I had spent a good 30 minutes creeping up on three particularly vigilant cat squirrels. It was late in the season, and even though I was covered head to toe in a leafy Ghillie suit, it was slow going against the hyper-alert critters.

Finally closing to within 30 yards, I propped my .22 against a sapling and took aim at a squirrel sitting on a limb next to the tree trunk. The crosshairs settled on his shoulder, I squeezed the trigger, and was rewarded with the unmistakable “whop” of a solid hit.

To my surprise the squirrel jumped straight up like a startled cat, bounded to the ground and scurried to a nearby tree. After about 10 feet, however, it stopped and plopped over dead.

It was my first successful stalk with a .22 air rifle, and before the morning was over I added two more squirrels to my game bag. Needless to say, I was hooked on a new, challenging way to hunt.

Air rifle advantages

Over the last few decades, technology has steadily changed the sport of hunting. Recurved bows gave way to compounds and compounds led to wickedly accurate crossbows. The primitive weapons deer season is no longer even recognizable as such, considering one can now use centerfire rifles.

As bagging game has become easier, many sportsmen have opted to go old school to make it challenging again. There are those who hunt with nothing but long bows or traditional muzzleloaders, and now some are turning to air rifles for small game.

One obvious advantage an air rifle has over a rimfire is that it is much quieter — not entirely silent as some would believe — but quieter. A standard .22 rimfire shot is about 135 decibels and has an