By Matt Popovich
(Harrison County, Ind.) - A Harrison County judge made a controversial ruling regarding the legality of high-fenced hunting preserves in Indiana recently.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Judge John Evans ruled the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has no jurisdiction shut down high-fence hunting preserves.
High-fence preserves are known for raising enormous deer with massive antlers. Often times, it costs a hunter over $20,000 to harvest one of these trophy deer.
The Harrison County ruling came down 10 months after a similar case was thrown out by an Owen County judge.
There are more than 6,000 farmed deer in Indiana, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR presently co-regulates these farmed deer along with the Indiana Board of Animal Health.
Animal rights activists and some hunting groups are angered by the ruling that declares the deer on the preserves are privately owned and not subject to the same governance as wild deer, which are owned by the citizen of Indiana.
Activists against high-fence hunting argue that court decisions which rule against the DNR’s power to regulate private hunting preserves could possibility have disastrous affects on wildlife. Without the power to regulate the hunting preserves, anti-high fence activists argue diseases from privately owned fenced in deer could spread to wild deer.
Activists against fenced hunting argue that because the animal cannot escape the enclosure, it is unethical to hunt them. They further argue that using bait to lure deer into view of a shooter is unethical, as well.
Proponents for the legality of high-fence hunting preserves argue that they are a business and should have the right to fence deer. They feel that they own the deer and should also not be subjected to the same hunting regulations as citizen hunters.
They also argue many landowners charge money for access to hunt their land, which, in essence, is what they do. And not all high-fence owners are totally against DNR regulation. Some believe that there must be a certain level of regulation in order to maintain a fair and respectable business.
According to The Star, there are 380 licensed deer breeders in the state of Indiana and 4 high-fenced hunting preserves. A majority of these breeders are forced to sell their deer to hunting preserves out of state. If a court decision to limit regulations on high-fence preserves is given, more preserves could be opened in Indiana, which would benefit breeders.
It is possible that this case may reach the Indiana Court of Appeals in the future.