Centerfire Rifles Proposed in What State for Deer?

For years, deer hunters in some states have been required to use archery equipment, slug guns or muzzleloaders because state officials deemed centerfire rifles a problem and prohibited them.

The potential distance of a centerfire rifle bullet was cause for concern yet, in more populated Southeast states the rifles were the accepted hunting weapon. In the Midwest, however, they’ve not been on the radar until the last few years.

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Now, proposed changes by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources includes the use of centerfire rifles for deer hunting. These proposed changes would not go into effect until the 2015-16 season. Kudos to the Indiana DNR, though, for posting these here early enough that hunters can give feedback and have time to digest the proposals.

You can check out the full list of hunting and fishing proposals here. Some of them relate to grouse, pheasant, turkeys and other wildlife or fish. But the deer-related portions are below:

312 IAC 9-3-2: Changes the urban deer zone license to a deer reduction zone license to be consistent with proposed language changes in 312 IAC 9-3-4 and requires check station operators to check-in deer using the DNR’s electronic harvest reporting system.  Changes to the licensing system are in the process, and retailers will be able to check-in deer and turkey for hunters through a system similar to the current licensing system

Indiana Hunters Had a Record Deer Season … 

312 IAC 9-3-3:  Makes the following changes governing deer hunting equipment:

  • Allows the 28-gauge shotgun to be used during the firearms seasons and the special antlerless season. Twenty-eight (28) gauge deer slug ammunition is now available and allowing these firearms will provide deer hunters another choice of firearm with which to hunt deer.
  • Clarifies that handguns currently legal to use during the firearms season are legal even if originally designed and registered as a rifle. This would clarify that a rifle that can be changed to be used as a handgun can be used during deer firearms season as long as it meets requirements for legal handguns.
  • Allows additional rifles to be used by reducing the bullet size required to .243 and eliminating the maximum rifle cartridge case length. This will allow high-powered rifles such as the .30-30 and .45-70 during the deer firearms seasons. Full metal jacketed bullets would be unlawful because since they do not expand when fired, and therefore, do not kill as humanely.
  • Allows firearms to be used during the deer reduction (formerly urban deer zone) season, where legal to discharge a firearm, from the first Saturday after November 11 through January 31 of the following year. Use of firearms in deer reduction zones would give communities greater flexibility to manage deer-related problems and should improve deer-harvest success rates.
  • Changes the dates for placing tree or ground blinds on state and federal properties to noon on September 15 through January 10
  • Allows those who place on tree stands or ground blinds on state and federal properties to identify it with their Indiana DNR-issued Customer ID number or name and address, instead of requiring only their name and address. This ID number is pretty short and would add a degree of privacy to hunters without interfering with law enforcement validation of the users. The DNR believes this change can be made at this time for the following reasons:
  • There are currently no limits on rifles that are legal to use for species other than migratory birds, deer, and wild turkey.
  • 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).
  • They are legal in several nearby states, including Kentucky, Michigan (the northern part of the state), and Pennsylvania.
    There has not been an increase in hunting-related accidents as the result of the use of rifles, both in Indiana and in several other states where they are allowed.
  • There isn’t a need to limit the equipment that can be used to take deer in order to manage the deer herd.  The deer harvest was a record in 2012, and the DNR is managing the deer herd through other means.

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.

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312 IAC 9-3-4: Makes the following changes to the deer season dates and bag limits:

  • Allows a youth hunter to take one antlerless deer in an “A” county (such as Tipton County) during the special youth deer season. This would allow youth hunters additional opportunities in those counties and should have little effect on an “A” county’s deer population.
  • Allow the adult who accompanies a youth hunter to carry a handgun in accordance with state law. This would comply with state law (Indiana Code 35-47-2), which allows an individual to carry a handgun while hunting lawfully.
  • Renames Urban Deer Zones to Reduction Zones.
  • Modifies boundaries for these zones by allowing them to be established annually by the DNR Director in a temporary rule. Adding or removing deer-reduction zones on an annual basis would give the DNR more flexibility to address deer density conflicts and to respond to disease threats.
  • Increases bag limit of antlerless deer in these areas.