Hunting Technology and Hunting Regs: The Push to Keep Pace with Innovation

Hunting Technology and Hunting Regs: The Push to Keep Pace with Innovation

Wisconsin deer hunters and conservation groups won an important victory recently when that state’s legislatures and governor came together to pass a new law allowing muzzleloading hunters to use the FireStick propellant system developed by Federal Premium.

screen grab of federal premium fire stick video

This “win” reflects a larger reality for hunters as a whole. As our hunting technology changes and improves, often our hunting regulations need time and some political effort to catch up with the times. And, with the need for new hunter recruitment being so crucial to the future of our hunting traditions and to the funding of America’s wildlife conservation programs, any technology that makes hunting easier and more accessible can be a real plus.

The Wisconsin situation with FireStick provides an enlightening case study as to how new innovative, high-tech products and hunting regulations regarding their use can be aligned for the good of hunters and conservation, while providing greater access and opportunities for new hunters. Introduced by Federal Premium at the 2020 SHOT Show, FireStick is an encapsulated propellant charge of Hodgdon’s Triple 8 granular powder. A FireStick charge fits into the open breech of a muzzleloader designed for the FireStick system.

First, a bullet is loaded into the rifle’s muzzle and seated on top of a bullet shelf inside the barrel. Then, the break-open action of the rifle is opened, and a single FireStick is installed into the open breech. It sits just behind the bullet shelf and the seated bullet. A 209 muzzleloader primer is inserted into the FireStick propellant capsule to charge the powder. With the breech closed, the rifle is ready to fire.

screen grab of sectional image of federal premium fire stick

“Our Federal Premium FireStick is a proprietary and a patented muzzleloading propellant system that is safer, more consistent and easier to use than ever before,” said Jason Vanderbrink, CEO of the Kinetic Group and president of Federal Ammunition, in a FireStick video released during the product’s launch. “Our team at Federal Premium really turned muzzleloader hunting around 180 degrees with this system.”

In Wisconsin, though, a muzzleloader had been defined as a firearm built with a solid breech plug attached with threads. The firearm also had to be capable of being loaded only from the muzzle. Obviously, that definition disallowed the use of FireStick ignition system rifles.

However, on March 14, 2024, Wisconsin Gov. Anthony Evers signed into law the NRA-backed Wisconsin Act 116, formally Senate Bill 587. The act updated the state’s muzzleloader definition to include muzzleloading firearms that use encapsulated propellant charges, paving the way for technological innovation while helping more hunters to participate in primitive firearm seasons that they otherwise would not be able to experience.

Wisconsin Act 116 was the culmination of efforts by a wide array of people, including Wisconsin state legislators, Federal Premium and hunter-backed organizations including the NRA, which remains out front in supporting wildlife conservation and hunters’ rights. The work started with State Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-10th Dist.), who introduced Senate Bill 587, while State Rep. Paul Tittle (R-25th Assembly Dist.) introduced the companion legislation, Assembly Bill 632, at the same time.

Additional support for the change in the state’s muzzleloading definitions came from the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Firearm Owners Inc. and Wisconsin Gun Owners Inc. Nationally, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International and the Sportsmen’s Alliance also backed the act.

With the addition of Wisconsin, 27 states now allow FireStick for muzzleloader hunting—but not all. This also means that hunters need to carefully check their state’s hunting regulations before using the “new and improved” products continually being introduced into the hunting and shooting markets.

The need to check on hunting regs is especially true for those hunters traveling out of state. Products legal to use in a nonresident hunter’s home state may not be legal in other states. This includes the use of thermal and night vision units, suppressors and game cameras.

For example, Colorado provides hunters with a wide variety of big game muzzleloader seasons. In-line rifles are legal here, too. All good. However, that state also mandates a number of very specific restrictions as to caliber size for the species being hunted as well as minimum weights for bullets. Colorado also requires rifles employ only open or iron sights; scopes and other sighting devices are illegal to use on muzzleloader rifles.

The use of FireStick rifles and propellants? No. Now, that could change one day, and will do its best to inform hunters of the changes to our regulations that such new products might necessitate.

About the Author
Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated. A member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Brian enjoys hunting hogs, shooting 1911s, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats.