White-tailed Deer Breeding, Hunting in Texas: A Closer Look

Deer Hunting The Passion, Not Deer Breeding

The hunting of white-tailed deer is a passion that many Texans share. Having grown up in a family of hunters, I shared many hours, days and years with my father, grandfather as well as other relatives chasing whitetail on a small tract of family land as well as a few deer leases (over the years) scattered across central Texas. The idea of harvesting a big buck was always high on my list of wants, but those much-waited hunting excursions were always about much more than just antlers.

Although we were lucky enough to tag some deer once in a while, the time that I was able to spend with friends and family while enjoying the outdoors is simply priceless. I can’t imagine not having had those times in my life. If you’re like me, then you probably feel the same way. I suspect most hunters reading this article probably learned much of what they know, at least initially, from a mentor. It was probably your dad or grandfather, but maybe even your mom or grandmother. I used to love hearing my great-grandmother talk about her trips with her 410 gauge. Yes, she referred to it as a four-hundred and ten gauge.

Deer Hunting: A Step in the Wrong Direction?

We can all look around and see that things have changed, deer hunting included. Well, the deer hunting industry sure has, and not just within the borders of Texas. When talking hunting, the words “big bucks” have taken on a whole new meaning ($$$). Although many have preferred to look the other direction, it’s been more than a little disturbing. Recently, in fact, the Boone and Crockett Club politely asked the commercial deer breeding industry not use their antler scoring system for marketing and selling deer.

Enter Texans for Saving Our Hunting Heritage (TSOHH) in 2014, a group that seeks to promote the values and tradition of sustainable, fair-chase hunting to all Texans, while exposing practices that threaten the perception and future of our sport. Late last year, a news release drafted by TSOHH hit the press and made some valid points regarding deer breeding and the release of pen-raised deer.

Big Deer Breeding Operations and Big Money

Source: “Deer breeding in Texas is a cottage industry backed by big dollars and focused on producing the biggest antlers. There are less than 1,300 deer breeders in the state and for the past decade, they have spent millions on lobbying efforts seeking more liberty with the people’s deer. Despite outcries from Texans and hunters alike, the breeders have gone largely unopposed.”

There is no question that a wedge has/is being driven between fair-chase hunters and commercial deer breeders operating within the confines of high fencing. I understand the desire for high fences because they do allow for increased management within deer herds, but a bucks raised in a 1/2 acre pen and then released just prior to being “hunted” is an entirely different matter. Most hunters can probably agree that a line must be drawn, but I suspect most of us will disagree on where exactly that line should be.

Save Deer Hunting, the Hunting Heritage

There is no easy answer here, especially since deer breeders within Texas have already used political strong-arming to exempt themselves from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s “Stocking Policy,” thus allowing them to liberate captive-raised deer into any size “pasture,” regardless of habitat availability. TSOHH takes issue with this concession, as well as other key points it seeks to address:

  • End cavalier use of drugs and no safety net to protect human health — Extreme animal husbandry practices that are common in the deer breeding industry lend themselves to the use of a long list of pharmaceuticals. Very few of the commonly used drugs are labeled for white-tailed deer. There is no recognized authority that protects the consumer from potential drug residues in liberated breeder deer.
  • The 10-Day Rule — Current law allows for captive-raised deer to be “hunted” just 11 days after they are liberated from captivity. This poses threats to food safety because of unknown pharmaceutical withdrawal intervals in liberated breeder deer and promotes a perception of “canned hunting.”
  • More consumer protections and disclosures — There is currently no requirement for breeder deer to be clearly and visibly marked upon liberation into the wild. Deer hunters deserve transparency regarding the origin and potential pharmaceutical history of the deer they harvest.

If you love Texas, you will LOVE this video!

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