There is a gradient of acceptance when it comes to white-tailed deer hunting and the commercial deer breeding business. In many states across the US — where maintaining penned deer is legal — the whitetail hunting tradition has hybridized with deer farming to deliver a product that some hunters seem willing to buy. But it’s not for everyone. Literally on the other side of fence are hunters that do not want to accept farm-raised “wildlife.” They just do not agree with the raising or hunting of pen-raised deer.
I can see both sides. For one, the laws are law. It is completely legal to hold, breed and sell deer. In Texas alone there are approximately 1,200 permitted facilities that can help provide ranches with bucks, does and fawns that have the genetics to produce gargantuan antlers. But is deer hunting all about shooting bucks with big antlers? Traditional hunters say no, hell no. They will tell you that hunting is less about the kill and more about the experience, more about spending time with family and friends while hunting free-ranging deer.
There is no doubt that every hunter has an opinion on the issue. And since opinions are rooted in personal beliefs they are not often swayed by facts. Each camp can come up with supporting facts to debate their side of the issue, but where you stand on the issue of hunting line-bred, pen-raised deer likely depends on which side of the fence you sit. Either way, the topic remains in the news.
Source: “The quest for better deer — specifically bucks with antlers as freakishly big as possible — has created a rift among deer hunters.
Prize bucks are measured on a complicated scale that involves measurements between antlers, but suffice to say the more and bigger the antlers, the more valued the animal in deer hunting circles. But hunters who stalk deer through the woods and take them down the old-fashioned way are seeing their records obliterated by bucks created by deer breeders and set free in enclosed areas for weekend warriors to bring down – and mount in mancaves back home.
“They’ve now created deer that are beyond human belief in terms of their antler size,” said Brian Murphy, CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association. “[The deer] staggers around under the weight of those antlers.” Murphy said some some breeder deer are released into 10,000 acres of land, while others, in the most egregious cases, are released into three to five acres before they are shot down. “Most hunters find great disdain in a known outcome,” he told FoxNews.com. “That is not hunting. There has to be a high degree of not being successful. The deer has to have a fair chance to escape.”
People who kill deer in that fashion follow “a code of ethics that is beyond reproach,” he said.
The race for bigger deer has prompted some to fear that cloning methods, first pioneered at Texas A&M laboratories in order to protect the species, could soon be used to accelerate the race for bigger antlers. In an investigative article written for Outdoor Life magazine, Chris Dougherty describes what he called “Frankenstein Bucks.”
“One look at this pen-reared buck tells you there is something wrong, something terribly wrong. His obscenely disfigured antlers look more like something you would find growing on a coral reef or in a post nuclear war sci-fi thriller,” Dougherty wrote. “They twist and turn and droop and bulge and fork and then fork again.”
But other deer breeding groups, like Michigan-based Whitehouse Whitetails, said there’s no difference between killing deer in the wild and killing them in an enclosed space.
“They have the right to do that because it isn’t to hunt. They just want the head to mount on their wall,” said Laura Caroll, who, along with her husband, owns the deer breeding company. “They [critics] are saying that one way of killing them is different from another way of killing them,” she said. “But the end result is that they kill them. It’s no different than raising cattle that’s going to go on people’s tables,” Caroll said.
It’s true, a dead deer is dead deer. The race to grow bigger and bigger bucks is no different than anything else humans try to take to the next level: the fastest car, the highest building, the meatiest cow, the biggest ear of corn. I’m not even sure how many hunters and non-hunters are really against deer in pens, but it seems like a good percentage of people take issue with calling the shooting of released deer a “hunt.” To me, that decision is best left up to the person who decides to pull or not pull the trigger.