Define ‘primitive': Broad options, new laws offer confusion

Kevin Tate | Daily Journal Loads like the .35 Whelen, left, and the .45-70 Government, both legal during Mississippi's primitive weapon season, are ballistically comparable to many more modern big-game rounds.

Kevin Tate | Daily Journal
Loads like the .35 Whelen, left, and the .45-70 Government, both legal during Mississippi’s primitive weapon season, are ballistically comparable to many more modern big-game rounds.

By Kevin Tate

Outdoors Writer

Mississippi’s early primitive weapon deer seasons will remain as they are, and next year’s later primitive weapon seasons will allow any known method to be used on private land, state officials say.

The state legislature recently altered the way primitive weapon seasons are applied in a law that will take effect, not this season, but next season in late 2014.

For many years, the state’s deer seasons have begun with several weeks of archery only, expanded to include primitive firearms for a few weeks more, then opened to a general firearm season around Thanksgiving. That season typically closed in early December, yielding to a mid-season two-week archery and primitive firearm run, followed by another general firearm season that opened before Christmas and closed some time in January, yielding again to an archery and primitive firearm season that closed on the last day of that month.

According to Lann Wilf, deer program leader with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, for the foreseeable future, plans call for the early archery and primitive firearm season to stay as it is now.

Weapon of choice

Then, and in every primitive weapon run during the end of January, 2014, firearms may include traditional and in-line muzzleloaders, plus single-shot, breech-loading rifles of a pre-1900 design that have an exposed hammer and are .35 caliber or larger.

Criteria in the current primitive firearm definition that were expanded to include certain truly-antiquated paper-cartridge, iron-sighted rifles of a bygone era have been legally interpreted in such a way that many effectively modern designs are also allowed. The Encore model produced by Thompson Center and chambered in .35 Whelen, for example, performs comparably to many of the most modern rifle designs on the market and is allowed for use in Mississippi’s primitive weapon season, the first of which opens Nov. 11. Other models that fit the description are chambered for the .45-70 and the .38-55 and are legal as well.

This definition, however, will continue to be applied in the future, and it will be the law for all hunters in the state during the early antlerless-only seasons, Wilf said.

“Next year, on private land only, during the 2014-2015 deer season, hunters who have an archery and primitive weapon license or a sportsman’s license, can hunt with the weapon of their choice after the opening of the primary modern gun season,” Wilf said. “The Saturday before Thanksgiving, on private land, they can hunt with anything they like provided they have the correct license.”

The move to allow users of modern firearms more time to hunt deer, along with the expansion of archery rules this year allowing any licensed hunter to use a crossbow, are designed to get more people to spend more time in the woods and, hopefully, harvest more deer.