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March 9, 2014

Endangered pastime?

Changed wording in resolution delays debate on right to hunt, fish

INDIANAPOLIS — A much-debated ban on same-sex marriage wasn’t the only proposed constitutional amendment to get knocked off this November’s ballot. Gone, too, is the less contentious proposal to protect Hoosiers’ right to hunt and fish.

Backers of the measure say enshrining the right to “hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife” in Indiana’s Constitution will protect the state’s heritage from animal rights and anti-hunting activists. Without it, they fear, future generations of sportsmen will see limits on hunting seasons, more restrictions on hunting weapons, and increased protections for prey.

“There are people that don’t believe you ought to hunt or fish,” said Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, a longtime champion of the cause. “We need protection from them.”

But similar to the fate of the same-sex marriage amendment, a change to the hunting and fishing resolution’s language — removing a phrase covering the right to farm — postpones any public vote until at least 2016.

As falling support and rising court challenges create doubts about the future of the marriage amendment, supporters of Senate Joint Resolution 9 — the hunting and fishing amendment — predict success in the next legislative session.

“This thing has passed with a lot of support in the past, and it will again,” said Steele.

At least 17 states have guaranteed the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions, with all but one of those measures passed since 1996 with support from hunting and gun advocacy groups. Backers in Indiana include the National Rifle Association and Protect the Harvest, an organization founded by Forrest Lucas, owner of Lucas Oil.

Opponents of the amendment say it addresses a threat that doesn’t exist.

“We think it’s unnecessary,” said Erin Huang, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. “Those rights aren’t under attack.”

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