Indiana Senate blocks high-fence deer hunting bill

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A proposal aimed at legalizing five fenced deer-hunting preserves around Indiana has failed in this year's legislative session.

Rep. Matt Ubelhor of Bloomfield said Thursday that his bid to protect the hunting preserves was blocked by the Senate.

Ubelhor says he believes the step was needed to resolve an eight-year-old lawsuit over attempts by the Indiana 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 says he doesn't believe that the preserves offer true hunting and that the courts should decide whether the preserves are legal before the Legislature gets involved.

Jerry Bell owns 160 acres of farmland along the Little Flat Rock River in near Greensburg. Bell would like to use his Decatur County farm as a deer preserve that would allow hunters to hunt his property for deer that he raises, for just that point.

"130,000 deer were shot in the state in the wild in Indiana last year. Less than 1,000 were shot in preserves," Bell told Eyewitness News in a March interview.

However, the Indiana Wildlife Federation lobbied against the effort in Indiana's legislature to legalize so-called "canned hunting," where animals are fenced in and hunters can track and shoot them.

Many sportsmen say it's simply not a fair fight.

"That's not what hunting is about. It's more than just killing and it's more than paying a large sum of money for just the antlers," said Doug Allman with the Indiana Deer Hunters Association.

The Indiana Deer Hunters Association would like to see hunting preserves shut down and banned completely. Former Governor Mitch Daniels and the Department of Natural Resources banned them in 2006, leading some hunting farms to close. Others sued to stay open, leaving four hunting preserves open in the state, along with hundreds of deer farms.

Eyewitness News talked with deer farmers who wouldn't go on camera, but told us they disagree with the argument that hunting deer on preserves is like shooting fish in a barrel. They called most preserves, with hundred of acres of woods, pretty big barrels.