On Wednesday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller asked the state’s Supreme Court to overturn a February ruling that stripped the state wildlife agency of its authority to manage captive deer. That decision, made by a three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals, concluded that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had overstepped its authority in prohibiting high-fence deer hunting, or the hunting of captive animals in general.
The ruling was a major victory for high-fence hunting operators, who had fought the DNR for more than a decade for the right to allow captive hunts. Zoeller’s appeal asks for the Supreme Court to reinstate the DNR’s authority to regulate privately owned animals, although the attorney general also called on lawmakers to come to a solution outside of the court system.
“Seeking this appeal through the judicial branch does not mean, however, that the legislative branch should postpone action on the policy questions this subject raises,” Zoeller said in a press release. “Absent a legislative solution, DNR must look to the state’s highest court for relief. What would be preferable is a legislative solution—a bill reflecting the will of the people’s elected representatives—rather than a court-mandated solution,”
Last month a pro-captive hunting bill passed the Indiana House 55-39. The bill, HR 1453, would effectively legalize and regulate the shooting of deer on hunting preserves. However, the issue of high-fenced hunting is still a contentious one, especially among hunters and conservationists. Some oppose the practice due to what they call a violation of hunting ethics, while others worry that captive deer may spread disease to wild populations. In an attempt to alleviate concerns, HR 1453 would mandate a 100-acre minimum for high-fence facilities and require stringent disease testing protocols. Still, some are not convinced.
“That’s not a place I really want to go,” state Senator Lloyd Arnold (R-Huntingburg) told The Journal Gazette. “To me, it’s not ethical hunting.”
Arnold added that the bill would do little more than reclassify deer as livestock rather than wildlife, which some say will set a troubling precedent.
Other lawmakers see nothing wrong with deer hunting preserves, as long as the proper measures are taken.
“These businesses deserve an opportunity to exist and operate under common-sense regulations,” Representative Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) said.
Zoeller stated that it is important that lawmakers “resolve the impasse one way or another,” and enact new laws that directly address the hunting of captive animals.