INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Five game preserves around the state
where hunters pay for a chance to shoot deer confined inside high fences
would be allowed to stay open under a bill endorsed Monday by an Indiana
approved 6-2 by the House Natural Resources Committee is the latest move
in an eight-year-old court and legislative fight over the hunting
preserves. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources ruled in 2005 that
fenced hunting was illegal, but the existing preserves have remained open
under a court injunction.
outdoorsmen and environmental organizations are against the proposal,
maintaining that the fenced preserves don't offer real hunting and could
increase the disease risk for Indiana's wild deer. Supporters of
legalizing the existing preserves say it is a matter of fairness to the
property owners who made big investments to open the sites before they
sponsored by Rep. Matt Ubelhor, R-Bloomfield, requires the preserve have
at least 100 acres and fences at least 8 feet tall. The bill also would
limit the preserves to a hunting season from Aug. 15 to Feb. 15, and would
only allow permit sites that have operated continuously since 2005.
"These play an
integral part to our hunting economy in the state," Ubelhor said of the
Bureau lobbyist Bob Kraft told the committee Monday that the bill would
"remove a shadow" over the preserves and help provide a market for animals
raised at about 400 deer farms around the state. Kraft said not passing
the bill wouldn't be fair to the preserve owners who believed they were
acting legally when they started opening the sites in the late 1990s.
on this in good faith to open a business in Indiana," Kraft said.
The bill now
advances to the full House for consideration. That chamber approved a
broader bill last year that would have legalized the existing
fenced-hunting preserves and allowed new ones, but it was blocked in the
Senate, where leaders cited a tacit agreement several years ago not to
intercede in the lawsuit.
Monday argued against the state allowing what they called "canned hunting"
of farm-raised deer that have less fear of humans than wild deer and are
restricted by high fences.
"The deer are
being shot for the antlers — not for the sport," said Doug Allman, a vice
president of the Indiana Wildlife Federation and a past president of the
Indiana Deer Hunters Association.
members who voted against the legalizing the preserves — Rep. Tom
Saunders, R-Lewisville, and Rep. Lloyd Arnold, R-Huntingburg — both said
they disagreed with the type of hunting done at the sites.
consider this a sport," Saunders said.