Indiana lawmakers are poised to add bighorn sheep and exotic mountain goats to the kinds of animals the state sanctions to be shot by hunters in high-fence enclosures not regulated by the Department of Natural Resources.
Senate Bill 109 passed second reading Tuesday in the Senate, but not before unsuccessful attempts by Democrats to amend legislation they argued would expand an unsporting and controversial practice.
Bill sponsor Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, said the proposal is an attempt to regulate practices already taking place. Along with deer, the bill would permit the canned hunting of genus ovis and genus capra of the bovidae family. This includes species not native to Indiana such as bighorn sheep, and wild goats and ibex native to southern Europe and Asia.
The bill would allow hunting of other animals including elk, moose, reindeer and caribou on hunting preserves that are at least 80 acres if in business in 2015 or 100 acres thereafter. Preserves would pay an annual $300 licensing fee. Hunting on preserves of the privately owned animals would not be regulated by the DNR and there would be no bag limits under the law.
Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, attempted to increase the licensing fee to $5,000, but senators rejected his amendment on a voice vote. Stoops said the state is absorbing a cost in setting up the regulatory framework for canned hunting and the proposed $300 licensing fee means taxpayers are subsidizing those regulations.
The legislation also proposes issuance of a special hunting permit that would require payment of $60.75 to the state for every animal killed.
Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, appeared incredulous as he asked senators whether they really wanted the state to endorse the captive hunting of goats and sheep. Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, said he’s enjoyed the camaraderie of hunting in the wild with friends in the past, but opposes the bill on behalf of sportsmen who don’t consider fenced hunting to be sporting.
Mrvan also said some of the preserves charge upwards of $10,000 to shoot a buck, and he noted some of the animals have been genetically bred to produce oversized antlers.
Messmer objected to amendments offered on the Senate floor Tuesday, saying that Stoops’ proposal to increase licensing fees only served the purpose of attempting to make the preserves too expensive to operate. Stoops countered preserves could easily afford to pay more based on what they charge people to hunt.