Hurricane Irma: Georgians Will Welcome Evacuating Gun Owners

irma evacuationWith the prospect of a major storm event on the horizon for much of Florida, Georgians are welcoming thousands of friends, relatives, and those in need into their cities, towns, and homes. Floridians evacuating to Georgia will all find a warm welcome; those who lawfully own and carry firearms, in particular, will be happy to learn they have nothing to fear from Georgia law if they travel into our state with their firearms—if they are armed with the right knowledge.

Irma Evacuation

To begin, let’s make perfectly clear: Florida’s 2015 “Emergency Concealed Carry” law, enacted to allow individuals without a Florida firearms license to carry concealed while evacuating during a mandatory evacuation or state of emergency, DOES NOT APPLY IN GEORGIA. This law certainly protects Florida’s residents as they prepare to evacuate their families and belongings, but does not reach into Georgia. When in Georgia, Florida residents must follow Georgia law, and ignorance of that law is no excuse (that’s part of the law, too!).

Here’s the good news: Georgia’s possession and carry laws are friendly to the lawful gun owner. Georgia shares firearms-license reciprocity with Florida; so, if you validly possess a Florida CWFL, you may possess a firearm (including revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, rifles, shotguns, and knives with blades longer than 12 inches) in Georgia.

You may carry them openly or concealed, and in any public or private location without prior permission, save for certain locations mandated by law (courthouses, jails, mental health facilities, government buildings with law-enforcement screening, etc.). Virtually any place open to the public is safe for open or concealed carry. Signs in private establishments (bars, restaurants, hotels) prohibiting the carrying of firearms do not necessarily have the force of law, but if you are barred entry or asked to leave by the owner or person in legal control of the property, you must do so, or risk arrest for criminal trespass.

What if you don’t have a Florida CWFL, but you still possess firearms lawfully, meaning
—You are not a felon or First Offender probationer,
—Have no convictions for domestic violence-related crimes, and
—Are over the age of 18 (for handgun owners only; there is no minimum-age requirement for possession of rifles or shotguns in Georgia law).

Those who may lawfully possess a firearm, but do NOT have a CWFL or Georgia Weapons Carry License, may still carry in Georgia inside his or her “home, motor vehicle, or place of business without a valid weapons carry license.” (See O.C.G.A. §16-11-126)

This means our Florida friends and family may carry firearms into the state without a license. Those possessing a firearm in a car without a license must (a) be otherwise eligible for a license, and (b) have the permission of the owner of the vehicle.

Additionally, carry of a handgun or long gun without a license is permitted when the firearm is enclosed in a case and unloaded (“unloaded” meaning no round in the chamber for semi-auto, no round in the cylinder for revolvers), and carry of a long gun, concealed or openly, is always permissible without a license for an individual who may otherwise legally possess a firearm. But if the long gun is loaded (round in the chamber), it must be carried openly.

For those who find themselves stopping over in a hotel, hotel rooms are considered your “habitation”: previous cases in Georgia have established that, because you obtain the use of a hotel room and exclude all others from entry, it qualifies as a habitation (See Hammock v. State, 277 Ga. 612, 616 (2004)).

Evacuating from Georgia
For Georgians who may be required to evacuate, keep in mind, you are lawful to carry in your home, motor vehicle, and place of business. Your home will be wherever you find yourself in Georgia, but the rules for lawful carry still apply.

Nothing changes for those with Weapons Carry Licenses, and because lawful gun owners without a license may carry in their motor vehicles, they, too, can evacuate knowing their firearms are safe.

It’s important to realize, however, that evacuation into another state means you must follow the laws within that state. Georgia maintains firearms reciprocity with Alabama, Tennessee, and both North and South Carolina, so Georgia Weapons Carry Licenses are recognized in those states, but the laws in those states prevail.

Keep in mind also that federal law (the Firearm Owners Protection Act) protects lawful gun owners who travel state to state by allowing firearms possession through any state from your state of origin to final destination, so long as your journey begins and ends in states where your possession is legal; the firearm is unloaded and locked in the trunk or made inaccessible from the passenger compartment (no glove boxes or compartments!); and the ammunition is likewise separate from the firearm and locked in the trunk.

Wherever you may travel, make sure you research your destination, and be sure to call U.S. LawShield for assistance. —by Matt Kilgo, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield of Georgia

Hurricane Irma: Evacuating from Florida with Firearms?

Migratory Bird Hunting: September Means Doves, Ducks, and Shotguns in Georgia

The first week of September might seem too early for fall hunting, but seasons for doves, ducks, and geese all start up this month. One advantage of these early hunts is that the birds are “uneducated” and unwary, and can really zoom into your set-ups and respond to your calls.

But do you know the ins and outs of migratory-bird hunting regulations? They can get confusing: Migratory-bird hunting is regulated by numerous state and federal game laws, and those laws can vary considerably from state to state. That means even the most conscientious waterfowl and dove hunters can find themselves paying fines instead of enjoying the hunt.   

Brush up on you need to know before you head afield this month for some bird hunting.

Duck, Duck, Goose

Migratory-bird hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods are state-specific, so check with your state’s game agency beforehand. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies has provided an easy-to-reference list of agencies and links, which can be found here.

September is the traditional opener for that speedy little duck, the teal. The Georgia early teal season runs September 9 to 24 statewide, with bag and possession limits being 6 teal daily and 18 in possession. Cinnamon, blue-wing, and green-wing teal are all legal game. The early Canada goose season also opens this month, running from September 2-24, 2017 statewide. The bag and possession limits are 5 daily, 15 in possession.

According to Matthew Kilgo, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Georgia, the state’s Canada Goose season runs various specific weeks of each month from September, 2017, through the end of January, 2018. “Being on the right side of the law means knowing for sure you’re in the season,” says Kilgo. “As varied as Georgia’s bird seasons can be, the correct information is vital to staying legal and enjoying the hunt, rather than dreading a trip to the courthouse.”

Doves and Zones

Seasons for mourning doves start now, too. The best hunting occurs in the mornings and late afternoons when the birds come to watering holes and agricultural fields in search of food and a chance to wet their beaks. In Georgia, according to Kilgo, dove season statewide is September 2-17, 2017; October 14 – November 2; and November 23-January 15, 2018. In any state, make sure you know your zones and specific laws. Bag and possession limits are 15 daily, 45 in possession.

Know the Law

The most common migratory-bird hunting violations concern baiting. Simply put, you can’t hunt ducks, geese, or doves over bait. But what constitutes bait?

It’s not that easy to define. Consider this from “Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting,” published online by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement here.

“Hunting waterfowl over a crop that has not been harvested but that has been manipulated (rolled/disked) is considered baiting under current regulations. The presence of seed or grain in an agricultural area rules out waterfowl hunting unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, normal agricultural harvesting, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice.”

What is “normal”? Every year, what seems “normal” to duck and dove hunters near agricultural fields isn’t the same kind of “normal” to the game wardens who cite them for illegal baiting. Best advice: Contact your local game wardens for their definition of baiting.

Another common violation is not having a plug in your pump or semi-automatic shotgun that limits only two shells in the magazine. Frequently, hunters get dinged on this because they removed the plugs for upland game hunting and just forgot to replace them before the migratory opener. 

Legal Help for Hunters and Anglers

Members of U.S. LawShield’s HunterShield program have access to attorneys for the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members receive discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. These seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add HunterShield to your existing membership for only $2.95 per month.

Not a member of U.S. LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a hunting sportsman or woman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law. —Brian McCombie, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield® Blog

 

Georgia Conservation Rangers: What You Need to Know

Matt Kilgo, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield in Georgia, tells you why conservation rangers are police, just with more power. [Full Transcript Below Video]

 

Game wardens are the police, also known in state law as Conservation Rangers, and have the full power of law enforcement officers, and they have some of the most wide-ranging jurisdiction of any law-enforcement officers in the state.

What Conservation Rangers Can Do

To begin with, game wardens enforce all violations of state law committed on property owned or controlled by the Department of Natural Resources. They protect all life and property when the circumstances demand action. Now, what does that mean, “circumstances demand action?”

It just depends on the situation, but that gives them a lot of ability to read into what they can do and when they can’t do.

Game wardens assist the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia State Patrol in their investigations. In fact, game wardens are responsible for investigating all hunting and boating accidents all over the state of Georgia.

The governor can call in conservation rangers, or game wardens, to assist any law enforcement agency in their investigations.

Game wardens can seize, as evidence, without a warrant or anything other than, an airplane, a boat, or car when they consider it to have been a device used in furtherance of a violation of state wildlife law.

In other words, hunters, if you are stopped and the game warden believes that you may have violated state law, and used a firearm to do it, that game warden can seize your firearm without a warrant.

They can go upon [private] property and look outside buildings in the performance of their duties, so they can just walk up onto your property, look around your building, and see if they find anything illegal.

They can also enter any plant or building to determine whether any violations of wildlife laws have occurred therein, and all the time they exercise the full authority of certified peace officers when they’re doing this, which means they can arrest for any [violation of] state law that’s committed within their presence.

In other words game wardens have quite a bit of authority. They are police officers, so you should treat them as you would treat any other police officer. Be polite, but insist on your rights. Let them know you have a right against unreasonable searches and seizures, let them know you have a right to remain silent, and let them know that you know you have the right to seek the assistance of an attorney.

Be polite but stand on your rights, because conservation rangers, game wardens, are police officers.

Georgia Supreme Court Has Zero Tolerance For Schools’ Policies—Victory for Self-Defense

On August 28, 2017, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed the issue of “zero tolerance” for fighting in schools in the Peach Tree State in the case Henry County Board of Education v. S.G., No. S16G1700. The issue is the justification of self-defense in a school disciplinary action.self-defense

Back in 2014, a young high school student, (S.G.), was expelled for fighting in what witnesses and a video of the incident indicated her actions were in self-defense. But the school, like so many schools, has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fighting. Zero tolerance means “no excuse” and automatic expulsion for violating such a policy.

IS ZERO-TOLERANCE UNLAWFUL?

The GA Supreme Court reasoned that “blind enforcement of zero tolerance fighting policies” are unlawful since they do not consider self-defense as a justification for the conduct. The Supreme Court noted that it is not illegal to fight under Georgia state law as long as it is done in self-defense. That same law applies even in schools, the Court stated.

Specifically, Georgia Code § 16-3-21 provides you are justified in using force against another person when you reasonably believe force is necessary to defend yourself against that person’s use of unlawful force against you.

The statute goes on to state that any rule or policy of any state or county agency (including school districts) that conflicts with the law is unenforceable and void. The decision of the Court put all Georgia schools on notice with regards to enforcement of their own zero-tolerance policies.

SELF-DEFENSE: Burden of Proof

The claim of self-defense is an affirmative defense to a civil claim or criminal charge. That means that the defendant must raise the issue by presenting a new fact that defeats the charge or claim even if the facts supporting the charge or claim are true.

In a criminal setting, the burden of proof falls upon the prosecutor to overcome or refute the defendant’s claim that his action was done in self-defense.  However, in a civil matter, the burden of proof falls upon the person asserting self-defense to establish facts in support of the claim.

In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that school disciplinary matters are civil in nature and not criminal. Therefore, the burden falls upon the student to present evidence that their conduct was done in self-defense and school districts must now permit such a defense be asserted by the student.

The case has been remanded back to the Henry County School Board of Education for reconsideration, allowing S.G. to present evidence in support of her claim of justified use of force in self-defense. Even though S.G. has already graduated, she is seeking to have her academic disciplinary record expunged.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Understanding your rights and when you are justified in using force or even deadly force is complex. It is critical that you have an understanding of the laws of self-defense.

You can learn more about the laws of self-defense by attending a workshop or seminar and hear from experienced U.S. & Texas LawShield® Independent Program Attorneys as they explain the law and answer your questions.

You can find an event and register at GunLawSeminar.com.

Get Behind the Shield.

Georgia: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Georgia Hunters: Time to Get Your Ducks in a Row

georgia bird huntingEach year, millions of bird hunters head afield in pursuit of doves, ducks, and other flying fowl. So you can bet that right now, Georgia bird hunting aficionados across the state are shooting clays, rustling up game bags, and getting insect repellent and sunscreen in their field kits in preparation for the various bird seasons that are opening soon.

Matt Kilgo, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. & Texas LawShield® in Georgia, said wingshooters need to be aware of stiff penalties that are attached to migratory-bird hunting regulations. According to Kilgo, the penalties aren’t just monetary—they can involve jail time, and you can get caught and prosecuted even if you are unaware that you’re breaking certain laws.

Kilgo explained that migratory game birds are those species designated in conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for the protection and management of these birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The relevant U.S. Code is found in 16 U.S.C. 703-712.

“In the Georgia bird hunting regulations, migratory game birds in the state include various ducks, mergansers, geese, mourning doves, and other wildfowl,” he said.

Mourning-dove bird hunting tops many hunters’ lists, and every year game wardens cite dove hunters for a variety of infractions related to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA, 16 USC 703 – 712). Many hunters may not know about this law, he said, but ignorance of the game laws is no excuse.

He said, “The Migratory Bird Treaty creates two types of consequences for violations of its bird hunting provisions: criminal penalties and forfeitures. It is a misdemeanor to violate any provision of the Act, with punishment of a maximum fine of $15,000 or imprisonment up to six months or both.” The relevant U.S. Code is § 707(b)-(c), he said.

Bird Hunting: Shotgun Capacity Limited to Three Shells

Kilgo said, “In addition to the United States Code and federal regulations, Georgia hunters are also covered by the regulations of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.”

Kilgo said, “One of the most common Georgia bird hunting mistakes is shooting a semi-auto or pumpgun that can hold too many shells. Shotguns are limited to a capacity of not more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined. If a plug is necessary to limit the capacity, it has to be one piece, and the hunter must not be able to remove it through the loading end of the magazine. Also, shotshells can’t be longer than 3 1/2 inches.”

Hunting Over Bait

Kilgo said, “Another area that snares hunters is inadvertently hunting over bait. Georgia game law is very clear that it is the hunter’s responsibility to know whether or not he or she is hunting over a baited field. It is unlawful for any person to place or scatter any corn, wheat, or other grains, so as to constitute a lure or attraction or enticement for any game bird.”

He said, “It is also unlawful to hunt any game animal or game bird near any bait for a period of ten days following the complete removal of all such feed or bait.”

Regulatory changes adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999 defined key terms relative to baiting to clarify the conditions to legally hunt migratory game birds, including doves. Click here to get a printable version of the information created by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The document defines a baited area as “any area where salt, grains or other feeds have been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered if they could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds.”

Kilgo said that in Georgia, the distance a person can hunt from a baited area is defined in state law. He said, “You can’t take game birds within 200 yards of any place where any corn, wheat, or other grains, or bait has been placed. It’s a misdemeanor. Check Code Section 17-10-4 for details.”

Kilgo said conservation rangers can require land owners to put up signs identifying areas as, “No Hunting, Baited Field,” and such signs must remain for 10 days after bait is removed. Kilgo said the printing on such signs must be clearly visible to a person with normal eyesight from a distance of at least 50 yards, and enough signs should be put up to provide reasonable notice to hunters that the field or area is baited.

Georgia Bird Hunting: Other Infractions

Hunting-citation figures highlight some other areas that account for the bulk of wingshooting violations in recent seasons.

— Bird hunting without a license is a common oversight. “Some hunters may feel the risk of being caught without the proper documentation isn’t that high,” Kilgo said, “but the cost of a license sure beats the cost of a citation.”

— Exceeding the bag/possession limit nabs a bunch of hunters, Kilgo said. He emphasized that shooting a limit of doves in the morning and then again in the afternoon is a violation. Also, hunters shouldn’t share birds to manipulate the possession bag limits.

Click here to see the state’s opening-day dates, limits, and other migratory bird regulations.

Hunter Shield Protects Hunters and Anglers

Did you know that tens of thousands of Georgia bird hunting game-law violations are recorded by various game agencies every year? Mistakes in the woods and on water happen, and while unintentional, you could still be breaking the law.

If you have questions about year-round Georgia bird hunting regulations, U.S. LawShield is here to help. Members of U.S. LawShield’s Hunter Shield program have access to attorneys to get the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members are granted discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. Seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add Hunter Shield to your existing LawShield membership for only $2.95 per month.

Not a member of U.S. LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a Georgia bird hunting sportsman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law.

Georgia Legislative Update—What are the Latest Laws Affecting Gun Rights?

Georgia Legislative Update by Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo:

There were some significant changes in the law for Weapons Carry License holders and for firearms owners in general in Georgia in 2017. (Transcript continues below video.)

 

georgia legislative update
Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo

In this Georgia legislative update, we’re going to look at two specific House Bills: House Bill 280 and House Bill 292, both of which were signed by Governor Deal and both of which went into effect July 1st.

Now House Bill 280 is what we call the Campus Carry bill. This bill applied to Georgia’s public colleges and universities—not private schools—public colleges and universities, but does allow for lawful Weapons Carry License holders to carry concealed handguns onto certain areas and spaces of Georgia’s public colleges and universities.

Very important thing to remember in this Georgia legislative update:

• Only public colleges and universities.

• You must have a Weapons Carry license.

• It must be a concealed handgun.

There are certain places you can’t go; no sporting events, no stadiums, no gyms, no sporting events or areas where sporting events are held. No student housing, no dormitories, and no fraternity houses. You can’t carry in any of those locations.

No rooms or spaces where disciplinary proceedings are held, no rooms or spaces where administrative offices are, no rooms or spaces where high schoolers take classes, and no rooms or spaces where child care is provided. But other than that, there’s a lot of open places where you can carry to protect yourself. That’s House Bill 280.

Now House Bill 292 is the other bill in this Georgia legislative update that changed many facets of Georgia’s weapons carry law. To begin with, financial institutions are barred from prohibiting transactions with businesses that deal with firearms or from discriminating against businesses that handle firearms or they have a business involving firearms. So businesses that involve firearms—can’t discriminate against them.

That’s number one.

Number two, whereas before the change in the law, you could only carry a knife with a blade of five inches or less without a weapons carry license, the law was changed beginning July 1st. Now you can carry a knife with a blade of 12 inches or less.

The law revised multiple aspects of reciprocity law, allows for easier reciprocity and recognition of reciprocity with other states. And it also requires the Georgia attorney general to maintain a public list of states that we have reciprocity with.

So, in this Georgia legislative update, there are many good changes in the law for Georgia citizens. Be sure to look those two up: House Bill 280 and House Bill 292.

 

Concealed Carry Now Legal at Georgia’s Public Universities and Colleges

Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Georgia

 

Back-to-School Issues and Guns

Matt Kilgo, Independent Program Attorney:

In Georgia some of the most frequently asked questions are: “Can I carry a firearm onto a school campus?” Middle school, high school, or college.

These are complex questions, but I think we have some good answers for you.

Let’s talk generally about schools.

Back-to-school for a Weapons-Carry License Holder

A weapons-carry license holder CAN carry on to school property to pick up and drop off students. Now weapons-carry license holders, there are certain places you can go. If you do NOT have a weapons-carry license you cannot carry on the school property, or through a school zone. If you do and you’re caught it’s a felony. If your weapons-carry license holder and you’re caught out of bounds on school property then it’s a misdemeanor.

But weapons-carry license holders can carry in their vehicle when they’re picking up or dropping off students. They can also keep the firearm in a locked compartment or container within a locked vehicle when they leave the vehicle and go on to school property.

You cannot carry in the sports venues.

You can’t carry at school functions ,so even if the school function is off school property you can’t carry in the school function. So those dances that occur in downtown Atlanta. Can’t carry into those functions.

You can leave it in the parking lot when you go to the school football game. But you certainly cannot carry into the football game.

In order to pick up and drop off with one in the car, you must be above the age of 21 years, which means students cannot carry. Students can’t carry on to the property and leave them in their car either.

Back-to-school for Teachers

Teachers, with the proper authorization from the duly authorized administrator or your local school board, would be given authority to carry into the school, but those rules are very strictly followed and strictly regulated through the statutes in Georgia. So you have to refer to your local school board your school authority—they have to give you permission. There are certain ways that you have to be licensed, and training that has to be taken before you can do that. So please don’t carry without the permission of your school board if you are an administrator or a teacher. They’ve got to do that for you.

So weapons-carry license holders picking up and dropping off is OK in the vehicle. Leaving it in the vehicle when it’s in a locked container or compartment when you attend the school or a school function.

Back-to-school and Campus Carry in 2017

Now let’s talk about campus carry in 2017.

The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 280 that was signed by the governor that does allow for campus carry—a lot of restrictions to this law. So listen closely.

First and foremost, again, you MUST be a weapons-carry license holder. Not only that, it’s only for handguns, and only for handguns that you conceal. With a weapons-carry license and a concealed handgun you CAN carry on to a public university property.

You can’t carry in private schools. Private schools do still restrict that, and it is still restricted in private schools. Public schools you do have access to. Public colleges and universities. Must be concealed. Must be a handgun. You must have a weapons-carry license. You cannot carry into any stadium or sports venue.

You cannot carry into any dormitory or student housing including fraternity houses.

If you go into a building, you cannot carry into any space in that building that houses faculty or administrative offices, child care facilities, rooms or spaces where high school students take classes.

A lot of restrictions to this but on a general level, with a weapons-carry license, and concealed handgun you can carry on to Georgia college campuses public universities.

Georgia Governor Signs New Gun-Law Upgrade!

AR Rifles For Deer Hunting in Georgia? Of Course!

AR-10s are the bigger brothers to the smaller caliber AR-15s,
AR-10s are the bigger brothers to the smaller caliber AR-15s, and the 10’s are chambered in definite big-game calibers, usually.243 Win and up.

I was deer hunting in one of my favorite places in the world, the Mississippi Delta, near Yazoo City, Mississippi. And I was using one of my favorite types of deer-hunting firearms: an AR-style rifle. In this case, my rifle was a Remington R25 GenII, Remington’s second generation of the gun maker’s AR-10, chambered in .308 Win.

A good friend of mine farms several thousand acres of the Delta, and he has extended an open invitation to me to hunt his land. So, I was in the Delta trying to fill a deer tag. I spent the first two days trying out different locations. I saw whitetails, but all does and a few young four-point bucks.

Day Three found me in a large, elevated hunting stand built between a series of defunct fish ponds. My friend had dug a number of fish ponds years ago, five- and ten-acre impoundments where they raised catfish. But the fish business went bad, and the ponds were drained out many years ago. Now, they were large depressions ten feet deep or more, and overgrown with brush and small trees.

The levees were still in place, and from the sky, the ponds looked like a half-dozen large rectangles sunk into the ground. The levees are also a great place to set up a hunting stand, as they overlooked the brushy ponds, the grass-covered levees where deer liked to feed, and the stands of oak beyond the ponds.

A half dozen does and their young showed up that morning to feed on levee grass. I ate lunch around noon and was sitting back in my chair feeling like a nap was coming on when I thought I saw a shadowy blur moving through the trees way beyond the fish ponds, 400 yards or more to my west. Through my binoculars, I saw a stout deer body drifting through a dark brush, and then a second body. But I couldn’t see any horns. They were bucks, I was sure of that, but how big? And were they legal?

In this region of Mississippi, a buck’s antlers need to have a 12-inch inside spread or a 15-inch long main beam to be legal. As I glassed them, the two bucks moved to the edge of the levee and away from the shadows. I could see antlers now, and they both appeared to be legal deer. But 400 yards?

I got down from my stand as quietly as I could and ducked down into the nearest fish pond for cover. I hiked along the edge of the levee for a couple hundred yards and then eased up onto the bank to peek through the brush.

The two bucks had moved onto the levee now, and they had been joined by three does. The five animals fed on grasses and slowly walked away from me. I crawled onto the levee, and found a slightly raised area, sat down and cradled the Rem R25 rifle across my knees. I glassed the deer.

The Shot

I sat about midway along the longer bottom side of the rectangular fish pond. The deer were to my left and just rounding the far corner. A huge clump of brush filled much of the corner, and when deer moved behind the brush, I got into shooting position, my elbows on my knees, and rifle held forward.

The buck I wanted was the nice eight-pointer with a good-sized body. I lined up my Trijicon VCOG scope on the brush and waited. And waited. Finally, a doe stepped out from the cover, then another one, then my buck. I had to wait for the does to separate from him, and waited another couple of minutes until he turned and gave me a solid broadside shot, my heart thumping hard the whole time.

Slow down, I told myself. Breathe.

The shot, I estimated, was 200 yards in distance. I put the VCOG’s reticle at the top of the buck’s shoulder, let out my breath, and squeezed the trigger.

Given the way all the deer scattered, I really wasn’t sure if I’d made a hit or missed the buck altogether. I sat back and waited about ten minutes, re-running the shot through my mind’s eye. It had to be a hit, I told myself, and then I was sure I’d whiffed the shot altogether. But ten minutes later, standing at the far corner of the fish pond, I spotted large drops of blood on a muddy trail leading off the levee. I found my buck about 80 yards away, lying next to a big old oak, my .308 bullet having pierced his lungs.

He was a nice deer, a solid four-year old. He also carried a unique rack, with an extra stubby beam on the left side sticking out.

Only For Varmints?

Although AR-style rifles are very popular, many hunters still think they’re only good for varmints and predators like coyote. Not true!

First, AR-10’s are the bigger brothers to the smaller caliber AR-15’s, and the 10’s are chambered in definite big-game calibers, usually from .243 Win and up. I’ve taken more than a half dozen deer with AR-10s chambered in .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win. the last several years, from hunts in Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Popular AR-10 manufacturers include Daniel Defense, DPMS, Remington, and Smith & Wesson, to name but a few. I’ve found these rifles to be more than accurate and hard-hitting enough to drop a deer out to 300 yards and better.

Okay, you say the bigger-caliber ARs can do the job for deer. But not the very popular AR-15s chambered in .223 Rem. Too small a caliber, right?

With all due respect to those who feel this way, not true. I’ve harvested more than a dozen deer in the last few years using AR-15s, and most have been one-shot kills.

AR-15s and Deer

Deer hunting with .223-caliber rifles is legal in most states. There are, of course, exceptions. Pennsylvania, for example, does not allow the use of semi-automatic rifles for any big game, deer included—though you can legally use AR-15s for coyotes and other such varmints. Both Michigan and Iowa have large portions of their respective deer hunting regions restricted to shotgun-only.

A few states have caliber restrictions, including Colorado, where a big-game hunter who uses a rifle must have one that’s .24 caliber or larger—so an AR-15 chambered in .223 Rem. is not legal there, either.

Even in states where you can use an AR-15 for big-game hunting, make sure you know how many rounds your rifle can legally hold. For instance, in Missouri, “self-loading” or semi-automatic firearms can’t have more than 11 rounds in them, including the one in the chamber. AR-15s are fine for use in Oklahoma deer hunting, but your magazine can’t hold more than seven rounds.

Hunting Smarts

Now, you have to be smart about hunting deer with the admittedly smallish .223 Rem round. Certain loads will not work, including lighter varmint loads with fast-expanding bullets or rounds with full-metal-jacketed bullets.

You need to use .223 rounds packing heavier bullets—60 grains and above—that hold together and expand deeply into the animal. Most of the major ammunition manufacturers make such rounds, including:

—Federal Premium’s Vital-Shok Trophy Bonded Tip, firing a 62-grain copper bullet:

—Remington’s Hyper-Sonic round with a 62-grain Core-Lokt Ultra-Bonded bullet; and

—Winchester’s 64-grain Power-Max Bonded round.

federal trophy bonded 223 rem
Federal Premium Vital-Shok Trophy Bonded .223 Rem. with a 62-grain copper bullet

Of course, a hunter needs to place his or her shot into the animal’s heart-lung area.

With a heavier .223 bullet, accurate shooting, and a good AR-15, outdoors enthusiasts can have a freezer full of venison.

“In Georgia,” said U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo, “deer may be taken with any modern center-fire rifle that is .22 caliber or larger when loaded with expanding bullets. Magazine capacity is unrestricted.”

Hunter Education

No matter what you are hunting, make sure you first educate yourself on the applicable regulations. Take that education one step further by adding Hunter Shield to your U.S. Law Shield membership. Members in Hunter Shield states have access to educational materials, legal updates, and events, all designed to keep them hunting legally. Plus, each member receives the basic legal defense coverage that’s standard with the Hunter Shield program.

Make the decision today to become a more educated and responsible gun-owner and hunter by adding Hunter Shield to your U.S. Law Shield membership. Not a member of U.S. Law Shield? Join our family today and add Hunter Shield! —Brian McCombie, Contributor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield blog

 

Coyote-Hunting Gear Top 5 Picks: Use Them to Get More Georgia ‘Song Dogs’

Any hunt where a coyote appears on the scene becomes a coyote hunt. That’s the mantra of hunters across the country, and for good reason. Coyotes may be small—around 20 to 50 pounds, depending on the region—but they are highly adaptable and opportunistic predators. Their jaws exert as much as 300 pounds of bite pressure, and although they frequently take down their prey alone, a team or pack can easily kill full-grown deer. In fact, studies show coyotes have a 50% to 85% predation rate on fawns, a truly devastating number. They do incredible damage to livestock, boldly snatch pets from the suburbs, and have even attacked and killed people. One such case took place in 1981, when a coyote entered the suburbs and dragged three-year-old Kelly Keen from the driveway of her California home. Although her father managed to rescue her, she succumbed to her injuries.

Yes, hunting coyotes is fun, but it’s more than that. It’s part of your responsibility as a hunter. Save a fawn, kill a coyote, right? However, coyotes are sharp. They’re cunning. In order to call coyotes effectively, you need the right gear. Take a look at our top five pieces of gear for honing your coyote-hunting skills.

Alps Outdoorz Horizon Hunting Stool

A successful coyote hunt requires many skills but one of the most important is the ability to hold still. It’s easier to be still with a comfortable seat, and it’s a lot easier to see what’s coming if your seat is capable of moving. Enter the Alps Outdoorz Horizon Hunting Stool.

The Horizon has a 360-degree swivel seat—a seat that’s thickly padded, a rather important detail since coyote hunting involves quite a bit of sitting and waiting. At 21-inch tall this stool has enough height to boost you and your line of sight above overgrown grass and shrubs while keeping you somewhat low to the ground. The powder-coated steel frame is dark so it will not reflect sunlight and give you away, and it’s sturdy enough to give the stool a weight capacity of up to 300 pounds. If you, like many hunters, use binoculars, a thermal monocular, or other assorted smaller pieces of gear, there’s a place to set them in this stool: the Horizon has a storage bag underneath its circular seat.

The one caveat is the stool’s total weight of 10.5 pounds; although it isn’t incredibly heavy it is rather sizeable. There is good news, though, because the team at Alps Outdoorz planned for this by designing the stool to be packable. The Horizon quickly folds flat and can then be carried using the attached padded shoulder strap. If you want a solid hunting stool this type of a design is a good option due to its ability to rotate 360 degrees, the four-sided storage area, and its durability. You can find it on Alps Outdoorz’ website here.

ICOtec GC500 E-Caller

If you intend to call coyotes, not just hope one wanders into range, you should consider a good e-caller. ICOtec is a slightly more recent arrival on the e-calling scene but they’ve proven their effectiveness time and time again. Their top-of-the-line model is the GC500, a portable, programmable predator caller with a variety of features designed to help you bring in coyotes from a distance.

The GC500 is small compared to many other e-callers—8-inchx4-inchx6-inch—and lightweight at two pounds. The unit has a flat dark earth type of finish which has blended well in terrain from the deserts of Nevada to the greenery of Wisconsin. It comes with a handheld remote that’s small enough to slip in your pocket and has raised buttons that can be operated with or without gloves. If you’re hunting at night, the remote can be backlit, a feature that’s come in handy on numerous occasions, and the antenna can be raised or collapsed as needed. As for the antenna, it’s actually one of this e-caller’s greatest features. The GC500 is listed as having a remote range of up to 300 yards but I’ve had success using the remote beyond 300 yards. Even better, it’s not a line-of-sight remote, meaning there won’t be any frantic waving or contorting so you won’t be forced to blow your cover attempting to operate the e-caller.

This model holds up to 200 calls—a number far beyond what most coyote hunters will ever use—and runs on four AA batteries. Six calls can be saved as favorites and you can name your calls whatever you wish when you program it. It’s .mp3 and .wav compatible. And if you want to use it in sync with decoys, you can, because there’s a jack on the GC500 where their AD400 Attachable Predator Decoy can be attached. The AD400 has an impressively quiet motor and a variety of speeds—and you can control those speeds with your remote. Once you’ve seen a coyote come in hard charging at that decoy, you’ll see the value of a moving, flickering object for bringing them in.

The GC500 has good sound, solid range, and portability on its side. It’s also kept running for me in sub-zero temperatures, and that’s not something every e-caller can claim. Check it out here.

Nomad Outdoor Camo

Yes, you can call coyotes wearing jeans and a tee shirt. I’ve done it, as have countless others. That said, it is true you will increase your chances of success by wearing camouflage, and not just any camouflage. Select the pattern of your camo based on the area you’re hunting so you blend in to your greatest ability. Select the brand of your camo based on its quality, comfort, and usability. That’s where Nomad comes in.

Nomad Outdoor offers a line of camo designed by guys who hunt hard and know their stuff (having seen them at it, I feel comfortable vouching for their high experience level). A favorite of mine is the Nomad Syncrate Hoodie, a midweight half-zip fleece that’s perfect for lessening the power of cutting winds. The hood can act as an additional buffer from the elements or added concealment and the wicking material provides extra comfort. It has a variety of features from pit zips to a safety harness port to a pair of zippable slash pockets. But the real reason Nomad’s jackets are a staple in my admittedly vast camo collection is that the sleeves have extended, angled cuffs to cover the backs of your hands. Even when you’re on your gun, the backs of your hands remain covered.

The team of seasoned hunters at Nomad has designed an ever-expanding line of camo for all seasons in a variety of patterns. It’s tough, well-made, and even covers the cool factor (if you care about that). Check it out here.

MFK Coyote Game Calls

Whether you prefer diaphragm calls over e-callers or simply enjoy having more than one option for calling coyotes, MFK Game Calls have you covered. If you don’t make diaphragm calls a regular part of your coyote-calling repertoire, it’s time to start. It’s a tried-and-true method for creating surprisingly realistic sounds in real time.

The guys at MFK include call maker and founder Torry Cook and pro-staffer Jason Groseclose, a pair with a long list of calling championships under their belts. They agree the MFK Pretty Deadly is a good option for new callers while remaining a great all-around choice as well. The Pretty Deadly is a single-reed caller that produces barks, whimpers, and howls. Because it’s lighter, air and tongue pressure are easier to control. Torry’s favorite is the MFK Competition Howler which is heavier and able to handle greater pressure.

Mastering mouth calls is a good idea for all coyote hunter and diaphragm calls are ideal because they’re highly portable even in larger numbers and because they allow the hunter to carefully control vocalizations. With a Pretty Deadly you can emit a quick bark to encourage a coyote to pause or howl to bring them in at which point you can make the caller’s name come true. Check out MFK here.

Hornady Superformance V-MAX

As Hornady puts it, speed kills. And when your ammo is fast—and precise—you’re more likely to drop that coyote as it sprints across your field of vision. Hornady’s Superformance V-MAX line was designed with varmint hunters in mind and comes in some of the most popular coyote-hunting calibers on the market: .223 Rem 53 grain, .222 Rem 50 grain, .22-250 50 grain, and .243 Win 58 grain. If your caliber of choice isn’t included the almost 70-year-old company manufactures other hunting rounds more than capable of getting the job done.

Hornady Superformance V-MAX holds a special place in my heart because it has proven capable of providing greater precision than most other brands of ammo in the majority of rifles I’ve reviewed (and that’s a big number). Nailing sub-half MOA five-shot groups with .223 Rem is enough to win anyone over. Although the exact velocity will vary according to your rifle’s barrel length and other factors, the .223 Rem rounds have a muzzle velocity of 3465 feet per second from a 24-inch test barrel and a muzzle energy of 1413 foot-pounds. The .22-250 rounds have a muzzle velocity of 4000 feet per second from a 24-inch test barrel.

These rounds feature polymer-tipped bullets designed for match accuracy and swift fragmentation for a clean kill. You provide the shot placement; Hornady Superformance V-MAX does the rest. Check it out here.

Bottom Line

This is just a starting point. In addition to this gear you’d be wise to invest in thermal or night vision from a reputable company such as TNVC or FLIR, a face mask or face paint, and other items. Concealment through well-made gear and holding still is your goal. Then you need a quality rifle—check out the Remington 700—and calling equipment. Sure, you could wander into a clearing in jeans and a tee shirt toting your rifle and hope for the best, but wouldn’t you rather increase your chances? May the coyote-hunting odds be ever in your favor.

Make sure you know the hunting regulations in your state. U.S. Law Shield is here to help. Members of U.S. Law Shield’s Hunter Shield program have access to attorneys to get the answers as needed not only about coyote hunting but hunting and fishing in general. Members are also granted discounted entry into U.S. Law Shield Sportsman Law Seminars. Seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters, among other things. Join today and broaden your hunting education as a sportsman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who are familiar with the law.

Independent Program Attorney Mike Hawkins of the Hawkins Spizman Kilgo law firm in Atlanta pointed out that the coyote is a non-native predator that can be found in every county in Georgia and has the unique ability to live in a variety of habitats. Trapping and/or hunting are legal and recommended methods for managing coyotes. Because they did not historically live in Georgia, there is no closed season for their harvest. Coyotes may be hunted in Georgia year-round, he said.

In fact, to encourage the taking of coyotes from March to August, 2017, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division has introduced the “Georgia Coyote Challenge.” Each coyote killed, up to five a month per hunter/trapper, will earn an entry into a monthly drawing for a lifetime license (or equal credit for purchase of hunting/fishing licenses). U.S. Law Shield Members who want more information on the Georgia Coyote Challenge can learn more by visiting the Georgia DNR website.

Hawkings said current scientific research suggests that removal of coyotes during the spring and summer is the most advantageous time to reduce the impact of predation on native wildlife. The Georgia DNR wants to encourage coyote removal efforts during this critical period.

Do you need a license to hunt coyotes in Georgia? Hawkins said, “A resident hunting or combination license is required for all resident hunters 16 years of age or older, except when hunting or fishing on one’s own land or land owned by immediate family (blood or dependent relationship) residing in the same household. Remember that Georgia law as it relates to hunting applies to coyotes as well—for example, it is unlawful to bait coyotes, and it is unlawful to hunt coyotes from a vehicle.” —by Kat Ainsworth, Contributor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog

 

 

 

Georgia: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Welcome members and fellow gun owners. In the last Members Voice video our member Tyler witnessed a criminal breaking into his car. Tyler drew his gun and the bad guys ran away.

The legal questions started pouring in, and members, you wanted to know your legal rights in your state. So here’s your U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney to give you insight on what the law says.

U.S. Law Shield of Georgia Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo:

Can you use force to defend your motor vehicle? Well the law can be very complex and confusing here in Georgia. Let’s begin with a few definitions. First let’s talk about a habitation.

In Georgia there are three places that are habitations: Where you live, where you work, and how you get to where you live and work. Georgia law defines your home, your place of business, and your motor vehicle as habitations.

Georgia law also allows you to use the threat of force, force, and deadly force to protect your habitation. Threats of force: Get out of my home! The use of force: Anything short of deadly force. And in fact deadly force: That force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm. You can use deadly force to protect your habitation if you have a reasonable belief that another person has entered your habitation for the purpose of committing a felony.

So let’s talk about someone burglarizing your car in your driveway. What can you do? What kind of force can you use to stop them? Certainly you can use the threats of force and force. Can you use deadly force? Well remember, your car is a habitation. Georgia law allows you to use deadly force to protect your habitation from someone committing a felony inside it. Based on Georgia law, there’s a very strong argument that you can use deadly force to keep someone from burglarizing your vehicle.

Now we’re talking about you being outside the vehicle and someone getting into the vehicle. Certainly if you’re in the vehicle and this bad guy’s trying to get in with you, yes, you’re justified, because you’re protecting yourself and your family. You’re protecting whoever’s in the car. But if we’re outside the vehicle, bad guy’s outside the vehicle, can you use deadly force to keep him from committing a felony in the vehicle i.e. burglary? You know burglary in Georgia, the second degree burglary, can be entering a vehicle to commit a felony. Well according to the law, since your car is your habitation, you can use deadly force to protect your habitation to prevent the commission of a felony inside your habitation.

So from a legal perspective, it’s entirely possible that you could be justified in using deadly force against someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle.

From a public-policy perspective, and from perhaps the district attorney’s perspective, you may very well be charged with a crime if you injure that person, because just because you have that right, doesn’t necessarily mean that the district attorney agrees with you.

And in fact if you ask two lawyers the same question: “Can I use deadly force to protect my car from a burglary?” You’re going to get two different answers. One lawyer is going to say “Well sure, car’s your habitation you can use deadly force to protect your habitation.” The second lawyer is going to go “No no no no. Your car’s your property.”

Well I think the law is pretty clear that your car is a habitation, but I don’t think it’s going to keep you from being charged if you hurt someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle.

Let’s look at it from a practical standpoint though.

Let’s say you’re in your home. You look out the window. You see someone burglarizing your vehicle. Are you going to leave your position of safety? Are you going to give up your position of advantage to go outside and confront this person? Or are you going to call the police and let the police do their job?

I think prudence and common sense would say, yes, we let the police do the job. That’s what we pay them for. That’s why they’re here, to protect us. I do think if you decide to take that step and go outside, you’re giving up your position of advantage, or giving up your position of safety, and you’re putting yourself in an unreasonable situation without justification, but if you do that and you do fire on someone, the law could in fact protect you. But it may not keep you from being arrested.

Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Educating you is the cornerstone of U.S. Law Shield. Thank you for being a part of our family.