Weapon of Choice

Historically, Mississippi had a single primitive weapon season for deer.  It took place from December 2 until December 15.  Back then, we used black powder guns with exposed hammers and a little percussion cap for ignition.  Scopes with any level of magnification were prohibited.  Hunting in the rain was tough.  Sometimes the guns would fire and other times you didn’t get so lucky.  Cleanup consisted of soaking the barrel in a bathtub of hot water.  It made a mess that resulted in a few scoldings from my mom when I was young.

In the mid to late 80s, Knight Muzzleloaders came along and hunters started moving to inline muzzleloaders.  They were more reliable, but cleanup continued to be a pain in the backside.  A little later, magnified scopes were allowed for our primitive season.  With each step, the guns used became less and less primitive.

Around 2005, Mississippi passed legislation allowing some single shot rifles in .38 caliber or larger to be used.  The most common was the H&R Handi Rifle in 45/70.  Hunters rushed out to upgrade their weapons.  As the demand increased, the price spiked.  A few years later, the primitive weapon definition was modified from .38 caliber or larger to .35 caliber of larger.  Hunters again rushed out to upgrade their primitive weapons with the .35 Whelen being the most popular.  You would be hard pressed to find anyone that would call a Thompson Center Encore in .35 Whelen topped with a Swarovski a “primitive weapon.”

While the definition of primitive weapon was evolving, the number of primitive weapon seasons increased.  What was once limited to December 2 through 15 was expanded to include a new season at the end of January.  Then, an additional primitive “doe only” season was added in November for the week prior to open day of the traditional gun season.

Not content with a not so primitive weapon and a greatly lengthened primitive season, the Mississippi Legislature again decided to tinker with the allowable weapons for primitive season.  Beginning with the 2014-2015 deer season, House Bill 1139 modifies Miss. Code 49-7-31 as follows:

During any open season on deer with primitive
weapons after November 30, a person may use any legal weapon of
choice on private lands only, if the person is:
(i) The title owner of the land;
(ii) The lessee of the hunting rights on the land;

(iii) A member of a hunting club leasing the
hunting rights on the land; or
(iv) A guest of a person specified in subparagraph
(i), (ii) or (iii).

As a result, primitive weapons will be a thing of the past for most hunters on private land in Mississippi.  Hunters will be allowed use any weapon of choice on private land during the December and January deer seasons provided they own the land, lease the land, are a member of a deer club leasing the land or are a guest of someone that owns the land, leases the land or is in a deer club on the land.

The only deer season (outside of archery season) where a primitive weapon will be required will be the early “doe only” November season preceding the traditional gun season.  Is this the final step?  Doubtful.  Hunters want more opportunity (days) and want to hunt with their choice of weapon.  It probably will not occur in the next five years and maybe not in the next ten, but a complete weapon of choice season eliminating archery and primitive weapon seasons is on the horizon.  Hopefully there will be enough deer around at that time for us to continue hunting!

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