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
*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
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
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
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: http://www.in.gov/legislative/legislators/
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.