Have you ever actually seen someone shoot fish in a barrel? We havent, but when you really think about the logistics, it might be a little more difficult than the phrase implies. Its likely the first shot would put a hole in the bottom of the barrel, then all the water would drain away and all the fish would be in the bottom, flopping around until you could draw a bead on them.
Canned hunting sounds a lot less challenging.
Build a high fence around a couple of hundred acres of land. Put a bunch of deer inside. Then charge people to bring their guns or bows and arrows into the pen and slaughter the deer.
Perfect. The deer are farm-raised, so their survival instincts may not be sharp. If your shots miss the first time, just be patient and hunt them down again. Theres no place, ultimately, for them to run. The deer wont have a sporting chance but, hey – there will be venison for dinner!
If this kind of setup strikes you as inhumane and unsporting, youre not alone. The arrangement, known as canned hunting, is opposed by a coalition of conservation groups and real hunting groups.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the states Natural Resources Commission locked horns with Indianas canned-hunting advocates in the mid-2000s, banning so-called high-fenced hunting preserves.
In doing so, they were acting in the American tradition of public responsibility for the protection of wildlife.
This week, Harrison Circuit Court Judge John Evans ruled that the public doesnt own deer in these private preserves and thus the state overstepped its bounds by banning their exploitation. Though its not clear exactly what theyre preserving, four of the states high-fence hunting preserves have been able to remain open because of an injunction Evans previously issued.
Its not clear how his ruling this week will affect things. Phil Bloom, the DNRs director of communications, said the departments attorneys are trying to reconcile Evans decision with an Owen County decision in 2012 that supported the states efforts to ban the facilities.
Bloom said the DNR is opposed to high-fence hunting preserves because the confinement of deer could lead to outbreaks of disease that ultimately could decimate wild herds as well. Particularly dreaded is chronic wasting disease, a neurological virus that is always fatal to deer and can spread quickly.
Weve seen what happened in other states, Bloom said.
Ethics, sportsmanship and the health of the states wildlife: three good reasons the high-fence hunting concept – Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, called it basically a slaughterhouse without a roof – should be banned once and for all by the 2014 General Assembly.