Game officials in Indiana are considering lifting the ban on rifle hunting for deer in the state, with a proposed rule change to hunting regulations that could take effect for next year’s season.
The Indiana Natural Resources Commission proposed the change this month, recognizing that modern technology for previously allowed firearms has evolved so much that banning rifles for deer hunting doesn’t make sense.
“Muzzleloaders have evolved to the point that with smokeless powder (which is legal to use), they are essentially a high-powered rifle (accurate 500-yard gun),” the Commission wrote in its justification for the rule change. “There are currently no legal limits on rifles that are legal to use for species other than migratory birds, deer and wild turkey.”
Indiana is one of only a couple states in the Midwest that bans the use of rifles for deer hunting, with proponents of the restriction saying the state’s relatively flat terrain poses a risk for injury if a hunter misses his target firing a high-powered rifle cartridge.
But Hoosier game commissioners argue that nearby states that allow rifles during deer season haven’t seen any spike in accidents and say the change won’t contribute to a sharp drop in the deer herd.
Rifles “are legal in several nearby states, including Kentucky, Michigan … and Pennsylvania,” officials say. “There has been no increase in hunting-related accidents as the result of the use of rifles, neither in Indiana nor in several other states where they are allowed.”
For example, in 2013 there were a total of 952,989 hunters in Pennsylvania that took an estimated 352,920 deer during the 2013-2014 hunting season. During the 2013 season, there were no reports of firearms-related hunting accidents in the state. In 2012 there were 33 non-fatal shooting accidents during hunting seasons, the two leading causes were carrying a firearm in a dangerous position and the victim being in the line of fire.
Keith Snyder, head of the state’s Hunter Safety Division, noted that fully 50 percent of all accidents are self-inflicted.
Currently Indiana allows hunters to use muzzleloaders, shotguns with slugs and pistols chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .450 Bushmaster. The rule change would make it legal to hunt deer with a rifle chambered in .243 or larger.
“Rifle cartridges that fire a bullet at least .243 in diameter and have a minimum case length of 1.16 inches long can safely and humanely kill white tailed deer,” Indiana DNR officials say.
Hunters in the state have until May to comment on the rule change.
Grand View Outdoors Editorial Director Bob Robb contributed to this report.