The Mississippi Legislature passed a bill this week that allows air bows and air rifles for deer hunting, but in reality, did anything change?
Well, not really.
Senate Bill 2010, authored by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, allows hunters to use air bows and air rifles during primitive weapons seasons for deer after Nov. 30 on private land.
Most people are familiar with air rifles, but maybe not air bows.
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Air bows have nothing in common with crossbows or traditional vertical bows except for using an arrow as the projectile. They are configured much like a rifle, but have a piston inside the barrel that slides into the arrow shaft. When the trigger is pulled, a burst of compressed air is released into the piston and launches the arrow to its target.
Air bows fire with more speed and accuracy than typical hunting crossbows or vertical bows. They can send arrows at speeds around 450 feet per second compared to about 400 fps for crossbows and shoot 2-inch groups at 50 yards, according to a manufacturer.
“It’s just another tool in the toolbox for the hunter,” Blackwell said.
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Air bows, air rifles already legal for deer hunting
Air bows became a subject of controversy in the 2020 session when a bill was introduced allowing their use in the archery season. The bill did not pass, but officials took a look at existing hunting regulations.
Weapons allowed in archery season are clearly specified; crossbows or vertical bows. For open gun season on private land, not so much. Air rifles have long been accepted as legal weapons even though they weren’t specified and it was determined by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks that air bows were legal in open gun season on private land as well.
“In looking at our regulations, nothing prohibited it,” said Russ Walsh, Wildlife chief of staff. “Our regulations say there is no caliber or magazine restrictions in open gun season.”
By virtue of that, air bows and air rifles are also legal during primitive weapon seasons after Nov. 30 on private land because hunters can use a weapon of choice, not just a primitive weapon.
“In reality, the bill doesn’t change anything,” Walsh said. “It just spells it out.”
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Spelling it out, again
The bill also gives MDWFP the authority to set special deer seasons in or outside regular seasons to collect tissue samples for chronic wasting disease testing. Again, it’s nothing new, but the bill puts it in statute.
Walsh gave an example.
“The extended season we had in 2019 in that North Mississippi zone,” Walsh said. “We had that special two-day season to increase hunting opportunity and to gather more samples out of that zone. It just spells out we have the authority to do that, but it doesn’t really change anything.”
Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Clarion Ledger Outdoors on Facebook and @BrianBroom on Twitter.