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general assembly

High-fence deer hunt bill passes in House

Quite likely to meet opposition in Senate

– A move to authorize five high-fenced deer hunting facilities barely passed the House Monday, and likely has a rocky road in the Senate.

The House voted 52-39 on Senate Bill 487, which seeks to quash a long-standing lawsuit over the legality of the existing preserves.

“For crying out loud we are Americans. We have liberties and freedoms. I am so tired of us telling others how to live,” said Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Darmstadt. “These guys are trying to make a living and God love them for it.”

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the Senate author will dissent on the bill in order to remove the language.

He has been an outspoken opponent against the activity as “basically a slaughterhouse without a roof.”

Long said the deer are farm-raised – not wild – and put behind a fence.

“There’s just some sense of fairness to the hunting process that’s violated with these facilities,” he said.

And Long noted the legislation will ultimately lead to more than just five operators.

“If you agree to allowing these five to be grandfathered the rest of them are going to be hollering why not us too, and basically it allows canned hunting to spread throughout the state of Indiana,” he said.

Preserves would qualify under the bill if they can prove they continuously operated from 2005 to the end of 2012. The preserves currently operating are in Kosciusko, Clark, Blackford, Marshall and Harrison counties.

The facilities charge high prices for hunters to come and shoot an animal, possibly with a large rack.

Senate Bill 487 also sets rules and regulations for the captive hunts. For instance, hunting can only occur from August 15 through Feb. 15; hunters must have a deer license; bag limits don’t apply; the preserve must pay $50 for a transportation tag for every deer killed on the preserve and no baiting or drugging is allowed.

The preserves must be a minimum of 100 acres and at least an 8-foot fence.

Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, said these deer are selectively bred for large racks and are comfortable around humans after years of being fed by them.

“They are easy prey for the guy who shoots them,” he said. “It’s a question of whether or not we want to pass a bill that will promote this kind of hunting.”

Some preserves have been operating since the early 2000’s after receiving guidance from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

But in 2005, a new DNR director had a different interpretation of the law.

The state Natural Resources Commission then passed rules to prohibit so-called canned hunting and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the law.

Several have continued to operate under an injunction obtained by the preserve owners, and legislators are looking to end that lawsuit by intervening.

Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, said the state initially gave its blessing to the facilities and then went “back on its word.”

The Indiana Farm Bureau and National Federation of Independent Businesses supported the bill.

A number of wildlife and hunting groups oppose the bill based on concerns of disease spread and unethical hunting practices.

Nine area representatives supported the measure.

Those opposed were Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, and Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola.

nkelly@jg.net

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