On Tuesday the Indiana Natural Resources Commission voted down a proposal that would have allowed hunters to harvest deer with many larger-caliber rifles. The 12-member board’s decision followed a recommendation by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) against the proposal. Although the DNR predicted that larger-caliber rifles will not have an effect on the state’s deer herd or cause significant safety issues, the agency ultimately said that the issue caused too wide a rift among hunters.
“The Division of Fish and Wildlife surmised from all of the comments that while many people are interested in using these center-fire [sic] rifles, we found out that many people are not interested and strongly oppose their use,” the DNR wrote in a memo.
Under Indiana’s current regulations, hunters are restricted to muzzledloaders, shotguns, and a certain range of pistol and rifle calibers during deer season. Certain large-caliber rounds, such as .450 Bushmaster or .50 Beowulf, are allowed for deer hunting while most other calibers larger than .243 are not. The proposal would have extended the range of centerfire rifle calibers that hunters could use, including the ever-popular .30-.30.
More than 600 people offered their opinion on the issue as part of a six-month period for public comment. Many hunters supported the rifle proposal because they believe that larger-caliber rifles allowed for more efficient, ethical kills. Opponents argued that “high-powered” rifles could be detrimental to the deer population, and even dangerous in light of Indiana’s flat terrain. In the end, the Natural Resources Commission agreed with the DNR in that hunter opinion on the proposal was just too divided.
“Any time you pass something that you don’t have a clear consensus on you create a lot of disruption,” Natural Resources Commission member Pat Early told WBAA. “We’re all about hunting and fishing and using the resources and not about creating controversy.”