Canned Hunting Booming In Indiana
Despite Pseudo Ban By Hupfer

By Don Jordan

posted 10/22/07

A couple of weeks ago as Indiana hunters were starting to take the field for fall turkey and deer hunting seasons, scores of dealers in captive deer and canned hunting magnates gathered in Indianapolis to sell their wares.

Those wares generally include the sale of "shooter bucks" or sperm from whitetail bucks that have enormous antlers. A so-called shooter buck may sell for $1,000 to $7,000 or more. Shooting a buck with huge antlers can cost a customer $15,000 or more. A prize breeding buck can produce antlers worth half a million dollars, just for the antlers! (http://realindy.com/goliath.htm)

Canned "hunting" isn't actually hunting, because it involves the shooting of animals confined behind high fences where they eat at feeding stations. One Owen County supplier of deer for such shooting once called them his "pets." These animals have no chance of escape. These fake hunters don't have to scout their hunting ground, sit in tree stands for days on end, field dress the animals they kill or drag these animals out of the hunting ground. There is no actual "hunt" involved.

Canned hunting was supposedly banned in Indiana when former Ind. Dept. of Natural Resources director Kyle Hupfer issued an executive order banning it two years ago. Instead of disappearing from Indiana, however, canned hunting is booming here even though it has never been ruled legal.

Deer suppliers and the shooting "preserve" owners are so confident of their current status that they held their Indianapolis auction in the literal shadow of DNR's Indianapolis headquarters.

How can this be?

First, after banning the practice, former director Hupfer proposed a "settlement" which allows the canned hunting outfits 10 or more years to operate before closing. Second, one canned hunt operator filed a lawsuit in Corydon to stop the DNR from closing him. And, the DNR's attorneys have failed to oppose the operators vigorously in court. No attorney or DNR official will even talk about why the lawsuit continues to languish, using the old dodge about not being able to speak about a court case still underway.

The bottom line is that Indiana is rapidly becoming a major center for the trade. So what, you say? Here's what: besides being an abomination and an insult to traditional, ethical hunters, deer "farms" are known to be disease hot spots. Specifically, deer confined in shooting pens are known to have infected wild deer with Chronic Wasting Disease in several states, including Wisconsin. It is thought CWD reached Wisconsin via infected captive deer shipped from western states where CWD is rampant. Wisconsin has spent up to $40 million trying to combat the disease in its wild deer herds since CWD was discovered there.

How could such a set of businesses get a foothold in Indiana? Easy. The Indiana operators make maximum political donations to state legislators and to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. The DNR Commission, an appointed body that supposedly makes policy for the DNR, has also slept with the canned hunting industry.

Commission members actually held a meeting within the confines of Bellar's Place, a canned hunting business in northern Indiana. Commission members praised the operation as a "model" and gave the entire industry a wink and a nod.

One year later, owner Russ Bellar was arrested on 35 counts of violating the federal Lacey Act which protects wildlife. Among other things, hunters at Bellar's shot drugged deer, deer that were penned in tiny cages and had to be prodded by workers to stand up to be shot. Bellar got a minimal sentence and fine but kept his business and deer. His son operates Bellar's Place now.

You can email Don Jordan by clicking the email link at http://realindy.com

©Copyright 2007. Donald Lee Jordan.