Why is it Illegal to Hunt Deer with a .22

Deer is not that difficult to shoot, especially with a .22. However, a lot of inexperienced hunters would use this fact to hunt for deer. This is a common misconception, though, because it is not really legal for anyone to hunt a deer with a .22. This begs the question, why is it illegal to hunt deer with a .22? In this article, we will be answering this question, and more so that beginner hunters would better grasp the legality of hunting a deer with a .22.

A look at .22-caliber

A .22 caliber refers to a standard firearm with bullets that range from the 37-grain lead bullets to the 80-grain jacketed bullets. The terminal performance and the energy that these bullets deliver vastly differ from each other. At the end of this range of bullets, one may discover that the performance is not adequate. On the rear end of this range, one may find that they are acceptable for smaller species such as an antelope.

Types of a .22 Caliber

A .22 cartridge caliber generally include the following: the .22 short, the .22 long, the .22 long rifle (.22LR) , and the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (.22WMR).

The .22 short, .22 long, and the .22LR have similar specifications for the neck, rim, and base diameter, and rim thickness. The rifling twist rates are identical for the .22 long, .22LR, and the .22 WMR.

.22 Short

The .22 short is considered to be the oldest cartridge among the different types since it was developed in the 1850s. The primary use of this .22 short was for self-defense. But since there are far better options for self-defense, the .22 short has now been used for recreational shooting.

.22 Long

Further development of the .22 short in the 1870s resulted in the development of the .22 long. The main objective was to utilize it in revolvers, but it was later chambered in rifles.

.22 Long Rifle

This is considered to be the most common among all the rimfire cartridges. It is known for its faint noise, inexpensive cost, and minimal recoil.

.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

Finally, we have the .22 WMR. This cartridge can be loaded with heavy bullets that would range from 50 grains to 30 grains.

No matter the type of caliber, a .22 will definitely kill a deer if the shot is situated in a vulnerable area. Even if it has attempted to run swiftly away from you, an accurate shot through the lungs will definitely kill the deer. This is where to controversy comes in. Because even if you have the know-how of using a .22, it is still illegal to hunt deer with the use of the .22. There are better calibers that you can choose from that could produce more efficient and cleaner kills.

Why Is It Illegal to Hunt a Deer with a .22?

It is unethical and inhumane.

Primarily, using a .22 for hunting deer is unethical. If you use a .22 for a deer, it will increase the chances that you would injure the deer and that it would not be able to recover. As a matter of fact, there has already been a lot of deer that hunters have crippled using their .22 caliber firearms. Not only will you risk not recovering the deer, but the deer might also suffer unnecessarily. As a matter of fact, a .22 is not even recommended for smaller games such as turkeys.

A .22 shot will most likely result in the deer dying a slow yet very agonizing death. It is sure is not ethical to let the deer suffer that way. Moreover, you would not even get the goal you have desired in the first place. So if you want to hunt deer, we recommend that you do it in a responsible and human way.

It is inappropriate.

Almost no state in the United States would allow any person to hunt deer using a .22. This caliber is not really appropriate for deer hunting. Unless you are going to shoot its head at a close range, a .22 will only incapacitate and injure a deer rather than immediately kill it. Even if you are an experienced hunter with excellent tracking skills, if the deer would ultimately die after a long time of suffering, I would most likely just end up rotting.

Instead of using a .22, we recommend using a .300 because it would most likely hit a deer even if the hit was not on the head or neck. The bare minimum is .223and that would be scraping the bottom. With these high-caliber firearms, the deer would usually get knocked from its feet and would never recover.

What about the .22, then? Possessing a .22 firearm is truly illegal during the firearm deer season, but we can recommend using the .22 for hunting hares, squirrels, and rabbits instead.

It is prohibited by the law.

Hunting deer with a .22 is illegal because it technically goes against the law. As a matter of fact, the statute of Maine, under the Hunting: Seasons, Requirements, and Restrictions chapter of the Conservation, states that: “a person may not hunt deer with any firearms using… .22 caliber rimfire cartridge.”

The statute states that a person who would violate such prohibition commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $100 but not more than $ 500 would be sentenced. Furthermore, any person who is caught violating this prohibition after having been adjudicated as having committed three or more civil violations within the five-year period commits a Class E crime. A Class E crime could mean jail time for up to 180 days or a fine of up to $1000.

Read More: Rabbit Hunting with A22 Expert Tips You Need to Know


The .22 firearm is an all-around caliber, but this does not give you the leeway to use it when hunting deer. While we have mentioned that you can hunt deer using your .22, we don’t recommend using it during the deer season. Using it is illegal for all the right reasons. This ruling will surely not change in any U.S. state anytime soon.

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