Break with tradition: State explores allowing high-powered rifles

Indiana is quickly becoming recognized as a top state for trophy bucks.

A caveat of hunting in Indiana with a firearm is that it’s primarily a shotgun and muzzleloader state, with certain short-range rifles also allowed. This may change in the near future, though, as the Indiana Natural Resources Commission explores the option of legalizing high-powered rifles.

My first deer hunting gun was a side hammer muzzleloader that I ordered from Bass Pro Shops for $99. This was almost 25 years ago. It was a primitive weapon to match my primitive skills.

It took me three seasons to kill my first deer. At the time, my lack of success drove me nuts.

Today, I look back on those years with pride because I learned to be a hunter, not just

a shooter.

This debate on legalizing rifles is a tough one for me. I’ve taken a number phone calls and emails from friends asking me to weigh in on the debate. I’ve held off a bit because I wanted to really try and get my mind right before letting my heart speak.

First of all, here is exactly

what we are talking about.

This was pulled directly from

the Department of Natural Resources website:

312 IAC 9-3-3: Makes the following changes governing deer hunting equipment: 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. (Read entire proposal at

I spoke with Indiana DNR director of communications

Phil Bloom to get the back story on the proposal. Basically, I wanted to know why we are having the debate.

I was pleased to find out from Bloom that this is not a politically motivated action. It is a topic that arises regularly among residents, and the Natural Resources Commission decided that enough people had expressed interest in the issue to warrant exploring it further. I always appreciate the public having the opportunity to enact change, and in this case it seems a specific group of Hoosiers were listened to.

Now the public comment

period allows for views from

those on both sides of the issue to be heard.

Bloom was clear in telling

me that currently this is a Natural Resources Commission issue that the DNR has not taken a stance on. However, on the DNR website, there is a list of reasons why it feels high-powered rifles would be acceptable to use, but there are no reasons why they should not be used, which is definitely leading if nothing else. The website reads, “The DNR believes this change can be made at this time for the following reasons.”

The reasons are:

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 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.

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.

Personally, answering the question of whether Indiana should allow the use of high-powered rifles is a tough one. My heart says no. We should stick with tradition. Indiana deer hunting is not broken, so there is no need to fix it.

But my mind disagrees. Rifles are fun to shoot and are effective hunting weapons.

Sales of rifles and ammunition will benefit the economy and federal Pittman-Robertson reimbursements. Studies show they are no more dangerous.

I guess it comes down to that at the end of the day, I’ll still have the choice to hunt with what I want to hunt with, while my neighbor has the choice to hunt with what he or she wants to

hunt with.

Logically, I can’t make a strong argument for saying no. What do you think?

The Natural Resources Commission is accepting public comment on the topic. There is no deadline for public comment at this time. There will be open houses in the future. To leave

a comment, visit


See you down the trail.