TV Personality Jimmy Houston Enjoys
Canned "Hunts" At Illegal Indiana "Preserve"

Outdoor TV personality Jimmy Houston was a customer

by Don Jordan

Published Jan. 30, 2005. Updated 4/26/05

It probably comes as no surprise that one of ESPN's outdoors television personalities, Jimmy Houston, filmed a canned deer "hunt" at Bellar's Place. He was just one of many "hunters" who shot deer that were drugged, baited or herded into pens to be shot.

Bellar's Place is the "game preserve" or "game farm" near Peru whose owner, Russell G. Bellar, was recently found guilty, in a plea deal, of 35 counts of violating the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law, providing false information to federal officers, conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and conspiracy to violate federal food and drug laws.

During the trial in U.S. District Court at South Bend, the details of Bellar's "hunts" were fully exposed for the first time. Here is a list, compiled from the Associated Press, and articles in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette by Rebecca Green and Phil Bloom, Michel Koryta's column in the the Herald-Times last Monday, and from my own personal sources associated with the trial:

*A Tennessee man admitted paying $15,000 to shoot a buck with large antlers that was wounded and lying in a pen. Bellar's henchmen had to prod the deer to its feet so it could be shot. The incident was taped for a Bellar's promotional video. The man shot two bucks on his visit.

*Deer at Bellar's 1,200-acre shooting preserve were routinely drugged and moved into small pens where clients could shoot them.

*Bait was routinely used to attract deer to within easy shooting range of clients.

*Bellar's employees routinely chased deer away from fences so videos of client "hunts" would not reveal the fencing.

*Deer skins, antlers and meat were routinely sent across state lines, including deer meat from the drugged animals.

The guilty plea agreement included a $575,000 fine and restitution of costs, but Bellar gets to keep the deer on his "farm" and all his equipment, including the tranquilizing gear. And, Bellar has yet to be sentenced. Federal prosecutors expect him to get two years in prison, but the judge has yet to decide. Bellar was permitted to go on a vacation with his wife before sentencing.

Now comes news that one of Bellar's pals, a state legislator from Macy, Republican William Friend has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would remove operations like Bellar's from Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources regulation and place them under agricultural regulation, thus classifying white tail deer as agricultural animals just like pigs and cows.

Friend has had business dealings with Bellar and runs a meat packing business. He received campaign donations from various groups, all of which share at least one of Bellar's addresses. The convicted animal abuser has also made donations to several other Republicans, including our Gov. Mitch Daniels who got $10,000. Some Democrats got in on Bellar's largesse too. Former Gov. Joe Kernan got $2,000.

This is at least the third time Bellars and his buddies have tried to get their despicable operations legalized through the Indiana General Assembly. This time, with both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office controlled by more "game farm friendly" Republicans, close observers fear the shooting preserve owners will get what they want.

I personally don't believe all Republicans support this legislation, but unless they start screaming at their state representatives, it is going to look that way.

So far as Jimmy Houston's practice of filming "canned hunts" inside Bellar's is concerned, what's new? Practically all of the outdoor hunting programs and many of the big fishing TV stars go to these places. They get invited by preserve owners, like Bellar, and do their shooting free with success guaranteed.

The game farmers and shooting preserve owners believe that their operations are the future of hunting in America. Maybe they are. They certainly will be the future of hunting in Indiana unless each person who reads this story is outraged and disgusted by it and is willing to call, write or email a state legislator.

Here's where you can find those addresses and phone numbers:


Update: Senate Bill 1780 which would have classified captive cervids as "livestock" and placed these animals under agricultural regulation instead of wildlife regulations, died when Democrats walked out of the Indiana General Assembly. However, the gamer "farmers" and their allies have tacked an amendment onto an obscure bill making its way to the House Ag Committee which would accomplish their aim. I will keep you posted.


2005 Copyright Jordan Communication