Across the nation, every state has its own department of government to oversee the wildlife. In my home state of Michigan, we have the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR. Even though many of us "armchair deer managers" think that some of the DNR's decisions are questionable, they really do have what is best for the land and animals in mind. That being said, there are some crazy rules out there that at first glance will raise a few eyebrows.
Define 'antlerless '
In an effort to obtain a well-balanced deer herd, most states offer antlerless tags and encourage hunters to shoot does. The problems start when states try to define 'antlerless '. Virginia for instance, defines an antler as any visible horn above the hairline. Many other states also expect hunters to closely examine a 'doe ' before pulling the trigger and consider the hairline rule their standard. In states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, an antlerless tag can be used for any doe or buck with antlers 3 ' or less in length. Therefore, the smallest and youngest bucks are considered fair game with a doe tag. This rule is obviously created for the occasion where a hunter shoots a 'doe ' only to recover it and realize it was a very young buck. Many other states also face similar challenges with their definition of 'antlerless '. Encouraging hunters to harvest does for a better balanced herd, while allowing them to shoot the youngest bucks at the same time seems to be self-defeating.
No Sunday Hunting
Several states do not allow hunting on Sunday. With the economy in shambles, many hard working Americans are finding themselves working six or seven days a week just to make ends meet. Work really gets in the way of hunting, and some of these hard working people can only find time to hunt on Sunday. This combined with the fact that many of those same people depend on venison to feed their families, means that the Sunday hunting ban in several states hurts those who need it most. Sunday hunting is banned for religious reasons, and to allow landowners and community members a bit of 'peace and quiet ' before the workweek begins again. This is a controversial issue, and the outcomes seem to be in favor of the most vocal.
Protecting Albino Deer
In many states, albino and piebald are protected. The ironic thing is that albinism and piebald patterns are both genetic flaws. Some feel that seeing one of these rare deer is special, and they need to be protected in the same fashion as a rare or endangered species. Albino and piebald deer are in fact rare, because the chances of them being born in a healthy heard are small. They're also easily seen and killed by predators at a young age. Others feel that emotion and sentiment have no place in wildlife management. In Minnesota, if a hunter shoots an albino deer they would make the newspaper for such a rare feat. In most of Wisconsin, the hunter would also make the paper for shooting a white deer, but it would be in the court report section because doing so is illegal. Shooting albino deer in Wisconsin's CWD zone is allowed.
To Swim or Not to Swim?
Many states have rules about shooting at a deer while it's swimming. These rules are created to provide the deer a sporting chance and to help foster a quick recovery. This makes sense to most hunters. Where these rules get crazy is how 'swimming ' is defined. Some states specify the body of water and actions of the animal. A few states simply won't allow a deer to be shot while it's standing in any depth of water. In these states it's entirely possible for a flooded timber, with only an inch or two of water, to become illegal to hunt. Georgia seems to have taken flooding into account and only states that it is illegal to take a deer while it is in a lake, stream, or pond. The Peach State's laws mention nothing about creeks or flooded areas. Another variation is how Mississippi allows hunters to shoot deer in the water, but not from a boat. All across the Southern portion of the United States, these 'swimming ' rules are issues of contention.
Wear a Watch
The exact time a person can hunt seems to vary in a few states. Most deer hunters are allowed to shoot from 1/2 hour before sunrise till 1/2 hour after sunset. That is true in Ohio during archery season, but Buckeye gun hunters must stop hunting at sunset. In North Dakota, it has been a state law since 1949 that hunting cannot begin until noon on the opening day of deer season. I bet the North Dakota coffee shop owners are thankful for this age-old tradition.
Choice of Weapons
Colorado has some interesting expectations on how their muzzleloader seasons will be run. During their specific muzzleloading seasons, in-line rifles are legal, but scopes and sabots are not. Shotgun primers are allowed, but breech loading rifles and pre-measured powder pellets are not. Other states are receiving criticism for when their muzzleloader seasons are held. Some hunters feel that Kansas early muzzleloading season is hurting their herd. Others who have tagged B&C bucks, are all for it.
Other states are receiving praise and criticism for their crossbow hunting rules. Some states do not allow crossbow hunting, some do to elderly and handicapped hunters, and some don't care who uses them. Once again, this is an issue of perspective.
No Mandatory Deer Checks
This isn't so much a crazy rule, as a lack of any rule at all. Several of the 'big buck ' states have one thing in common; they require hunters to record data from their kill with the state's wildlife agency. This precious data helps people making decisions about the deer herd to be better informed. Many of these states issue validation codes to give proof that the hunter did their part and finalize the process of a legal kill. Validation codes also help to keep people honest, ensuring that each tag is only used once by the license holder. In my home state of Michigan, we do not have mandatory deer checks. Our DNR has several locations throughout the state where people can have their deer checked by the DNR if they choose. In return, the cooperator will receive a souvenir patch to proudly display.
Odds and Ends
There are a few more loose ends to tie up in regard to crazy deer hunting rules. For instance, most states will allow a licensed gun hunter to use a bow during their gun season, but Illinois won't. In many states, several laws regarding deer hunting vary from county to county. In portions of some southern states, deer hunting with dogs is perfectly acceptable. Understandably, the dog loving deer hunters, and the stand sitting deer hunters don't see eye-to-eye.
Before embarking on any out of state hunting trip, be sure to do some research. Get online, request a hunting guide, and become a student of that state's deer hunting rules and regulations. Do not be afraid to call the local DNR office and ask for clarification on any questions. We hunter's are only as strong as our weakest link, and it's our responsibility to abide by each state's rules and expectations.