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“Inadvertent oversight” means Indiana deer hunters can’t use rifles on public land

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. –A state lawmaker is now admitting a mistake was made that has led to a lot of confusion and anger from Indiana deer hunters. New regulations prohibit hunters from using any kind of rifle to hunt deer on public property, like state parks. But the author of the bill that caused this said that was never the intention.

Republican State Representative Sean Eberhart (Shelbyville) authored House Bill 1415, which is at the heart of the confusion.

“First of all, it was something that nobody caught when the bill was first passed,” said Eberhart.

In 2016, rifles could be used on public land only when they shot pistol rounds, but high velocity ammunition could be used on private property. This year, lawmakers changed the existing law to clarify the rules regarding high velocity rounds.

“The intent of the change was to make it more clear on what high velocity rifle rounds you could use on private property,” said Eberhart, “when that change was made, it inadvertently pulled in the pistol rounds as well [and] unfortunately the law now says that you can use those high velocity and pistol rounds in a rifle, but only on private grounds.”

That oversight has left deer hunters unhappy. Many outfitters and gun stores we spoke to on the phone said they’re getting calls from angry and confused hunters.

When questioned how neither he nor any of the law co-signers caught the oversight before it was voted on, Eberhart responded, “That’s a good question, not only did we not catch it as myself or any other legislator, LSA didn’t catch it, no other department didn’t catch it, DNR didn’t catch it, so we had a lot of eyes on this bill and no one caught that inadvertent change.”

In light of that, Eberhart hopes to fix the problem soon.

“I’m very confident we can address it come session time in January…but it’s my hope that we can address it short term as well,” said Eberhart.

What that short term fix could be and whether it can happen fast enough for this season, which starts November 18th, isn’t clear. But Eberhart reiterated that he and his fellow lawmakers are working on a solution.

“I don’t think there’s an apology…unfortunately this happens when you have unintended consequences,” said Eberhart, “you know I’ve been a proponent of our hunters and our fishermen since day one.”

DNR would not comment on the issue; however, it did release guidelines covering the new rules and posted updated information regarding recent legislation that affects the use of rifles during deer hunting season.

Due to House Enrolled Act 1415 that was passed earlier this year by the Indiana General Assembly, hunters can no longer use rifles when hunting deer on public land, according to the DNR. The DNR says “public land” includes both state and federal property. Before the change was made this year, the use of rifles was legal on public land.

It’s still legal to use a muzzleloader, shotgun or handgun on public land.

As far as private land goes, HEA1415 allows some additional rifle cartridges to be used.

Below is a summary of rifle requirements for hunting deer on private land:

  • The rifle must have a barrel length of at least 16 inches
  • The rifle cartridges must have a cartridge case length of least 1.16 inches and have a maximum case length of 3 inches
  • The cartridge must fire a bullet with a diameter that is .243 inches (same as 6mm) or larger
  • A hunter may not possess more than 10 such cartridges for each of these rifles while hunting deer
  • These new rifle cartridges may only be used on private land
  • Full metal jacketed bullets are illegal

The new rifle cartridges may be used during the youth deer season, deer firearms season, special antlerless firearm season (where open), and deer reduction season (in deer reduction zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm from the start of the regular firearms season through the end of the following January). A complete list of rifle cartridges now legal under HEA 1415 can be found here.

The 2017-2018 deer hunting season starts November 18 for firearms. You can find the complete season schedule here.