Indiana hunting preserves are asking legislators to help them stay open.
A House committee may vote next week on a proposal to allow Indiana deer farms which raise deer for hunting to stay in business. The preserves have been fighting in court for years to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from ordering them to shut down.
Deer farmers argue the preserves represent 95 percent of their business and hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments. Hunting groups, including the Indiana Sportsmen‘s Association and the Indiana Bowhunters Association, charge the preserves upend the “fair chase” principle of hunting.
Bowhunters Association board member Herb Higgins argues farm-raised deer have not learned to fear humans.
“These deer are not wild,” he says. “They do not have a natural instinctive fear of humans. They‘re in an enclosure that hampers their escape and ultimately leads to their demise.”
Conservation groups contend deer farms increase the risk of an outbreak of chronic wasting disease, which has forced other states to eradicate large numbers of deer to contain the disease.
Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) says his proposal would let the state ban future hunting preserves but allow those already operating to continue.
“All I‘m doing is trying to make sure that these guys are working and fulfilling their business plans, and the state not hampering their efforts to do business,” he says.
The Senate has not considered the proposal. If it passes the House, Senate negotiators would have to agree to accept it, and the full Senate would have to go along.