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Issue of October 15, 2014
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Fenced-in hunting bill fails one vote shy

February 12, 2014 | 08:46 AM

A measure to legalize and regulate high-fenced hunting preserves, such as the Hero Reward facility in western Harrison County, failed in the Senate last week when it didn't receive enough votes to be either defeated or approved.

It fell one vote shy of approval.

Senate Bill 404, authored by 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.

While the case is in court, these preserves are allowed to host hunts in any manner they choose.

"If we don't pass this bill, deer will be hunted in ways that we can't control," Yoder told the Senate.

Hero Reward, owned and operated by Rodney Bruce, continues to operate in the county because of court rulings.

In 2005, the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources was sued after it tried to shut down the 12 high-fence preserves (only four are now in operation) in the state. Former Judge H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis issued a moratorium so the existing preserves were allowed to stay in business.

And just last fall, Harrison Circuit Court Judge John T. Evans ruled that the DNR had overstepped its authority and deer behind fences are in essence livestock and not subject to the DNR's oversight.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office is appealing that ruling since it would effectively eliminate the agency's authority to regulate any type of hunting behind a fence.

A few months before Evans' ruling, an Owen County judge ruled that the DNR had the right to issue permits for the preserves.

Similar legislation was blocked last year in the Senate after overwhelmingly passing the House.

Hero Reward is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit program designed to provide U.S. servicemen and women, police officers and firefighters a one-of-a-kind retreat to aid in both mental and physical recovery from traumatizing events. It offers lodging, fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, four-wheeling, skeet shooting and more.

The goal of the program is to offer all of these activities, free of charge, to "heroes" and their families.

Opponents of the legislation say fenced-in hunting is not ethical or should be only allowed for exotic species, not native species such as deer.

Bruce said the fence is only used to control the hunting pressure by keeping people out, controlling how many hunt at a time, the age of the deer that are harvested and the breeding genetics.

"We do not take away a deer's ability to see, hear, smell, run or escape," Bruce said. "If a person uses the fence to make a hunter successful, then it's canned hunting. We don't do that."

Twitter: @rossschulz

  1. print email
    February 13, 2014 | 04:29 PM

    "If we don't pass this bill, deer will be hunted in ways that we can't control," Yoder told the Senate.


  2. print email
    Private Property?
    February 14, 2014 | 03:15 PM

    How can you say Private Property when it is a "federal 501c3" group? That opens you up to a lot of things. I can't see how hunting or use of any firearm helps any prior service men/woman that is "traumatized". Hunting something in a fence? I can see the other activities mentioned being rewarding and soothing to trauma. I cannot understand how Deer are considered livestock when I'm not allowed to keep a deer on property penned in or the DNR will come and euthanize it, or when a nice couple finds a baby deer and try to raise it and help it survive they are doing wrong. So how come it's OK for this place to have this "livestock" and kill it in a fence line and not OK for me to have one out in my backyard?

  3. print email
    Canned hunting
    February 19, 2014 | 09:10 AM

    Only a really bad hunter would need to hunt in these closed off areas. How pathetic it is to have to fence an animal in an enclosure and then kill it. What a sport. Makes me sick.

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