Editorial: Politicians Vote to Destroy Tradition of Deer Hunting

Photo illustration by WildIndiana.com using Whitetail Buck" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  mpeirce 

The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 109 and cleared the way for a mass expansion of the captive cervid industry in Indiana. Elected officials voted to make a mockery of deer hunting. Do you know how your senator and representative voted?

One of the most disgraceful aspects of this legislation is how it repeatedly refers to the practice of killing captive animals as hunting. Look up the definition of hunting and you’ll see it is the pursuit and killing of “wild” animals. You’ll find no definition that relates hunting to the shooting of bottle-fed, genetically enhanced, named pets bred from commercially traded straws of semen.

Arguments are made that some people don’t have the time or access to land to go hunting for real, so these captive killing pens provide them the option to participate. What a sad place we have reached in our instant gratification society, where people are unwilling to invest time and resources in actually going hunting. Instead, they skip the process of preparation and kill an animal trapped in a fence with antlers nature would likely never produce so they can pretend they went hunting.

Most of you reading this article are likely well aware of what is taking place on the national political stage. You probably know the latest back and forth between the presidential candidates. Unless you live under a rock, it’s nearly impossible to escape the constant onslaught of political theatre being played out on the national stage.

However, I bet very few of you can name your state representative and state senator. Think about it for a second. Do you know who represents you in Indianapolis? If not, then you surely don’t know what they are doing. This very dangerous, because politics at the state level have more impact on your everyday life than politics at the national level do. But since very few people engage with state politics, some of these elected officials run amok, operating against the best interests of their constituents. Instead, they adhere to the wishes of the deep pockets who pay their way to the Capitol.

The legislators who led the initiative to expand the killing of captive animals in Indiana are Sen. Mark Messmer, Sen. Brent Steele, Sen. James Tomes, Sen. James Arnold, Rep. Sean Eberhart, Rep. Don Lehe, Rep. Terry Goodin and Rep. David Niezgodski. Many more voted for the legislation. Governor Pence chose to sign the legislation. I hope you take the time to find out how your elected officials voted before you head to the ballot box next. To see how your legislators voted, visit https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2016/bills/senate/109

If you are a deer hunter or simply a person who cares about conservation and wildlife, then you should know who the politicians are that led the charge to pass this legislation that severely degrades the heritage of hunting in Indiana. These politicians have been greased by lobbyists and associations financially fueled by the captive killing industry. They don’t care about the long-term health of our deer herd or the continuation of our deer hunting heritage. They may say they do, but their vote plainly proves otherwise. Actions speak louder than words. But they don’t think you’ll ever know how they voted. Their risk of backing this disgrace to deer hunters is minimal, so they take their campaign contributions and move on.

At the end of the day though, we can’t only blame the politicians. It’s the customers of these killing pens who are mostly to blame for the expansion of this industry. Bought and paid for politicians may provide the avenue for this disgraceful industry to exist, but it’s demand that drives supply. If no customers existed, neither would these shooting pens. I’m not afraid to call out anyone for killing an animal in a cage. To tell them they are hurting the future of hunting and to discourage them from ever doing it again. I’ve lost friends over the issue. But I’d rather lose a few friends than to see the tradition of hunting as we know it wiped out. What are you doing to save our hunting heritage?

Hunters must stop simply shaking their heads and turning their backs on the fact that those who kill captive animals are disparaging real hunters, and desecrating the traditions of our forefathers. Don’t fall for the bullying tactics that claim you are hurting hunters by taking a stance against the captive killing industry. They are the ones hurting hunters. The only way you can hurt the future of hunting is to stand idly by and watch while special interest groups buy political favors to commercialize our hunting traditions.

Brandon Butler
Long-time outdoor writer and native Hoosier Brandon Butler lives in Missouri and serves as the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Previously, he worked with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as Governor Mitch Daniels’ liaison to the department, Director of Sales and Marketing for Dominator365 and as the Marketing Manager Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.


  1. And if you’re a hunter who thinks this won’t affect you because you simply won’t hunt in these murder pens, keep in mind that these are huge vectors from the spread of disease from unhealthy animals reared in captivity. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a prion malady similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) which has been shown to spread from captive herds to wild ones, requiring mass cullings of sickly wild deer, elk, and mule-deer.

    This awful practice threatens the intentions of conservationists like me, animal rights activists, and hunters alike. There is no political slant to this issue. It’s not liberal v. conservative. It’s a harmful business practice taking advantage of politicians who put lobbyist funding above the best interests of their constituents. We MUST stand up against this breach of the public good.

    • So the “public good” should trump private individuals rights and freedoms? Have you ever read the definition of communism? Unhealthy animals reared in captivity? If a farmer was in this for “the money”, any common sense farmer will tell you they need healthy animals to make a profit, just like our cattle or swine industries do. This IS a liberal virus conservative issue. I can see which side you are on.

  2. This is really bad. We don’t even watch the outdoor channel anymore due to the “outfitters” who have an actual schedule of when a deer they have named, raised, and cared for will be waltzing through to be slaughtered. Often, these deer are raised on farms with small running areas so they can beef up and bulk the horns. Then, the deer are shipped . . . everywhere. The climate for the trophy deer that has been raised like a milk cow to expect dinner at certain hours may be drastically different. The terrain different. The food different. Now the deer has to be trained where the food is so it can be scheduled and killed off. There is nothing sporting about a guarantee that you’ll bag a buck. Nothing. Unless you count waiting until it walks by and being bitten by watering hole mosquitos.

  3. Its sad that people would want to call cage or pin deer hunting! Its not fare game at all to me this what happens you allow suites and ties in the woods!! I personally like the challenge of a hunt when it to the point were its all about money. I never support cage or pin hunting.

  4. Wow! Our true honorable tradition of deer hunting is indeed being poisoned by “captive” shooting pens. Our public’s whole concept of HUNTING is being mis-represented by the inclusion of these “pedigreed” bred giant racked bucks in our hunting magazines and photographic articles and journals. It is a real nightmare for true hunters. Please….anyone who participates in killing a caged, captive, selectively bred, high-fence animal is a “shooter”, not a “hunter”!.

  5. This is almost as bad as calling fishing in a lake, fishing. Can’t people invest the time to scout and learn patterns and go fishing in the ocean. Then some people are even so ludicrous enough to work hard, buy property, pay taxes and build their own pond or lake on their property, stock it with good genetic healthy fish, let them mature and have the pleasure of catching them or even charging people to catch them. No one would be so ludicrous as to call that fishing. Surely no one would tune in to watch people catch these trapped fish in lakes where they can’t get out while corporate sponsors stuck decals all over their boats. All of you sissy do gooders need to take up knitting. You are the biggest problem faced in the outdoor world and are an embarrassment to actual freedom loving Americans who believe we each have the right to live our own dream on our own terms and values. Go pound some sand Brandon Butler! You are the problem!!

  6. Brandon Butler, your ignorance about deer hunting and high fenced, low fenced, native deer and release deer is overwhelming. “Shooting deer in pens” is ridiculous. I would love for you to have the courage to call these supposed operations out. I own and operate a high fenced hunting ranch and breeding operation and would stand by your side condemning anyone who would supposedly shoot a deer in a pen. I can promise you in Texas you would have every breeder/hunting ranch along with you also. Instead you hide behind ridiculous statements in hopes of a “shock and awe” reaction trying to paint these operations as all bad. I assume you are an Obama supporter as only individuals with that mentality would try such a lame attack. At some point in time there is going to be a need for unity among the hunting community and all hunters or we will be destroyed by PETA, HSUS and other groups of morons because of disgraceful articles such as these, and God only knows they are reputable, ha ha.


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