover, Safari Club International, the global conservation and hunter advocacy leader, has recently created a new record book designation exclusively for air rifle hunters. “Giving airgunners their own category in the SCI Record Book is overdue,” said the organization in a recent press release.
And once most sportsmen and women realize they can enjoy a hunt in quiet solitude, there’s no going back.