Very quietly last Tuesday Indiana passed legislation making it legal to hunt deer with Hi-Power rifles statewide on private land.
One would assume this would please the deer hunters. To my surprise, according to my customers, more hunters have reservations than are in favor.
In my little concentrated in-store focus group I speak to many hunters. There are far too many careless hunters with low levels of expertise they say. Having a high power rifle will encourage some to make questionable shot choices such as shooting at a moving animal or taking ill advised follow-up shots. Some believe the success ratio of hi-power will decimate the deer herd. Others are dedicated archers who believe they alone live up to a higher ethical standard among the deer hunting population and distain firearm use for deer altogether.
In early January of 2015 the DNR sent a request to me asking for my input/feedback on many rule changes but the one that stood out was allowing the use of high-power rifles during the two week deer hunting firearm season. Being a license/tag buyer they often send me email asking me for my input on upcoming regulation proposals. In June the DNR wrote back with the outcome. It was 50/50 for/against so they decided against until the flowing season and after further consideration.
When solicited last year by the DNR I expressed my opinion on the use of high-power rifles. First, on state managed public properties (due to hunter density) they should not be allowed. Second, participation should be up to each county (due to topography). Some counties are flatter than a pancake while others posses more of a densely wooded and uneven topography.
Previously the Indiana firearm deer season lasts for two weeks in late November. My choice has always been the .50 caliber traditional cap lock muzzleloader for its longer range (100+yd) accuracy and knock down power than the other two choices one being shotguns the other being handgun caliber (.45 Colt, .44mag, or .357) rifles.
For now, and it is too early to tell, the listed legal calibers published in the linked article at this early date are .243, .30-30, .300, .30-06 or .308 with a minimum case length of 1.16-inches. They state no maximum case length and fail to mention the popular .270 or other calibers that fall within the specified caliber range. As with all news reports accuracy can be questionable. Until the DNR rule book is published and distributed in July nobody will know for sure how many calibers will be considered legal.
In the store currently we have a large assortment of high-power factory scoped rifles for sale. Brands like Ruger American Rifles, Savage Axis, Remington 700. Mostly entry-level to medium priced models. Sales on them have been spotty since there is little use for them locally. The nearby private gun shop has very few high-power rifles for sale since they concentrate on stocking the more in demand firearms such as AR-15's, high capacity polymer handguns and short barrel tactical shotguns. As of now we are the only game in town.
My prediction is we may be selling more high-power rifles soon. What will be interesting is seeing the the type of individuals who choose to purchase and hunt with them. Besides me of course.