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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 1:07 pm

Pence signs captive hunting bill

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's captive hunting industry is officially legal and on the books after Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation into law Tuesday.

Senate Bill 109 codifies the controversial practice of hunting farm-raised deer for money behind high fences following a court ruling in its favor last year. It is effective immediately.

There are currently seven captive facilities - located in Harrison, Marshall, Kosciusko, Blackford, Whitley, Miami and Decatur counties.

The bill is the culmination of a 10-year legal battle waged over these hunting grounds, ending when the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Department of Natural Resources didn't have statutory authority to regulate privately owned deer. The Indiana Supreme Court allowed the decision to stand in June, which left the practice unregulated.

Lawmakers could have banned the practice altogether but chose instead to impose modest rules on the industry.

The new law transfers all authority regulating hunting preserves to the Board of Animal Health - even the hunting aspects of the industry. Many wildlife and hunting groups opposed the bill, which treats farm-raised deer as livestock.

Also under the law, new captive hunting entities must be at least 100 acres. Those grandfathered can be 80 acres. There is no language on how many animals per acre are permitted. Fences must be at least 8 feet high.

Hunting is allowed between Sept. 1 and March 1, and there is no limit on the number of deer that can be taken.

An animal that has been sedated can't be hunted for at least 24 hours. And hunting cannot occur within 150 yards of an artificial feeding site. Computer-assisted hunting - through the use of drones, for example - is also prohibited.

nkelly@jg.net