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Ohio still shotgun-only

November 5, 2010

In a few weeks, hunters across the Buckeye State will take to the woods for the annual rite of fall that is deer season.

Residents and non-residents alike will be in hot pursuit of that trophy buck as well as attempting to fill their allotment of antlerless deer.

And they'll be doing it without rifles. So that means no 30-30s, no 30.06s, no .270s and no 300 mags. And for those of you who appreciate the fine art of overkill, leave your 45-70s in the truck.

That's because the State of Ohio, along with Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, Main and Rhode Island are classified as shotgun-only states for deer season. Similarly, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and Iowa have shotgun-only zones in their states.

The question is why?

It's one that's asked often by out of state hunters as well as new outdoorsman all the time. Especially in this area.

Right across the river in West Virginia, there is no regulation banning the use of rifles. And the land areas look awfully similar.

But travel west on Interstate 70 past Cambridge and Zanesville and you'll quickly see a change in land elevation. Namely, there is no elevation.

There's also the populace to think about in that there is a lot of it. And in some of the larger cities, that populace is packed closely together.

``Certainly in some parts of Ohio the topography plays a role, but it's also a safety issue because of the urbanization we have,'' says Jim Hill, the Ohio Division of Wildlife District 4 wildlife management supervisor said. ``By and large, it comes back to safety.''

A good portion of Ohio is flat is pretty close to it.

And despite what many hunters will admit and contrary to deer camp campfire boasting, they are not all crack shots.

So when they miss with a high-powered rifle, say a 30.06 for example, that animal-shredding projectile fired from that high-powered rifle is going to travel a considerable difference further than say, in Marshall or Ohio counties across the river.

In West Virginia, the constantly shifting elevation means a missed shot is eventually going to find itself something to bore itself into, whether it be a tree or a hillside.

In the hunting grounds surrounding major metropolitan areas like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, there are hundreds of thousands of people living in a relatively close space.

Actually, a shotgun isn't the only firearm able to be used for hunting. You can hunt with a rifle for varmints, just not deer. You can also utilize a hand gun with a .357 caliber bullet or higher.

Like most states, Ohio has a muzzleloader and archery season prior to the general gun season. Ohio also allows the use of crossbows where some states, like West Virginia, do not.

To Hill, it's a fair tradeoff. ``We are very liberal when compared to other states in what we allow,'' Hill said. ``We allow most everything.''

Just not rifles.

Hill explained that the people most often complaining about this ruling are actually in-state residents, whether on their first hunt or season veterans tired of lugging a slug gun into the forest.

He said there are individuals and groups every year looking to challenge and change the regulations. ``A few people bring it up every year it seems,'' Hill said. ``There is always a handful of people.''

``But we've regulated deer season since the 1940s and no rifles have ever been allowed.''

It's not something that's likely to change soon. Especially since Ohio is rated one of the top states nationally for trophy buck.

Hughes may be reached at



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