Scopes during muzzleloader season passes Minnesota legislative session

By the time the smoke clears on this year's legislative session in Minnesota, hunters will likely have the OK to use scopes on their muzzleloaders for the deer hunting season.

Back in early February, this scribe wondered if 2017 might mark the year that the annual “scopes on muzzleloaders” debate at the State Legislature would end differently.

For a decade-plus, a few legislators have advocated allowing hunters to use scopes on their blackpowder rifles during the muzzleloader season. Every year it came up, and every year the proposal eventually ended up on the cutting room floor. But this year we have new legislative leadership at the Capitol.

Well, it appears that the proposal indeed has survived this spring, and blackpowder hunters likely will have the option to use a scope during the 2017 muzzleloader season.

Current statute allow hunters age 60 or over to use a magnifying scope during the blackpowder season. The lengthy Conference Committee Report on S.F. No. 844, which passed this week, amends that statute (see line 84.18) by striking the language “age 60 or over.” This makes it legal for all hunters to use a scope (with magnification) to take deer during the muzzleloader season.

For unrelated policy reasons some folks are asking Gov. Mark Dayton to veto the omnibus environment bill, which would kill this muzzleloader provision, too. But my sources at the Capitol are telling me that, after vetoing an earlier version, Dayton likely will sign this bill. If so, this fall’s muzzleloader season may appeal to a whole new swath of deer hunters.

Muzzleloading purists generally have opposed the concept of allowing scopes during the blackpowder season, but in the past decade – whether it’s growing crossbow use, early duck seasons, underwater cameras, or spinning-wing decoys – it seems like conservative, anti-technology sacred cows don’t carry much support anymore. 

The DNR considers scopes on muzzleloaders a social issue, and the agency says it can manage deer with or without them, so DNR was officially neutral on the proposal. Allowing anyone to use blackpowder scopes also eliminates some of the enforcement permitting hassles over people who can use them because of age or visual impairments.

Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, confirmed with me on Friday that his organization had long supported the proposal.

A muzzleloader hunter and gun enthusiast, House bill (HF 150) author Jim Nash, R-Waconia, carried the change this year, and in an interview with me last winter he told me that 2017 was the year.

Looks like he was right.

For more details on the completion of the 2017 Minnesota legislative session, see next week’s print edition of Minnesota Outdoor News.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Firearms, Hunting News, Rob Drieslein, Whitetail Deer

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