Many of us in Michigan live and hunt in Zone 3. The boundary includes the limited firearm zone which stretches from Muskegon county to Huron county and all Michigan counties south of those. This “limited firearm zone” has some extra regulations that we must follow during firearm season. The regulations have to do with what firearms are legal in this zone. Previously referred to as the “shotgun zone”, full rifle cartridges are generally not permitted for hunting. Previously, only shotguns were legal for hunting in this part of the state. However, in recent years the state has adopted the regulation that allows for straight-wall pistol cartridges to be used in this part of the state as well. The rule states that the following is legal to use in a rifle in the limited zone: “A .35 caliber or larger rifle loaded with straight-walled cartridges with a min. case length of 1.16 inches and a maximum case length of 1.80 inches.”
While you’re not able to hunt with a 30-30 or 30-06 in this part of the state, you do have some decent options of legal cartridges to use. First off, there are some classic revolver cartridges that do well in a rifle platform. The 357 magnum and 44 magnum are both very capable cartridges that perform well out to 120-160 yards respectively with a relatively flat trajectory in this range. Available in standard revolver handguns, lever-action rifles, and bolt action rifles, the magnum handgun rounds are great options for deer hunting in either short or long-barreled platforms.
The best option on the market that is limited firearm legal may be the .350 legend and .450 Bushmaster cartridges. Both options were initially designed to fire in the AR15 platform (with some minor modifications to the AR). The straight-wall design allows them to be smoothly loaded by the gun’s action. There are a variety of options now available for both cartridges in bolt action and single-shot action as well. A decent rifle can be picked up in the sub $500 range and boxes of hunting ammo range from $20-$30. The .450 was originally designed as a hog hunting cartridge which explains the large caliber and heavy (250 grain bullets). It was the first widely adopted limited firearm zone caliber several years ago when straight-walled cartridges were allowed. The 350 legend was designed specifically as a deer hunting round with lighter bullets (150-180 grain) and a slightly flatter trajectory. Both are good options for deer hunting, though the 450 is a bit louder and may feature more recoil than some younger shooters are comfortable with.
With a week left in general firearm season, then 9 days of muzzleloader season, and 2 weeks of late antlerless firearm it is not too late to pick up a new hunting rifle for this season. The limited firearm section of Zone 3 is also allowing all legal firearms to be used during muzzleloader season again this year. While ammo has been difficult to find, if you are diligent and employ a multi-county search you can likely find the two boxes you will need to sight in your new rifle and hunt with it. If you still hunt with a slug gun and are happy with the results then power to you. However, if you want a little more effective range and a gun with lighter recoil, it is worth looking into the straight-walled cartridge options available.