Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

What’s in store for deer hunting, gun ownership in Illinois?

Certain rifles and calibers, like this 350 Legend in a single shot AR platform should be legal for deer season in 2023, but the legality of certain systems could still be in doubt, pending DNR’s new rules and regulations concerning the state’s deer seasons. (Photo courtesy of Cody Mensinger)

We talk about it often in this column – about the advantage of living near a state boundary and being able to see how things are managed independently in each state. Illinois is now joining Iowa in allowing limited rifle calibers statewide for deer season.

This was joyous news to most of the deer hunting public, with some hunters disapproving of the change. For myself, I can understand the concern, but also know the extensive limitations put on the available calibers make them no more lethal than the modern muzzleloaders already available to hunters, thereby really making it a moot point. Granted it takes more effort to have an effective muzzleloader system, but I remember the same arguments from the traditional bow hunters when compound bows became available to the general public.

The biggest advantage was going to be the use of semi-automatic platforms for these approved calibers, that could be modified to meet the restriction of being a single shot weapon.

These platforms would have reduced recoil and “flinching” of hunters. I have seen multiple instances of higher deer recovery rates when Iowa switched to allow straight walled rifle cartridges.

Probably the best example was a co-worker whose cousin had failed to recover a deer the first several years of hunting on the farm (in Iowa).

When Iowa added the 350 Legend, and he was able to shoot it on an AR platform, his success rate immediately flipped to 100%, and the rest of the family rejoiced that they would not be tearing up the farm each year looking for a poorly hit deer.

If you have not shot an AR, then here is why I continue to support the use
of these systems. When my son was 4 years old, he could comfortably
shoot my AR (.223/5.56) and 10-22 (22 caliber semi-automatic rifle) in
the lead sled but was scared to death of the bolt action shotgun.

Like many things in life, perception is not reality, because the AR systems
are smooth, easy-shooting platforms compared to shotguns.

At the time of this article’s writing, Illinois House Bill 5855 was still
in process, which would eliminate these systems moving forward.

Illinois lawmakers had scheduled hearings for the gun control package bill titled the “Protect Illinois Communities Act.”

HB 5855 covers a lot of things:

• It bans the sale and possession of semi-automatic, centerfire,
magazine-fed rifles. This includes all AR/AK pattern rifles and pistols.
It also includes a provision for the registration of existing rifles.

• Bans those 18 to 20 years of age from obtaining a state Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card.

• Severely restricts hunting for anyone under 21.

This all is very disheartening for a Quad-Citian because AR-15s are a big
part of our history, with the U.S. Army’s Rock Island Arsenal sitting in
the middle of the river between Illinois and Iowa.

The arsenal developed and refined this rifle system. That also explains why
there are so many private manufacturers of the weapon system in our
area as well.

Many companies have already been chased out of the state by previous gun bill
threats, but fortunately many of them just hopped across the river and
the employees, and their families, were not lost from the area.

It is decisions like this that exacerbate the flow of people out of the
Illinois to other areas like Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The AR platform has been around since the 1960s, yet only in the past
few decades have they become “deadly” in the hands of the public.

Last time I checked, the weapon system has not fundamentally changed, but I will leave this discussion for another day.

To avoid any issues, take your time to examine whatever system you may decide to use next fall.

Whatever you decide, spend the time to familiarize yourself with the weapon, its limitations, and capabilities.

Having a Lamborghini is great, unless you never learned to drive a stick shift. Then you just have a clunking car.

It is the same with weapons.

The gun might have the capability to shoot 200 yards, but without the
optics, training, and practice, it may as well be a slingshot.

We, as hunters, are never going to be able to fix stupid.

There is always going to be that guy that takes 175-yard shots at a running
deer, claiming that it’s a good shot, whether it’s with a rifle,
muzzleloader, a shotgun, or heaven help us, a crossbow.

However, we, as hunters, should work hard to educate and pressure those
individuals in our group who fit the stereotypes to change their ways,
and respect the game we chase.

Americans are fortunate to have the public lands and the right to hunt. That is
not the case worldwide, so let us not give it away.

The year 2023 is going to be a year of change, and it is up to all of us to use hunting as an avenue to do so.

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