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Why it's illegal to shoot over state water ways


PMA Member
So one of the places I hunt borders the raccoon river. I have one stand location specifically, that is very close to the water and across the river is public land. I never paid much attention to across the river, but I got to thinking that during muzzleloader season I should setup so I could shoot both sides as I found a huge community scrape across the river while shed hunting last year. I knew the regs said it's illegal to shoot over state waterways, but I was curious what constitutes a state waterway?

Anyway, I called the game warden and left a message describing my scenario and my question. He basically said it was illegal to shoot across the river and that most waters in Iowa would be considered state water. Cool, good to know, glad I called him. But does anybody know why that's illegal? Guys duck hunt rivers and to me it's not much different than shooting across any other terrain feature like a valley. Anyway I was just curious if anybody knew the reasoning behind this?

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Active Member
I honestly did not know shooting over a river was illegal. I know shooting shot over roads is legal but shooting single projectiles (handgun, rifle, slugs...) is illegal. I didn’t know about rivers & such. A friend of mine, years ago, may or may not have shot a wounded deer across a river. If that happened, he had no idea that he was doing something illegal.

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Staff member
My GUESS is, they look at it like a “means of travel” for people. Like a road. “Safety” maybe? U can hunt road ditches I think. But can’t shoot across. Maybe that’s it - river being equivalent to road & means of folks traveling?
Dang good hunting strategy BTW ;)


PMA Member
I would assume Sligh is right. Unless you were right on the top of the bank to see down to the water, you could potentially be shooting over someones head that is traveling the river. Pretty unrealistic chance, but that's the only thing I can think of.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Get's me thinking.... do we have the rule that you can't shoot a deer that is in water? I'm not thinking of shooting swimming deer, but when they walk the creek and ditches in ankle deep water. I know in some states you cannot shoot them if they are in any water. Just wondering.


Active Member
I was always under the impression it had to do with a projectile "skipping" if it hit the water.


PMA Member
I know bullets can skip off of the water, but they can skip off of the ground, rocks or trees just as easily. We have fired tracer rounds at steel before and those rounds ping off in all weird angles too.
In case you wondered why it's a bad idea to shoot at water watch this video.

From what I've read the number one reason against it is the potential for richochets. The likilhood of that happening just seems very slim to me to make a law against it. I'd have to screw up extremely royally to plop a round in the water when shooting over it; I'd be just as likely to shoot one high with no backdrop. I just don't care for laws based on, "what if" situations. I remember watching a hunting show where a guy shoots a moose from a boat in the middle of a lake, so it's not illegal everywhere. Just an odd rule to me.

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PMA Member
Growing up in Michigan, I was always taught it was the higher likelihood of skips/ricochets and it can ricochet farther because there is nothing (no trees, hills, etc.) to stop it. Can't guarantee this, but it made sense to me so I never questioned it.
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