« Ind. Law - Some farm-related legislative proposals | Main | Ind. Law - "House sends expungement changes to Senate" »

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Senate committee passes bill to allow high-fence hunting"

Updating this long ILB post from Jan. 16 that includes much background, including links to the trial court rulings, Ryan Sabalow reported yesterday in the Indianapolis Star in a comprehensive story:

A bill that would open the door to high-fence hunting in Indiana passed the state Senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee today on a 6-1 vote.

The bill introduced by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, would provide a regulatory framework for an industry that has been working without one for the better part of a decade.

Yoder’s bill sets annual permitting fees, annual state inspections and creates standards for hunting farm-raised deer, such as requiring fenced preserves be at least 160 acres. The bill also would prohibit hunting within 150 yards of a feeder and require that a deer be hunted at least 24 hours after its released into an pen to ensure it’s acclimated to its environment.

The four preserves have been operating without any sort of hunting oversight since 2005, when preserves’ owners sued the Department of Natural Resources after the agency tried to shut down the facilities.

The preserve owners contended that the DNR didn’t have authority to regulate farm-raised deer. As the court case played out, the preserves were allowed to stay in business and could hunt in any manner they chose.

“There are no regulations,” said committee member Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. “It is the Wild West out there.”

Harrison Circuit Court Judge John Evans ruled last fall that the DNR overstepped its authority. Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office is appealing the case because it would effectively eliminate the wildlife agency's authority to regulate hunting behind a fence.

There’s also confusion in the law. The Harrison County decision came 10 months after a judge in Owen County threw out a case involving similar arguments.

Hunting would be allowed on the preserves from Sept. 1 to March 1, which is far longer than the traditional hunting seasons.

Yoder said he was told by the Attorney General that, given the vagueness in the law, it’s unlikely that the appellate court will be able to issue a definitive ruling. Instead, Yoder said, a legislative fix is needed.

“What this bill is is my attempt to make sense of all the different rulings that have taken place and come up with a fair and balanced way to approach this issue going forward,” Yoder said.

At the hearing, proponents of the bill included high-fence preserve owners and Indiana deer farmers who say they welcome oversight. They frame the issue as one of private property rights and rural economics. Deer farmers say preserves provide them with a place to sell their deer, bred for their enormous antlers.

“We have to have a terminal market,” said Gary Jacobson of the Indiana Deer and Elk Farmers’ Association. “The terminal market is the hunting preserves.”

Opponents included hunting and wildlife groups and animal-rights activists who call hunting behind a fence “canned hunts.” They described preserves as posing a risk of disease to native deer as well as an unsavory, unsporting practice.

“The shooting of a tame deer in a pen is not what we do as hunters.” said Doug Allman, of the Indiana Wildlife Federation and the Indiana Deer Hunters Association.

The bill is Senate Bill 404.

[More] See also this story by Niki Kelly in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 28, 2014 09:18 AM
Posted to Indiana Government