Deer hunters will have the option of another weapon this fall as state wildlife commissioners on Monday approved emergency rules for use of air powered arrow rifles during big game rifle seasons.
The air guns are also commonly called air bows, but they will be illegal to use in Oklahoma during archery and muzzleloader seasons. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission classifies the weapon as a gun for hunting purposes.
"There is nothing about that weapon that constitutes a bow and arrow in the conventional sense," said Wildlife Commissioner James Barwick of Edmond.
The air powered arrow rifles are a hybrid hunting product that uses compressed air to fire an arrow. They have become more popular in recent years and Oklahoma is one of multiple states that has legalized them for hunting.
Arizona has allowed the use of air powered arrow rifles for big game hunting for years and Texas also has legalized them, Barwick said. Safari Club International, the global conservation and hunter advocacy leader, recently created a new record book designation exclusively for air rifle hunters.
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State lawmakers legalized the air guns for hunting during its last legislative session. Wildlife commissioners had to pass emergency rules so the guns could be used during the upcoming hunting seasons.
Bill Dinkines, head of the wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, told commissioners the weapon is "pretty lethal out to 50, 60 and 70 yards."
Sighting scopes are permitted on the arrow rifles but no laser sights, unless the hunter is disabled or legally blind. Thermal tracking devices and light-enhancing devices, including night scopes, are not allowed.
The other rules for hunting with air powered arrow rifles, such as the legal specifications for broadheads, are now listed online at wildlifedepartment.com. The rules were passed too late to be included in the printed version of the Oklahoma Hunting Guide.
Because the air guns are not included in the Pittman Robertson Act, which places excise taxes on hunting equipment to be used for conservation, a one-time $20 permit will be required of Oklahoma hunters who use air powered arrow rifles.
The guns are reportedly very accurate and quiet, which is appealing to some hunters. Hearing protection isn't necessary when using them.
Miles Hall, owner of Hall and Hall Consulting in Edmond, has been involved in the shooting sports for 41 years. He thinks the guns will become popular among those who hunt deer near suburban areas.
"I think it is going to catch on," he said.
Umarex and Benjamin Pioneer are the two major manufacturers of air powered arrow rifles, but Hall said there will be more companies making the guns and more retailers selling them in the near future as states have legalized them for hunting.
Prices for the guns and accessories range from $200 to $1,000.
Game wardens save lives
Also at Monday's meeting, state wildlife commissioners recognized four game wardens in the state for their life-saving efforts.
Riley Willman, a game warden in Delaware County, was given a medal of valor award for saving the life of a drowning man on May 11.
Willman had stopped at Flint Creek Water Park to check licenses of anglers when he heard someone screaming to call 911. An Arkansas man was swimming in the creek and had been sucked under by the water tumbling over the dam.
Willman jumped in the fast-flowing creek, pulled the man to shore and then performed CPR to revive him.
On April 9, Willman and fellow game warden Austin Jackson rescued an angler whose boat had capsized on Lake Eucha during a night fishing tournament.
The game wardens navigated six miles of water in their boat in heavy fog and current to reach the man who was clinging to a partially submerged log. The game wardens were able get close enough in the boat to pull the exhausted man on board.
"Their actions that night no doubt saved the man's life," said Nathan Erdmann, chief of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
In October 2021, Willman also assisted the Delaware County deputy on a mental distress call where a man had barricaded himself inside of his home. Upon entry, it was discovered the man had cut his wrists. Willman applied a tourniquet to his wounds to keep the man from bleeding to death at the scene.
On Sept. 26, 2020, Noble County game warden Stephen Paul was preparing to take his family to dinner when he received a frantic call from the sheriff's department about a possible drowning in progress on Sooner Lake.
Paul headed out on Sooner Lake on a windy day with gusts in excess of 45 mph to search for one of two brothers who had jumped into the lake to retrieve a gas can. The pontoon boat had run out of gas and the brothers had dropped the gas can while attempting to refuel the boat.
One brother was clinging to the gas can as he floated away from the boat. Paul began a search of the area and spotted a red dot between 3- and 4-foot lake swells. The red dot in the distance turned out to be the gas can and Paul was able to rescue the man.
On Jan. 19 of this year, Osage County Game Warden Larry Green was contacted by dispatch about three duck hunters whose boat had capsized on Kaw Lake. Green launched his boat in cold temperatures and rough, choppy waters to reach the duck hunters, who were experiencing hypothermia when they were rescued.
"Larry risked his life to reach the three duck hunters," Erdmann said.
In addition on Monday, Kingfisher County Game Warden Blake Pearson was recognized as the state's game warden of the year.
Field day set at Lexington WMA
The Lexington Wildlife Management Area will host a field day Aug. 17 for landowners to learn about prescribed fires and land management.
Topics will include using prescribed burns to benefit wildlife or livestock, safety, and effects on plants and animals.
To attend, RSVP by Wednesday, Aug. 10, to Brad Secraw at 405-321-4774 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lunch will be provided.
Sporting clays shoot to raise money for DU
The Guthrie chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold a fun shoot Aug. 20 at Silverleaf Shotgun Sports near Guthrie.
Registration will begin at 7:45 a.m. with a safety meeting at 9 a.m. Prizes will be given for the top three shooters in all classes.
Cost is $120 per shooter and $600 for a team of five. Cost for shooters ages 10 to 17 is $90, but they must be accompanied by an adult.
Lunch will be included and there will be games and raffles. For more information, contact Chauncey Watts at 405-278-1943 or Paul Fincher at 405-850-0275, or email email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Air powered arrow rifles legalized for hunting in Oklahoma