A look back at Ohio's journey to straight-walled cartridge rifles for deer hunting

I was recently privileged to be part of the effort to bring straight walled cartridge rifles, the effort formerly known as pistol caliber rifles (PCR), to Ohio. The experience was a thrilling, frustrating, challenging and wonderful trip through many meetings, open house events and networking with other organizations. There were moments of success and disappointment along with a fair number of detours. Perhaps a look around the landscape will provide other sportsmen and organizations with some insight into how the process worked.

The movement and discussion of allowing selected straight-walled cartridge rifles was started by sportsmen talking at clubs and in various online chat rooms or on forums. It had been kicked around for several years without really making progress. There were many different lists of possible cartridges with some being referred to as PCR and others promoting traditional single-shot black powder rifle cartridges. Some people championed a special season for this type of firearm while others simply wanted the ability to enjoy their favorite rifle. It was clear from the beginning that whatever might come out of the process was going to leave some people unhappy. There were just too many opinions, pet cartridges and special interests to accommodate every desire.

Approximately eight or nine years ago some volunteers with Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) started the discussion in earnest. Two individuals, Dan Allen and Aaron Kirkingburg, took the lead. They assembled lists of cartridges, researched ballistic data and investigated what neighboring states allow. They lead the discussions, both internally within the BFA leadership, on the forums and with the Division of Wildlife. I often played the devil's advocate in our debates. Doing so sharpened our focus. Eventually more individuals started making comments at the annual Division of Wildlife open house events. This lead to some formal meetings with the ODNR Division of Wildlife starting about four years ago.

The meetings marked the real first step of progress outside debates and discussions. It was the beginning of the next phase in the process. The meetings were a series of presenting requests, discussing opinions and data to fully explain the requests. Buckeye Firearms Association leadership stepped up to help our volunteers take a fully supported position forward. We recognized the need to network with sportsmen's clubs, other statewide organizations and landowner stakeholders in the process. A written statement detailing the proposal and offering some alternatives was developed. It was soon apparent that additional education was needed to clarify the request. We needed to explain the type of rifles and cartridges in the proposal to the non-gun owning public and landowners.

Another key step forward was the survey the Division put out with the 2013 open house process to further gauge the level of interest, or opposition, of Ohio hunters. The survey response was strong and overwhelmingly supported the proposed concept. However there were still some organizations that were not on board. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is the largest agriculture and landowner constituent organization in Ohio. Since so much of Ohio is privately owned, sportsmen access for hunting is critical to the management of Ohio's deer herd. Additional outreach was performed at the grass-roots county farm bureau level. This included both education and policy work. The result was the OFBF adopted a policy to support PCR at their annual convention in December of 2013. It was a huge step forward.

Meetings and discussions now centered around a specific proposal and implementation discussions including the important topic of how to address the three-shot limit for the rifles. The hard work of hammering out the proposal for the 2014 open houses, determining the legal cartridges, the three shot limitation and any other final questions was done by the Division. There was additional tweaking performed following the open house comment period.

Looking back, I am very appreciative of the effort and cooperation by all the employees of the Division of Wildlife. Through the process various people were involved both from the BFA and Division side. We challenged their thinking and they challenged us. There were times when I thought we were too far apart to successfully come together. The process certainly took a long time causing some amount of concern and impatience. However, regardless of the agreement or disagreement at any meeting, we were always treated with courtesy and respect.

Looking back at the process provides a different perspective. I'm glad we went through the process. I'm glad the process took the extra time. I know the Division personnel took the time and responsibility to carefully examine all aspects of the proposal. They did the due diligence required of a state agency. I addressed the Ohio Wildlife Council at the April 9 meeting. I thanked the Division and all the people we worked with, current and past. I noted that it's too bad more sportsmen don't get involved in the process, see the dedication of the Division personnel and understand it does work.

Just throwing an idea, even the greatest idea since sliced bread, onto a forum or making a comment at an open house is not going to make change happen. It takes commitment, it takes pulling together sportsmen from across the state who agree and it takes engaging the Division of Wildlife. In short, it takes work. When properly applied, the open house process works. Developing cooperation and consensus building works. I'm thankful I got to play a part in this recent effort.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

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