Hunters, Deer Farmers Lock Horns Over Hunting Preserves
Legislation seeks to exempt existing preserves from possible ban
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 Roundtable 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 haven't learned to fear humans, and have nowhere to run in a preserve even if they try.
And 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.
The House proposal would ban any new preserves but allow five existing ones to remain open. Representatives may add language imposing regulations on deer farms to ensure they operate safely.
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.