Along The Trail 5-28-15

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Recently, the members of the Indiana Natural Resources Committee voted down a proposal to allow the use of high powered rifles during the upcoming deer firearms season. Over the last several months, the issue was the topic of some heated debate between hunters and sportsman’s groups across the state.

Currently, Indiana allows the use of rifles chambered in calibers commonly referred to as “cowboy cartridges”. Calibers such as .357’s, .44mag and .45LC are some of the more common loads allowed under Indiana law. If the proposal to allow “traditional” high powered rifles into deer season passed, guns such as a .243 would have become standard fair for deer hunters.

During several public meetings on the topic as well as on line discussions, the state was fairly split along North/South lines. Hunters in the Northern and central part of the state weren’t in favor of rifles due to the flat terrain and the possibility of a stray shot traveling further and safety risk that posed.

Southern Indiana deer hunters were more inclined to be in favor of the higher powered calibers due to the more rural, hilly and wooded nature of our terrain.

Representatives from the Department of Natural Resources conducted several studies and interviews with surrounding states that allow the use of high powered rifles and discovered that there were little, if any additional safety concerns over the calibers that we (Indiana) currently allow. The arguments went back and forth between the pro and anti rifle factions.

Once all the facts were in, the legislatures forwarded the information to the NRC for final say on the matter and despite no real evidence of high powered rifles being a safety concern, the NRC voted down the proposal.

The members cited lack of public support of the issue and some even went as far as saying that they won’t revisit the idea any time soon.

Being a dyed in the wool bowhunter, I was glad to see the measure fail. Not that I’m opposed to firearms season, quite the opposite. I got my start as a gun hunter and some of my fondest memories afield are during gun season with my kids. In fact my adult daughter and I still make it a point to sit in the woods a couple of times each fall, with a shotgun in her hand.

But the reason I opposed the use of rifles during deer season is the fact that it would make hunting easier. In my opinion, hunting should be “hunting” and not just shooting.

Think of it this way, if a hunter puts in his or her time scouting deer, finding food sources, bedding areas, etc, they’ve paid their dues. They’ve “hunted” for the deer and hopefully, regardless if they’re a bowhunter or gun hunter, the end result is bagging a deer and bringing home venison. Venison that they can be proud of and know that they worked for.

Now lets enter a high caliber rifle into the equation.

A hunter sees a buck 400 yards away across a field of corn stubble. He steadies his aim on a set of shooting sticks, squeezes the trigger and the deer folds in a heap.

The hunt is over.

In that scenario, the hunter has turned into nothing more than a sniper, a shooter. That type of hunting to me misses the point.

High powered rifles have their place in the hunting world. Western states, large game, places were long range shots are the norm, rifles are needed for hunters to play their role in conservation. But here in Indiana, hunters and the Hoosier deer herd have been served well by the venerable slug guns, muzzle loaders and bowhunters.

There just isn’t a biological or environmental need to enter rifles into the mix and I for one am happy that the NRC “shot” down the proposal.

- David Hewitt