Indiana Small Business Rejoins Court Fight over Deer Hunting Preserves

Date: August 18, 2014

Indianapolis (August 18, 2014) — The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) announced today that it has rejoined the court battle over whether Indiana small businesses operating lawfully can be closed down by the Department of Natural Resources simply because the businesses are unpopular among a handful of activists.


“We were surprised that the state persisted in this case after having lost once already in court,” said NFIB Indiana State Director Barbara Quandt.  “These are legal and responsibly run businesses that the state is targeting under pressure from activists.  They need defending and that’s our mission.”


Indiana is home a number of small businesses that operate deer and elk hunting preserves.  They are typically large tracts of privately owned land where deer are kept and raised ethically.  Sportsmen pay for the opportunity to hunt deer and elk on the properties.  Nevertheless, activists have pressured the state for years to shut them down.  Several years ago officials from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did just that despite that the businesses were established and operated legally.


Last year a judge ruled that the DNR overstepped its authority by trying to close the businesses.  The regulatory harassment should have ended there, but DNR officials have taken the case now to the Indiana Court of Appeals.  NFIB filed a brief last week on behalf of one of the litigants who is also a member of the organization.


“The businesses were legally opened and they are lawfully operated.  They are responding to a demand among hunters for this type of hunting experience,” said Quandt.  “The state cannot simply change the rules in the middle of the game just because some other people, who have no interest in the activity, don’t like what their neighbors are doing.”


In fact the DNR encouraged one of the plaintiffs to start the deer preserve.  Then, after he invested his own resources into the business, which included the purchase of deer, the Department bureaucrats pulled the rug out from under him.  The lower court found last year that the deer preserves are legally owned private businesses and that because the deer were also purchased legally they can be harvested like any other farm animal.


“It would be a very dangerous environment for entrepreneurs if we permit the government, acting on behalf of well-funded, media savvy pressure groups, to shut down businesses they don’t like,” she said.  “There’s no public safety issue here.  There are no regulatory violations taking place.  It’s a political cause for some people who otherwise have no interest in these businesses and we can’t let that be the basis on which business owners are arbitrarily disinvested of their assets and prevented from making a living.”  


NOTE: The Interim Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow morning at 10 am on whether and how to regulate the hunting preserves.  Barbara Quandt will be available comment via cell phone: 317-690-3193.


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