Senate passes bill regulating fenced-in deer hunting

Indiana's hunting preserves would have to adhere to state requirements under a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday.

Some of those mandates for the hunting preserves, which usually enclose farm-raised deer for people to pay to come and shoot, include a minimum size of 100 acres for preserves created after 2015 and at least 80 acres for existing ones. Preserves that offer so-called high-fence hunting would also need to be surrounded by fencing that's at least 8 feet high.

The Senate sent the bill to the House on a 29-19 vote after some debate.

Opponents of the measure said it does not support real hunting since animals are essentially trapped when they are killed. The bill will not place limitations on how many deer a preserve can have nor cap the amount that can be killed by people who pay to hunt.

"It seems to me that if you're truly a hunter, you do not want an easy kill like this …" Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis said. "I contend the fences are still there and a captive animal, no matter how far they can travel, cannot escape the fences."

But supporters maintain that these preserves give access to people who aren't able to find other places to hunt.

"Some people that come from the areas don't have the opportunity, the access or the availability to go out and hunt," Sen. Arnold, D-LaPorte, said. "Now we have an opportunity to put some standards and some stipulations on the preserves."

Hunting preserves have operated with no regulation in Indiana since February after a court ruled that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources overreached when it tried closing a preserve in Harrison County. The state Supreme Court reaffirmed that ruling in June.

The Legislature has attempted to make the practice of high-fence hunting illegal in years before, but to no avail.

Indiana has several preserves, and will likely get more if the bill becomes law, said bill author Sen. Mark Messner, R-Jasper.

Additionally, the measure would give authority not to the DNR, which regulates hunting in Indiana, but to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health to license and permit preserves. It also prohibits computer-assisted remote hunting and sets penalties for drugging, releasing and failing to report escaped animals.

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