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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ind. Courts - More on: State DNR appeals high fence hunting ruling to the COA

Updating this entry from earlier this afternoon, which included a copy of the State's brief in DNR et al. v. Whitetail Bluff LLC et al, appealing the Harrison County trial court ruling, the ILB has now received the amicus brief supporting DNR filed on behalf of Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indiana Deer Hunters Association, and Indiana Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Here is the summary of argument:

Indiana law prohibits the practices Rodney Bruce engages in. These practices are referred to as "canned hunting," which is shooting captive-raised deer in pens, often for trophy purposes only.
  • Indiana law mandates the regulation of "wild animals," whether privately owned or property of the people of the State (this regulatory regime is consistent with the history of conservation in America and the Seven Pillars of Wildlife Management).
  • Indiana law prohibits taking (killing) deer except when a statute or DNR rule explicitly permits it.
  • Indiana law prohibits private ownership of d eer except under a properly issued game breeder's permit for a deer (cervidae) livestock operation.
  • Deer raised in licensed game breeding (cervidae livestock) operations may not be hunted.
  • Indiana law prohibits the sale of deer - alive or dead - except by a holder of a game breeder's license.
Those who operate" canned hunting" pens in Indiana have propagated the myth that Indiana law is unclear, that their operations fall into a gray area, or that - as the Harrison Circuit Court found - the State does not have authority to regulate privately owned deer.

These myths are far from the truth. Indiana law prohibits the activities that constitute "canned hunting." Bruce and other "canned hunting" owners do not have game breeder's licenses (Bruce had one, but gave it up in 2005). They have no legal right to privately own deer. Their business model - which is based on selling individual deer at prices based on the size of their antlers - violates the statute prohibiting the sale of deer for any purpose by anyone other than a licensed game breeder.

Indiana's plan for regulating deer hunting is consistent with the North American model of wildlife conservation, which hunters, anglers, and other sportsmen initiated more than 150 years ago. The North American model preserves the stock and habitat of wildlife by limiting hunting, insisting on fair-chase hunting practices, and treating the herd as a public trust, owned by all the people. In this model, which differed from European practices, the hunters themselves (exemplified by Teddy Roosevelt) pushed government to regulate their own hunting practices to preserve resources for future generations.

The trial court erred in concluding that Bruce's operation was beyond the reach of Indiana's statutes and DNR's rules because he privately owns the deer. To the contrary, the law prohibits the practices carried out in his "canned hunting" operation.

The docket in Ind. Dept. of Natural Resources, et al. v. Whitetail Bluff is available here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 29, 2014 06:26 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts