Emergency rule from DNR allows deer hunters to use rifles on public land

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The Indiana Department of Natural Resources signed an emergency rule that reversed a legislative oversight affecting rifles and deer hunting season.

The DNR’s emergency rule, announced last week in a news release, said rifle cartridges that were allowed on public land in previous years can be used for this year’s deer hunting season:

Rifle cartridges that were allowed in previous years on public land for deer hunting are allowed on public land again this year during the deer firearms season, the reduction zone season (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm), special hunts on other public lands such as State Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, and special antlerless season.

The change allows the use of .357 diameter or larger rounds with a case length of 1.16 inches to 1.8 inches. Full metal jacketed bullets are prohibited, DNR said.

State Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, said a mistake in recently passed legislation was meant to clarify rules regarding high-velocity rifle rounds.

However, the bill effectively restricted all rifle hunting to private property only, meaning that rifles couldn’t be used to hunt on public land. That upset hunters gearing up for the Nov. 18 deer hunting season. Some also expressed concerns that other hunters would break the law without knowing it.

The change meant only muzzleloaders, shotguns or handguns could be used to hunt on state and federal land. Eberhart said preventing hunters from using rifles on public land was never his intention.

“The intent of the change was to make it more clear on what high velocity rifle rounds you could use on private property,” Eberhart said in October. “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.”

The emergency rule corrects the oversight for now, but it’s only a temporary fix. Eberhart will seek a permanent solution during the upcoming legislative session.