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Ind. Senate leader opposes high-fence deer hunting

April 08, 2013 at 06:47 AM

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The leader of the Indiana Senate has said he opposes a proposal aimed at legalizing five fenced deer-hunting preserves around the state.

The Indiana House is expected to vote next week on the bill, which supporters is needed to resolve an eight-year-old lawsuit over attempts by the state Department of Natural Resources to shut down the existing preserves where hunters pay for a chance to shoot deer confined inside high fences.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday he agreed with those who want to end what critics call "canned hunting."

"It's not hunting. It's not sporting," Long said. "... I don't think it's a good idea for Indiana."

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources ruled in 2005 that fenced hunting was illegal, but the existing preserves have remained open under a court injunction.

Supporters of legalizing the existing preserves say it is a matter of fairness to the property owners who made big investments to open the sites before they were barred.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Matt Ubelhor, R-Bloomfield, requires the preserve have at least 100 acres and fences at least 8 feet tall. The bill also would limit the preserves to a hunting season from Aug. 15 to Feb. 15, and would only allow permit sites that have operated continuously since 2005.

Indiana had its largest white-tail deer harvest ever last year, showing abundant deer hunting opportunities exist without captive facilities, said Darren Reed, a board member of the Indiana Conservation Officers' Organization, a group of active and retired officers opposing the bill.

"We believe it provides an unethical standard in the hunting community to try to shoot a deer inside a fence," he told The Journal Gazette.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence said he would support allowing the five existing preserves to continue operating with hunting rules in place.

"My focus is on jobs in the Hoosier state," Pence said. "And I'm open to allowing these small number of rural businesses to continue to remain open."

Long blocked in the Senate last year a broader House-approved bill that would have legalized the existing fenced-hunting preserves and allowed new ones, saying he believed legislators reached a tacit agreement several years ago not to intercede in the lawsuit.

Ken McIntosh, the owner of Midwest Woodlots, a fenced preserve in northern Indiana's Kosciusko County, said he continued hoping that lawmakers would legalize the sites.

"I'm just going to keep praying," he told The Indianapolis Star.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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