Indiana To Shoot Down Centerfire Rifles for Deer Hunting

rifle hunter compressedFrom A controversial proposal that would have allowed Indiana deer hunters to use high-powered rifles is likely dead. Wildlife officials at the Department of Natural Resources are recommending against the proposal, saying the deep rift it caused among hunters has proven too contentious.

While it’s possible the Indiana Natural Resources Commission could buck the agency’s recommendation next week, longtime followers of the 12-person board say it’s very rare for that to happen.

The proposal would have allowed the use of centerfire rifles larger than .243 in Indiana’s firearms deer season. Currently, only muzzleloaders and slug guns are allowed, along with a few pistol calibers.

The DNR says Indiana’s nearly 266,500 deer hunters were split on the issue.

But officials say that based on their research, the use of rifles wouldn’t greatly increase the number of deer killed each season , nor would it reduce the size of the herd. And I say the safety issue is a non-starter; most states allow centerfire rifles for deer hunting without problems.

So why is the Indiana DNR now recommending against rifles? Officials say it has become a “social issue,” and the strong opposition to rifles prompted them to recommend against the change.

While I do not believe that wildlife management and hunting decisions should be driven by  “social issues”—these decisions should be based on science, practicality and common sense—I actually get it here.

Last year, after decades of controversy, my home state of Virginia finally allowed hunting on Sundays (until then, Sunday had been a day of rest for wildlife and hunters). There was never really a good reason for not allowing people to hunt on Sundays. But for those of us who grew up here decades ago, you just never hunted on a Sunday. That was just the way it is. It had become a social issue. Right or wrong, old traditions die hard. (BTW, I have still never hunted on Sunday in Virginia, and I doubt I ever will.)

It is no different than the proposal to allow rifles in Indiana. For all these years, hunters have been restricted to shotguns and muzzleloaders, and the hunting has been just fine. So many hunters say, why change? I get that. I don’t necessarily agree, but I get it.

Two more observations about the proposed rifle law in Indiana. If it were to pass, more mature top-end bucks would be killed each year. Bucks at 200-300 yards that hunters let walk with slug guns and muzzleloaders would fall to a .270 or .30-06. Depending on what side of the fence you’re on, this is either a good or bad thing. How many more big bucks would be killed, and how would that factor in to the herd management and age structure of bucks in the state? Hard to say, but it looks to be a moot point.

Also, proponents say the use of rifles would allow more people, especially women and kids, to get into deer hunting. I agree. Rifles like a 7mm-08 are easier to shoot, learn with and kill deer with than a muzzleloader or slug gun (and have less recoil). More people would try them for sure.

10 thoughts on “Indiana To Shoot Down Centerfire Rifles for Deer Hunting

  1. Indiana is kinda goofy when it comes to firearms allowed for deer hunting…..

    You can hunt with muzzle loaders that use smokeless powder that are basically like using center fire rifles. You can use pistols chambered in anything chambered in .243 (or above), you can use today’s 200 yard slug guns and you can use pistol cartridge rifles (pcrs) like the .357 mag, .44 mag and .500 S&W (not to mention several “wildcat” rifle rounds that people have come up with over the last several years that meet existing criteria).

    And while I felt allowing center fire rifles was an opportunity to streamline the regs into something that actually makes sense, I do understand the concerns of some (especially in the northern half of the state).

    Another thing that people need to remember is that, (like most states in the Midwest) Indiana is in the midst of “herd reduction” and have recently allowed crossbows during the archery season too. I’ve talked with several hunters and landowners and for many of them, they felt that the new rules we have were enough and we needed to see how those rules and herd reduction were going to play out before allowing center fire rifles in the state in any way, shape or form.

    There is also the trophy hunter versus the “joe average deer hunter” aspect of all of this. There are many who didn’t want the center fire rifles strictly due to the fact that they don’t want people killing bucks @ longer ranges. Many of these hunters want the gun season shortened and/or moved and are upset that not only did they not get that during that last round of reg changes, but that they had to swallow crossbow inclusion during the entire archery season too.

    In the end, I wish the DNR would just ease up on the changes and let the existing regs run for a few seasons, see where they take us and (hopefully) the “riff” between groups of hunters will ease up……

    Will any of that happen? I guess time will tell……..

  2. Ive been hunting Northeast Indiana for 25 years now, and it is for the most part very populated and flat terrain. I think the introduction of high powered rifles is a very bad idea, and hope it gets “shot” down. The chances of an accidental shooting from the high speed bullet would be very high and it would be detrimental to the existing herd, which I feel is already pretty low in the areas I am familiar with. Hunters currently have no problems killing deer with the current firearm why introduce a weapon that is capable of killing an animal at 300 to 400 yard ranges in high populated areas of flat terrain? Its just an accident waiting to happen.

  3. Do like they do in Virginia. Use rifles statewide, with local shotgun/muzzleloader on restrictions. I never understood how you can use ML & shotguns that shoot over 200 yards, but not a rifle.
    Also, Mike, I love Sunday hunting and take advantage of every day the wife will permit.

    • Yeah, Curt, I have nothing against Sunday hunting, esp. when involves getting kids out, but I’m old-school I guess. And If I didn’t get the opportunity to hunt 4 months in other states I’d probably be out there with ya’ll some Sundays

      • Yea, Mike, I guess hunting for a living puts a different perspective on your time at home. While I know it’s not all glamour on the road, it would be a nice problem to have on occasion! But, I am sure you have a real appreciation for your down time.

  4. Being from and living in Indiana, I understand the “high powered rifle” issue pretty well. Many people here are very worried about people launching long distance shots across flat, frozen, harvested cropfields at deer that somebody may think they could possibly connect on. A lot of these fields border homes and farm buildings so the idea of a bullet flying through the side of a pole barn worries people. The amount of deer harvested would go up some for sure, and that really isn’t good for the herd right now since it has been getting hammered the last few years. I know hunters that are very good with high powered rifles. they are no different than any other weapon in that they are only as good as the person using them. Personally, I am a short range hunter so I really don’t want high powered rifles here. Not that there is anything wrong with it….in Indiana, you can hunt squirrels and rabbits with a .308 or whatever you want. I am just old school and like things like they have always been. Ironic that you can hunt most anything else in Indiana with high powered, just not deer. Doesn’t have to make a lot of sense….it just is and I kind of like it that way. Call me old fashioned and set in my ways… makes me happy!

  5. I live and hunt in the same area that Chad does and the flatter terrain, and population demographics here could be very dangerous if that many firearms hunters are using h.p.r. here during our firearms season. Now, there are some counties in southern Indiana where this may be a bit different with the hillier terrain, and less human population in certain areas. It’s similar in Michigan where only shorter-range firearms are legal to use in the southern portion of the state, with rifles legal in the northern, more heavily forested areas.
    And, others are correct when stating the h.p.r’s can be used for other small game, varmints, etc. The biggest difference there is that I don’t think a couple hundred thousand coyote hunters are all going to be hunting at the exact same times; thus making this argument a bit mute.
    My personal opinion is that h.p.r’s aren’t necessary here. To me it’s less a safety issue than a necessity issue. Are h.p.r’s really necessary here? I don’t think they are. Again, just MHO.

  6. FWIW, my understanding is that this may be brought up again in a year or so with the difference being that the state will be broken down into zones. Certain zones will allow center fire rifles, others won’t.

  7. I also live in Northern in Indiana and have had much dialogue about this issue. In our conservative state most have mentioned this is yet another conservative decision. What is often over looked are the liberal bag limits and extensive seasons. Did you know if a hunter takes advantage of the urban archery season, the season allowed them to legally be in the woods for 138 days from the month of September to the end of January, encompassing both firearm and archery seasons. A hunter taking advantage of firearm, muzzleloader, and bonus anterless firearm could legally be in the woods for 39 days. Additionally, there are a handful of counties with up to a quota of 8 deer. New hunter recruitment is an excellent talking point to implement HPR’s. However, with the current regulations relative to crossbow, archery, muzzleloader, and firearms spanning 5 months, there is already ample opportunity.

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