By Bobby Cleveland/The Clarion-Ledger
JACKSON — Last spring, Mississippi bow hunters fought hard to keep guns out of archery season.
Archers now must work to keep bows legal during gun season.
Attorney General Jim Hood on Tuesday issued an opinion that state wildlife officials do not have the authority to allow archery equipment during open gun seasons for deer.
The opinion, made at the request of Rep. Bo Eaton, a Democrat from Taylorsville, chairman of the House Wildlife Committee, would make only firearms legal during gun season.
Bow hunters were stunned at the news.
“That is a tragedy,” said Max Thomas, legislative liaison for the Mississippi Bowhunters Association, an archery lobby group. “I guess (Hood) is saying that just because the law doesn’t specifically say bows can be used during gun season then they are illegal.
“You can take almost any law and get different interpretations of it, based on what it doesn’t say.”
No comment has come from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks or its oversight Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Top agency officials have not had the opportunity to study the opinion.
The DWFP’s stance has always been that weapons of less effectiveness were legal during other specific seasons — like archery and primitive weapons during gun season, and archery during primitive weapon season. However, no such language exists in the Mississippi Code and Hood’s opinion appears to leave little wiggle room until the law can be changed.
Eaton sponsored a bill in the 2010 legislative session that would have shortened the archery-only season and expanded gun hunting opportunities for both regular guns and primitive weapons. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate committee, headed by Sen. Tommy Gollott, a Republican from Biloxi.
Hood’s office also issued an opinion on a request by Gollott, regarding the wildlife commission’s recent vote to allow crossbows during archery season on agency-managed state wildlife management areas. The attorney general affirmed the agency’s regulatory authority on its wildlife management areas.
An attorney general’s opinion does not carry the weight of law but is designed to provide public entities a level of protection in a court of law.