When it comes to hunting, err on the side of caution

By: 
John Mueller

Apparently with everything going right in Minnesota, it seems one of the pressing issues before us is the need to eliminate the line of demarcation between where people can hunt with rifles and where shotguns firing slugs must be utilized.

We recently received a column from Sen. Bill Lieske, R-Lonsdale, indicating this is a pressing issue in the mind of some of his constituents. We also received a letter from a resident of Elysian Township a few weeks back. He’s concerned about the potential hunters in the area where he lives being allowed to use rifles. A few days after submitting his letter he asked it not be run for fear of reprisal from area hunters.

First, complete disclosure: With no interest in taking the life of an animal, I’ve never hunted nor do I ever intend to. There is a need for hunting, no doubt. In this part of the state, the biggest threat to whitetail deer, for example, it seems, is the loss of territory by people moving into rural areas, starvation and the front of your vehicle on a roadway. That stated, if you wish to hunt legally, please do. The size of the herd must be carefully maintained.

Just do it cautiously, safely.

Since the 1940s, the state of Minnesota established a line across approximately the middle of the state south of which people must use shotguns firing slugs. North of the line, hunters can use rifles. A Minnesota House committee recently advanced a Department of Natural Resources policy bill containing provisions to eliminate the state's shotgun zones during the deer firearm season. Is such a provision really necessary?

Last year, the proposal failed when several southern Minnesota counties opposed the elimination of the shotgun-only zone. They must know something most others don’t. In 2021, the St. Paul Pioneer Press stated “proponents of getting rid of the shotgun zone say it would benefit hunters by simplifying the rules where all legal firearms could be used statewide.”

Opponents of eliminating the shotgun-only zone argue, the newspaper reported, in the more open agricultural areas of the state generally cite two reasons — safety and the idea that rifles would do too much damage to the overall deer population with the ability to kill deer at longer ranges. Assuming most weekend deer hunters are far from U.S. military sniper-quality marksmen, a quick Google search indicates a .22-caliber bullet can travel 1½ miles, 30-06 round can travel just over 3 miles and a .308-caliber round can travel 3½ to 4½ miles. A similar Google search indicates a one ounce, 12-gauge slug fired from a standard 2.75 inch Federal case will shoot over 300 yards with reasonable accuracy. The trajectory out to 200 yards is fairly flat but at 300 yards, the slug has dropped four feet.

In rural areas, townships and counties have permitted the construction of houses where they never used to be. In the name of local control, a concept most people conceptually support yet all too often is left in the scrap heap, county and township representatives should have a say since they know the lay of the land and where houses are located.

Since most hunters may not be the most accurate marksmen, what is beyond the target matters. If you live in a rural area and a hunter shoots at a deer in a field half-a-mile away, and misses, range matters. Sure, we hope hunters will think about what is beyond the target. But if they don’t, that 30-06 round could hit your house.

Sure, anything is possible. But responsible gun owners always claim guns don’t kill people, people do. The Minnesota DNR says there was one hunting related fatality in 2022 and four cases where the victim of a non-fatal gunshot wound was out of sight of the hunter.

As a non-hunter, let’s err on the side of local control and what is the safest approach.

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