Two majors changes in the way Mississippians hunt deer are working their way through the legislative system, both having cleared two huge hurdles well ahead of deadlines.

One move, allowing regular firearms during primitive weapon seasons, is long overdue and found surprisingly strong support in the House.

The other was unexpected and requires a close reading to see that a compromise is included in the language that legalizes crossbows during any open archery or gun season.

Both could increase the number of deer killed each season, something that biologists say is needed.

The House this week passed a bill that would basically end the requirement for most hunters to own a primitive weapon, either the traditional muzzle-loader or the single-shot breech-loading centerfire rifles. House Bill 1139 will allow hunters to use their weapon of choice - i.e. regular firearms - on private lands during any open primitive weapon season. No public lands are included.

After clearing the House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee, it was passed by the full House on a vote of 114-3. The "primitive tradition" ended years ago with the modernization of inline muzzle-loaders with magnification scopes, and was further eroded when the Wildlife Commission approved the breech-loading centerfires.

H.B. 1139 does include some ambiguity that could create problems. The bill only allows landowners and leaseholders (hunting club members) to use weapons of choice on those properties to which they hold deed or lease.

What does that mean for, say, hunting club guests? Or, for a landowner inviting his cousin to hunt on his or her property?

"I am all for this bill because the whole idea behind primitive weapon season ended years ago," said David Bird of Byram. "But, when I read it I have to question how this will affect my wife and teenaged children, or anybody else I might invite, at my camp. I am the only lease-paying member of my family on the club's membership roles."

Though state wildlife officials will not discuss bills that are still under consideration, it is doubtful they see this question as a problem. It is not the first time this kind of situation has arisen, and in the past wildlife officials have taken the position that immediate family members of a deeded landowner or leaseholder would be considered lawful. As for guests who are unrelated to members, a guest fee, which can be any amount, is considered to make a paying guest equal to a leaseholder.

Last week, senators gave similar overwhelming approval - a 49-1 vote - to Senate Bill 2048 to legalize crossbows anytime regular archery equipment is legal.

H.B. 1139 now goes to the Senate for consideration, while S.B. 2048 moves to the House. Neither is expected to face opposition and if passed will be sent to Gov. Phil Bryant for approval.