A lot of times during the rifle deer season the shots tell the story.
A single shot often means a successful hunter who made a quick, clean kill.
A shot followed by a pause and then one or two more could mean the first one was a miss.
And a volley of shots - fired in quick succession, is usually the result of someone shooting at a deer some distance away running across a field.
That’s the sound I like to hear least, because in my opinion a running deer far off in a field is a shot that should be passed up for safety and ethical reasons.
Still, it’s a sound that could become more common if legislation proposed in the House becomes a reality.
House Bill 2333 would allow the use of semiautomatic rifles for hunting. Currently, only semi-auto shotguns are allowed for turkey and small game, as long as they are limited to a three-shell capacity.
A semiautomatic rifle is completely different than a shotgun, especially considering the language of the proposed legislation.
Not only is the range of a rifle significantly greater than a shotgun, the bill proposes a maximum capacity of 10 rounds.
That’s a concern.
Imagine the amount of lead that would be flying through the air if semi-auto rifles with a 10-round capacity could be used during deer season? Not only is it an ethics issue, but a huge safety risk as well.
The concept strays from the basic component of hunting in a safe, ethical manner. It deviates from that early lesson we were all taught when a deer came within range: relax, make sure there is a safe backstop, aim at the vitals and squeeze the trigger.
It’s the basic formula for a clean one-shot kill, and that’s something we all should strive for. Deer hunting shouldn’t be about blazing 10 rounds in rapid succession, but rather doing what is safe and ethical.
House Bill 2330 is currently before the Game and Fisheries Committee and has yet to reach the floor. But it has a counterpart - one that I question in terms of necessity but is still a little more palatable.
House Bill 2230 would allow the use of semiautomatic rifles for coyotes, foxes and groundhogs. Unlike it’s counterpart, HB 2230 limits those rifles to .223 caliber or less and maximum capacity of six rounds.
I’m not sold on the need to use a semi-auto for woodchucks, as they usually present one shot anyway. For predators, however, I can see their purpose.
And with the limitations on caliber and capacity, HB 2230 doesn’t carry the safety concerns presented by HB 2330.
Still, with both bills it all comes down to the need, and I’m not convinced that there is one for semi-auto rifles. Neither is the Pennsylvania Game Commission, who haven’t supported either bill due to safety and fair chase aspects.
Proponents of the latter contend that Pennsylvania is only one of two states (Delaware being the other) that prohibits hunting with semi automatic rifles. When it comes to hunting, it’s unfair to compare Pennsylvania to other states, or expect us to follow what they do, when none of them have almost one million hunters in the woods on the opening day of deer season.
That alone makes Pennsylvania unique and is the reason we can’t allow everything that is legal in other states.
Some supporters of the bills believe it’s a Second Amendment issue. By allowing the use of semi-auto rifles for hunting it will, in turn, be harder to take them away.
I think it’s unfair to use hunting as a shield against any infringement on our Second Amendment rights. Hunting laws are designed to promote safety, ethics and fair chase. The gun rights battle is a different platform.
The final argument I’ve heard in favor of the bills is that Pennsylvania hunters are safe and responsible.
That’s true, evident by the yearly decrease in hunting accidents each season.
But let’s keep it that way and keep semi-auto rifles out of the equation.