Indiana Deer Hunters Can't Use Rifles on Public Land

A mistake in the language of a new law means rifles are only permitted on private property this season.

Because of the legal mistake, hunters won't be able to use rifles until the 2018 season.
Because of the legal mistake, hunters won't be able to use rifles until the Fall of 2018.photo from truthaboutguns.com

A legal screw-up in Indiana has ruined the deer season for a lot of hunters, as the stat DNR confirms that rifles have been banned on state and federal land.

The state Department of Natural Resources issued a clarification to this season's hunting regulations last week banning the use of rifles by deer hunters on public lands in the state, a practice that been both legal and popular in past years, says this story from guns.com.

"Due to recent legislation passed this year by the Indiana General Assembly, hunters can no longer use rifles when hunting deer on public land," the clarification says. "'Public land' includes both state and federal property. Before the change, the use of rifles on public land had been legal."

Hunters can still use a shotgun or muzzleloader on public land, and can use rifles on private property.

So how did something like this happen?

A bill was recently passed that was meant to expand hunting opportunities by amending the state’s rifle season for deer hunting. It allows the use of more rifle calibers.

But, instead, a flub in the bill’s language made it so the entire law only applied to private land and eliminated public options. Yeah, that’s pretty ironic. The real problem is, no changes can be made until next year.

"In an attempt to address last year's rifle changes, the law was changed to something that likely differed from the intent of many involved," said DNR in a statement. "Unfortunately, that sometimes happens in lawmaking. That fact was noticed recently, long after the guide was published, and there is no mechanism for changing the law until next year. The online guide has been updated to reflect the change. Without making any promises, we are working with legislators on changing this law for next year, but for this year, rifles can be used to hunt deer only on private property."

Specifically, in 2016 Gov. Mike Pence signed widely supported legislation that was intended to establish rifle seasons for the Indiana deer hunters on public lands, the story says.

However, the story says, the legislation allowed only a small array of approved calibers that hunters could use. This was criticized by hunting advocates who championed this year's reform that expanded the definition to include more calibers.

The modification easily passed in the House and Senate (90-8, 41-8, respectively) but nobody caught the mistake until it was too late.

A solution is expected when lawmakers reconvene in January, but if passed ti wouldn’t go into effect until the 2018 deer season.

Last year, Indiana rifle hunters tagged 44,673 deer or 37 percent of all the deer taken in the state, the story says. The stats don't say how many of those were shot on public vs. private land.