Louisiana bow hunters may soon be able to upgrade their sidearms

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 Louisiana bow hunters could soon pack more than a .22. Image by Chris Eger

Under current state law in the Sportsmen's Paradise, bow hunters are restricted to carrying .22-caliber handguns, but this will change providing Gov. Bobby Jindal signs legislation headed his way.

The bill, introduced by Senate Republicans in April, passed that chamber unanimously and was approved by the state House in a 69-29 vote earlier this month. The Secretary of the Senate transmitted it to Jindal on June 9.

As noted by NOLA.com, the measure's sponsor, Sen. Rick Ward, R-Allen, introduced the proposal after finding himself in a tree stand surrounded by dangerous feral hogs during bow season.

Ward's bill, SB 212, would allow a bow hunter during the season to carry "any caliber firearm" with them for personal defense. Under current state law, only a .22 caliber handgun is permitted to bow hunters to help charm snakes and vermin when needed. However, as almost any experienced hog hunter is likely to vouch for, wild boar can shrug off a rimfire round like a bee sting.

For instance, last February Chris Morris was hunting along the Pearl River and was attacked by a 140-pound boar. Although armed with a .22 magnum, things went south fast.

"I was on my back, and he was between my legs. I was kicking, trying to keep him away from my thighs," Morris said. "He was steadily just gashing back and forth. He gashed my left knee a little bit, punctured my right knee and my calf. When he did that, he actually bit me. When he grabbed my calf, I grabbed his snout."

In the end the hunter was able to get a round into the beast, who stopped the attack and skulked off back into the brush-- but left Morris so cut up that he needed hospitalization and two surgeries to correct.

While the measure met with widespread approval in the Senate, its journey through the House found more opposition. State reps in the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment first tried to amend the bill to prohibit shotguns and rifles and limit it to, "a handgun no larger than a .45 caliber that has a barrel length of not more than six inches and has no scope."

After this was stripped away, a simpler amendment that would have just limited the bill to "pistol" was also blocked. This was spurred according to reports of lawmakers concerns over bow hunters illegally poaching deer with rifles or shotguns.

Backers argued that poachers would poach regardless of the law.

The bill is now with Gov. Jindal, who has a long history of signing pro-sportsmen and pro-gun legislation. Further, Jindal is an A+ rated politician by the National Rifle Association, who backed SB 212.

If signed it would be effective this hunting season.