April 1, 2023

Discrimination Against Muzzloader Hunters?

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I received an e-mail and a press release from Toby Bridges of the North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association. It concerns new rule changes for muzzleloader hunting in Idaho. I have opted to publish the e-mail and the press release as I received it. The opinions expressed in this press release may not reflect the opinions of mine, the Black Bear Blog, Maine Hunting Today or U.S. Hunting Today.

Here is Toby’s e-mail.

(Tom – Following is an e-mail that was sent to IDFG Director Cal Groen, along with a “News Release” that has gone out to about 500 recipients – magazines, writers, arms distributors, major dealers, catalogers, shooting/hunting organizations, etc. – Thanks, Toby

Dear Director Groen;

Do you have any idea how ridiculous the new muzzleloader hunting regulations in Idaho sound? Even more ludicrous is the reasoning of the department and commission for the changes.

Misfires…hangfires…less than perfect shot placement…and mandated loads that deliver less than sufficient energy levels do not add up to an enjoyable muzzleloader hunting experience for ethical hunters – nor do they contribute to sound game management. (That is, unless the goal of the department is to increase the percentage of wound loss.)

None of the changes made are in the best interest of wildlife management, and will do absolutely nothing to benefit restoration of the mule deer population or to build renewed participation in the state’s muzzleloader seasons. In fact, the new regulations will have an entirely reversed effect, greatly increasing the number of deer lost to poor hits and inadequate energy levels and keeping the modern hunter from ever showing any interest in muzzleloader hunting.

If that is the Department’s and Commission’s goal, then they probably will succeed. But I do not think intelligent, progressive hinking hunters in your state will allow that to happen. And just attempting to make the muzzleloader seasons in your state “traditional only” does not eliminate the fact that the “new” regulations still discriminate against hunters who need the use of a scope for best possible shot placement – and the quick, clean harvest of the game being hunted.

Thanks for your time,
Toby Bridges

Below is the press release sent out by North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association.

News Release

For Immediate Release January 20, 2007

When It Comes To Muzzleloading Regulations, The Idaho
Fish and Game Offers Less Than Fair And Equal Treatment

The Idaho Fish and Game has deservingly been catching heck for a recent ruling that would make modern in-line ignition muzzle-loaded rifles illegal during the state’s special muzzle-loader hunts or seasons. In a press release issued on January 19th, the Department referred to the sudden influx of hunter comments over the regulation changes as “an unusual number of complaints” – and they apparently still don’t get it. Muzzleloading has evolved into a modern oriented hunting sport and it is never going to fully return to its old traditional ways.

The headline of that release reads – “In-Line Muzzleloaders Still Legal”. Only not during the special muzzleloader seasons or hunts.

For years, the state of Idaho has been a real contender for having the absolute worse muzzleloader hunting regulations in the U.S. Only Oregon and Colorado imposed more ridiculous restrictions on what today’s muzzleloading hunter carries into the field to hunt big game during the muzzleloader only seasons. However, until the adoption of new regulation changes at a meeting in Boise earlier this month, in-line ignition rifles and saboted bullets were legal. The new regulations go totally against the wants and needs of modern muzzleloading hunters by making these hunts in Idaho a traditional only experience.

“These changes are clearly an attempt by this agency to exclude itself from a discrimination complaint filed against the remaining states that do not permit the aging muzzleloader hunter to use a scope during the muzzleloader seasons. In all, fifteen states were named in the complaint by the North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association that was filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior,” states Toby Bridges, founder of the North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association.

Every state in the country receives Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of the Interior. And by prohibiting the muzzleloading hunter from using a precision riflescope during the muzzleloader seasons, the “no scopes” regulations in place in these states are in direct violation of the Department of the Interior’s discrimination policy. (Georgia was one of those states, but officially legalized scopes last August.)

The first line in that policy statement reads – “No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, age or disability be subjected to unlawful discrimination under any program or activity conducted by or which receives Federal financial assistance from the Department of Interior.”

The regulation changes in Idaho that now eliminate the use of modern in-line muzzleloading rifles and saboted bullet loads during the muzzleloader only hunts do not in any way change the fact that this agency and the commission that sets regulations still discriminates against muzzleloading hunters with less than perfect vision. And today that is the vast majority over the age of 45, who have suffered some natural sight degeneration. This very normal age-related disability will exclude these hunters from participating in the special seasons or hunts due to the Idaho Fish and Game’s open sights only restrictions during these separate hunting opportunities.

In the most recent press release (January 19), the agency repeatedly refers to these special seasons/hunts as “traditional” or “primitive” without any indication of the qualifications of those who decided what would meet those requirements. Telescopic rifle sights (a.k.a. riflescopes) have been in documented use on muzzle-loaded rifles since the 1830s, and such sighting systems are every bit as traditional as the percussion side-hammer rifles that will very likely be used by the majority of Idaho hunters faced with the state’s foolish new muzzleloading requirements.

If anything, the new regulations discriminate against today’s muzzleloading hunter more than ever. Nationwide, easily 90-percent of ALL muzzleloading hunters now rely on a modern in-line ignition rifle and a very modern hunting projectile – the latter mostly of the saboted variety. And in the 36 states that have now adopted fair and equal treatment for all muzzleloading hunters, more than 90-percent have mounted a riflescope on those rifles. Muzzleloading is now a bona fide hunting sport, and the Idaho Fish and Game needs to realize the difference between “Muzzleloading” and “Muzzleloader Hunting”. Traditional muzzleloader shooting groups have the right to require the use of very traditional rifles, loads and sights during organized re-enactments or traditional rifle competition. However, this 10-percent minority of the sport today should never be allowed to dictate to the 90-percent majority who make up the nearly 3 1/2 million muzzleloading hunters in the country today.

“It seems to me that the recent regulation changes to take muzzleloader hunting backwards in Idaho are nothing more than a game department thumbing its nose at the Department of the Interior’s involvement to bring fair treatment to muzzleloader hunters
who require the use of a scope for precise shot placement. These changes also show a severe lack of muzzleloader knowledge by those in the state who are responsible for the management of wildlife resources. And when a game agency makes such poor choices, it has to be held accountable,” states Bridges.

The January IDFG release also states – “In recent years, the number of special muzzleloader hunts and the number of participants have declined.”

Read that statement one more time. Of course, if the Idaho Fish and Game reduces the number of muzzleloader hunts, it is only natural that fewer muzzleloading hunters will participate. This game agency (and commission) does not have a clue about muzzleloader hunting. In the vast majority of states, these hunts have grown in popularity at a tremendous rate. The big difference is that in most states, the regulations are relaxed enough to allow the hunter to decide whether to go traditional or modern. The state of Idaho is now forcing the hunter who participates in the muzzleloader seasons to go traditional, eliminating the right of choice.

Prior to making the regulation changes, the Idaho Fish and Game claims they sought out input from muzzleloading hunters during a public workshop in Lewiston this past November, plus through a survey published on the Department’s website. The North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association charges that the input they sought was biased and extremely slanted. The IDFG has repeatedly blamed the efficiency of modern in-line rifles and loads for the decline in muzzleloader hunting participation, and has even strongly hinted that the accuracy and knockdown power of these rifles and loads could be linked to a decline in mule deer numbers.

“We feel that the Idaho Fish and Game purposely targeted, and remained in contact with, extremely traditional muzzleloader groups in that state in order to get the answers and input they wanted. When modern-minded muzzleloading hunters began to respond to the survey on the Department’s website, it suddenly became inaccessible. At the January 11-14 meeting, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission instrumented their changes to the muzzleloading regulations based on less than equal input from modern muzzleloading hunters. Those regulation changes simply need to be trashed, and hunters in the state of Idaho should begin to watch this agency and commission with a much closer eye!” Bridges accuses.

Based on the slanted hunter responses received, according to the Idaho Fish and Game, 48-percent were in favor of the changes, and 44 percent opposed the changes, while 8-percent had no opinion. The North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association feels that all of this needs to be investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Again, this appears to be simply a slight of hand trick by the IDFG to try making the muzzleloader hunts in the state traditional only – and to get around the discrimination complaint filed against the state’s “no scopes” muzzleloader regulations. Still, the recent release sent out by this wildlife agency shares, “The modern muzzleloaders legal under Idaho rules up to now could still be used in special short-range weapons hunts and in any-weapons hunts.” (Doesn’t that constitute segregation?)

In other words – These Rifles Cannot Be Used During The Muzzleloader Seasons! Even though they load from the muzzle.

“Whatever happened to managing harvest numbers through permit quotas? The Idaho Fish and Game continually makes it sound as if all the new muzzleloading changes are to limit harvest and help bring big game populations back. Yet, the rifles and loads they now mandate are sure to result in greater wound loss. They honestly feel that a .45 caliber rifle loaded with a patched round ball is sufficient for deer-sized game out to 100 yards. Even with the hottest loads shot in a rifle of that bore-size, that ball will hit a deer at 100 yards with only about 400 foot-pounds of retained energy. On a percentage scale, such a load is more like 70/30 in favor of that deer being lost to inadequate energy, compounded by less than ideal shot placement due to the open sight requirement. And when that deer is lost, do you think that hunter will simply pick up and head for home? Or, load up and go out to look for another target?” Toby Bridges would like to know.


Take Just A Few Minutes To Write The Following E-mail Addresses And Let Them Know How Poor Their Muzzleloading Regulations Are – And Demand Change:

IDFG Director – “Cal Groen” < director@idfg.Idaho.gov>

IDFG Big Game Manager – “Brad Compton”

And the following IDFG personnel have had negative input on muzzleloader regulations:

“Kelton Hatch”

“Randy Smith”

Tom Remington