OH: Deer proposals highlight open houses

Columbus – There are several proposals regarding deer hunting
that should make the annual Division of Wildlife Open Houses on
Saturday March 5 interesting.

One proposal, circulated by Whitetails Unlimited Field Director Tim
Schlater, calls for allowing deer gun hunting to continue for
one-half hour past sunset to align with the archery season. A
proposal to allow the use of rifles chambered for the legal pistol
cartridges for deer hunting is also proposed. It is quite possible
that a request to permit the use of single shot rifles in the
black-powder cartridge configuration, such as the .45-90 cartridge,
will surface.

Schlater, in a letter to then Acting Chief John Daugherty noted,
“Currently gun hunters are required to unload their guns and quit
hunting at sunset, thus losing the best 30 minutes of hunting time
in the entire day. Deer usually begin moving to a food source
around sunset, just as legal hunters are walking back to their
vehicle.”

Schlater also noted that gun hunters can start one-half hour before
sunrise when there is roughly the same amount of daylight as
one-half hour after sunset. Schlater claims that all the states
adjacent to Ohio allow gun hunters to hunt until one-half hour
after sunset with no increase in hunter incidents. According to
Schlater providing this opportunity to gun hunters effectively adds
7.5 hours of some of the most productive hunting time to the
current gun seasons.

Jim Lehman, Division of Wildlife law enforcement administrator,
notes, “Schlater is correct that is a prime time for deer to move.
The Division has to be cautious that it is not causing any safety
issues. The hunter orange is not effective once the sun goes down.
There is a potential for hunter incidents. We are looking at some
other states that allow it and checking their incident rates. We
want to give any opportunity we can to harvest deer as long as it
can be done safely. The Division must take hunter safety and
incidents as a high priority. We believe that is key to continued
public support.”

Aaron Kirkingburg is among those proposing to make pistol caliber
carbines legal implements for deer hunting. The proposal has
detailed ballistic comparisons showing improved ballistics over the
shorter barreled handguns. Another supporter, Dan Allen, claims
improved range and accuracy with the carbine rifle due to sighting
radius and the shoulder stock. He asserts that the carbines are
more accurate than the shotguns for deer hunting. The plugging of
the carbines for three shots is often tougher to accomplish than
with shotguns but there is no requirement to plug handguns. Allen
is challenging the Division of Wildlife to substantiate that the
plugging limit has made any difference in safety in the field for
Ohio’s deer hunters.

Kirkingburg explains, “We have been submitting the proposal for
pistol caliber carbines at the ODNR open houses for the past five
years. There is an ever growing group of hunters interested in
using these firearms. Many hunters enjoy harvesting deer using as
many different methods as possible as a challenge. I would love to
add carbine or rifles to the list. However, as an Ohio resident, I
must buy costly out of state licenses, and travel to do so. This
causes my sportsman dollars to be spent somewhere other than in my
home state.

“Many people may argue that rifles or carbines are not needed in
Ohio due to safety concerns. All the surrounding states allow some
form of rifle hunting with little difference in safety issues. In
some of these states, much of the terrain and population densities
are very comparable to Ohio. Range and accuracy are similar to
firearms currently legal for deer harvest in Ohio, with accuracy
being a little better in some cases. So what is the hang up,” he
said.

Capacity seems to be the sticking issue for the ODNR. Due to an
accident back in the early 90s, Ohio enacted a three round limit
for shotguns. The argument is that someone shooting at a running
deer does not pay attention to what is downrange while following
that deer in their sights. However, this regulation has created a
new safety issue, when those wishing they had a fourth shot, take
their eyes off the target to hastily reload their firearm.
Reacquiring that target for a quick follow up shot can lead to the
exact same problem. Where do we draw the line?”

Lehman explains the Division of Wildlife concerns.

“It’s the plugging issue that is our greatest concern,” he said.
“We have seen various proposals in the past. Most compare the
rifles to the handguns since handguns are not plugged. However,
handguns are self-controlling due to the skill set required to
successfully harvest deer using them. Handguns are used at much
closer ranges and the use of handguns is very limited. We realize
the rifle carbines may be popular to hunt deer. The Division must
ensure there are no safety issues. There may be some things we can
do. We are continuing to evaluate the options to ensure whatever
may be done doesn’t open up more controversy.”

Lehman also noted that the Division of Wildlife is currently in
something of a state of flux with a number of personnel, including
the chief’s position, being filled with interim assignments. The
plugging requirement continues to experience a number of violations
and citations written each year. Hunters who violate the law are,
quite frankly, part of the problem in getting the Division to move
forward in the area of rifle hunting.

Lehman concludes that “we may be able to look at some single shot
firearms that meet some criteria. I don’t expect to see any changes
this year since those rules are already proposed. We realize there
are positives for allowing some type of rifle hunting. Some parts
of Ohio the terrain may allow it but we’ve never set regulations
based on geographical features. We look forward to sitting down
with sportsmen constituents and further examining the
options.”

A study in Pennsylvania by Todd S. Bacastow, with MountainTop
Technologies Inc., asks the question: Are muzzleloaders and shotgun
slugs are safer than rifles? The study was funded by the
Pennsylvania legislature and done in cooperation with the Game
Commission. In addition to examining the distance the firearms may
shoot, the study also addressed the issue of ricochets. The study
concluded, “Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong. When
considering extreme, high and moderate firing errors, the shotgun
and muzzleloader were less risky than the centerfire rifle. When
firing with smaller or no aiming error, which is probably the most
likely circumstance, the shotgun proved to be riskier than a
centerfire rifle. The muzzleloader was always less risky than both
the rifle and shotgun. Eliminating or controlling the ricochet
seems essential if the shotgun is to be used as an effective risk
management option.”

The firearms and ammunition used were a 30-06 rifle with a
150-grain soft point bullet; a 12 gauge sabot 50 caliber hollow
point semi-spitzer bullet; and an in-line muzzleloader with .50
caliber CVA Powerbelt bullet.

Kirkingburg concludes, “There are some of us working with the
(Ohio) Wildlife Council and the ODNR Division of Wildlife to come
up with a safe solution. Ohio’s three round shotgun capacity needs
to be scrutinized, and maybe better education versus more
regulation is the answer. Meanwhile, those of us who do not drive
deer, and prefer to hunt from a stand choosing our shots wisely,
are still not allowed to use firearms that can safely and
effectively harvest deer in our own state.”

The Division of Wildlife will host open houses March 5 to gather
public opinion on these issues. Hunters unable to attend an open
house may contact the Division at 1-800-WILDLIFE (1-800-945-3543)
or via email at wildinfo@dnr.state.oh.us.

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