INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's seven hunting preserves, where Hoosiers can shoot an unlimited number of deer, sheep and goats kept in a fenced area, soon could be subject to state regulation.
Senate Bill 109, co-sponsored by state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte — whose district borders the Backwoods Preserve in Plymouth — aims to bring order to what currently is an unsupervised industry after state courts last year concluded that prior regulations were invalid.
The legislation, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate 29-19 and now goes to the Republican-controlled House, puts the State Board of Animal Health, instead of the Department of Natural Resources, in charge of licensing and inspecting the hunting preserves, which must enclose at least 100 acres.
It also requires individuals who shoot a deer at a hunting preserve to pay a $150 license fee to the state. Shooting a goat or sheep would require an $80 license.
The measure also prohibits shooting animals remotely using a computer-fired weapon.
Arnold said he recently visited the Plymouth preserve, which charges between $2,250 and $9,990 for a guided, multi-day deer hunt on its land, and said it was like a trip into the woods and not just shooting deer kept behind a fence.
"Some people that come from the urban areas don't have the opportunity, access or availability to go out and hunt, so they utilize these places," Arnold said. "We have an opportunity to put some standards on these preserves."
But state Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, who voted against the legislation, said it only encourages the development of more "canned hunting," and lawmakers should instead ban the practice.
"How are we doing this in the state of Indiana?" Stoops asked. "I don't think anybody would call this hunting."