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Deer Breeding: Are Whitetails Wildlife or Livestock?

April 29, 2013
Deer Breeding: Are Whitetails Wildlife or Livestock? - 5

The whitetail deer breeding industry has been getting more than its share of headlines lately. It seems deer breeders and captive whitetail hunting operations are working hard at loosening restrictions on deer breeding operations. They want state wildlife agencies to hand regulation responsibilities over to state agriculture departments. They believe that state agricultural departments will be better for business and will be more willing to ease “excessive” restrictions like curtailing deer transport, identifying and monitoring unique deer for disease, and double fencing to prevent wild deer from contacting captive deer.

Case in point---deer breeders in Missouri recently attempted to have the classification of captive whitetails changed from “wildlife” to “livestock.” They lost, but the battles continue elsewhere.
 
State wildlife agencies have a real stake in keeping captive deer breeding operations under tight control. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been associated with deer farming, and wildlife agencies are deeply concerned about increasing outbreaks of CWD in wild deer. CWD is a highly contagious fatal disease of the brain. Agencies believe the disease is spread through close contact of deer and that transporting captive deer from area to area has contributed to the rapid spread of the disease across the country. State wildlife agencies are strong supporters (and enforcers) of laws designed to curtail the transportation and free commerce of cervids (deer, elk, moose etc.).

Wildlife agencies are also raising concerns about deer with artificially manipulated genes (for antlers only) getting into wild herds. They view genetic manipulation as contrary to nature where the fittest survivors generally do most of the breeding. Genetic manipulation for antlers only, typically leads to whitetail bucks producing massive racks (200-300” or more) at very young ages followed by earlier than normal death and/or other physical defects. Whitetails bred only for antlers would tend to weaken the overall gene pool which has been selectively bred and refined in the wild over many thousands of years.

Deer breeders are quick to point out the economic impact of deer farming. The whitetail deer breeding and shooting preserve business is estimated to a billion-dollar operation. It provides jobs (30,000) in rural economies, and is promoted as a boon to hard-hit family farms. Deer farming for antlers and shooting preserves is one of the fastest growing segments of the livestock or alternative livestock industry. Estimates put the number of deer breeding operations at well over 10,000 and growing every day. Texas and Pennsylvania each report over 1,000 deer farming facilities. The deer breeding industry argues that oversight by state agricultural departments would lead to better disease control measures and less restriction on commerce. This is a popular position among many lawmakers who favor economic impact over regulation.

So, the captive cervid battle lines are drawn. Less regulation means more dollars for the deer breeding business. More regulation means better protection for wild deer herds and the public who “own” them. A survey conducted in 2009 by QDMA showed 10 states have their departments of agriculture responsible for supervising deer breeders, while 9 were supervised by wildlife officials; 31 states reported joint responsibility between agriculture and wildlife. A survey indicated that, 36% of responding states classified captive deer as “livestock”.

It’s not likely that these issues will be resolved any time soon. The captive deer breeding industry is well heeled, dug in, and intent on creating a favorable business climate. State agency personnel are professionally trained to follow the much revered the North American Wildlife Conservation Model and manage wildlife populations for the common good according in accordance with the Public Trust Doctrine. They will not sit by idly and watch as whitetail deer are decimated by disease.

One thing can be resolved however, and that is the matter of shooting pen raised “trophy” deer. As hunters, we can stop buying “trophy” deer to shoot at anytime we choose. If these deer are being called “livestock” by breeders, how can they be called  “trophies” by “hunters?”

 

Comments (5)

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from Buck wrote 47 weeks 1 day ago

First, I always say, "Feeding takes the wild out of wildlife, the hunt out of hunting, and the natural out of nature!"

We now have people doing all sorts of things to make a buck (the deer & the $). They sell easy "hunting". They try to raise bigger racks for bigger money... For good or bad the entire industry promotes what I call the "trophy mentality".

I however believe a bigger problem is than many real hunters and even wildlife agencies seem to think it is ok to feed, bait, grow, largely manipulate wildlife. Billions of dollars are spent on feeders, feed, seed, fertilizer... that is farming and ranching, that is not a part of hunting.

I built may website because I believe this will eventually destroy authentic hunting from the inside.
buck@score-your-hunting

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from wisc14 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

could not agree more with that last paragraph

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Catpool9 wrote 50 weeks 2 days ago

I certainly would not call any of these pen raised deer trophies or those that kill them " hunters ", and I think most all my fellow deer hunters age 50 and older would agree, I would not trade my four deer mounts on my wall ( 120 inch - 135 inch ) for a wall full of 200 inch deer taken from a deer breeding facility, my deer are wild and eat nothing but acorns to fatten up on! it's a shame that people are so greedy and money hungry that they will stoop to levels of raising deer for folks to shoot.

David H.

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from schmakenzie wrote 50 weeks 3 days ago

The solution? Give it a name. Reindeer and caribou share the same genus, Rangifer, and species name, tarandus. Domestication is the biggest difference between reindeer and caribou. The traits are different enough now to discriminate between the domestic and wild whitetail deer. It has been done with the wild caribou and now can be achieved with the whitetail. The proposal would protect the heritage of the whitetail deer and allow the farmers to pursue the wanted traits of the domestic deer.
By not distinguishing between the domestic and wild deer in an enclosed arena the public is also falling prey to marketing schemes. Some citizens believe they are shooting the equivalent of a wild whitetail deer behind a fence, which they are not and this information is not being disclosed in an ethical or moral manner. (Please don’t claim the “1000” acre theory, it’s the animal being domestic not the size of the hunting property.) They are being led to believe the two situations are equal and they are not. It is the equivalent of reprint baseball cards being sold as the originals. I also feel that maybe the animals are not getting a fair shake. In order to take a wild whitetail, the hunter must practice many situations that can be encountered in a wild setting. Because it is known beforehand how easy it is to take a domestic deer, the consumer does not put the time in practicing and the chances of wounding the animal goes way up. I feel that when harvesting a domestic deer, the best probable guidelines to follow are what the department of agriculture has laid out for domestication which consists of a bolt gun and a hair net.
The domestic deer farmer is mimicking the whitetail deer hunt for a monetary gain. The author mentioned deer farming is a 1 billion industry, I have a feeling whitetail deer hunting is much larger. Why risk damaging the whitetail deer herd with diseases such as CWD or the genetics of an animal that has been here for 4 million years in order for a farmer to make some money. There is plenty of government welfare in the form of subsidies for farmers to use if they are having a hard time making it on their land.
In the end hand feeding a domestic deer its last snickers bar before being put on the truck and shipped to the fence enclosure, mimics the cow’s ride to the slaughterhouse, more than the hunter going into the wild. CHANGE THE NAME.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jjas wrote 50 weeks 4 days ago

Quote from article...."If these deer are being called “livestock” by breeders, how can they be called “trophies” by “hunters?”

This need to feed the obsession many hunters have with killing more and bigger trophy deer has lead us to this point.

When I first started deer hunting people didn't ask what your buck scored. You could say "I killed an 8 pointer" and they would reply..."nice deer". Now they want to know the net score (along with the point total).

Many of us spend thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest food plot seeds, 4 wheelers, game cameras, minerals, etc. We are willing to spend money to travel and hunt the states that produced last year's biggest bucks. We'll spend thousands to lease or buy property soley for deer hunting.

Now I know many will say that this is different, that they are managing their herd and that fair chase still is the rule. Others will say that fair chase doesn't include monitoring deer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with game cameras over food plots planted soley for the purpose of attracting/feeding deer.

My point is simply this....What did we expect to happen? We'll pay to hunt on land that deer are fed, managed and watched 24 hours a day but balk at the thought of killing a genetically engineered deer behind a fence on a 1,000 acre preserve.

Like it or not, many trophy hunters look @ preserve hunting as the next step in the obsession.......and that obsession grows more every year.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

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from jjas wrote 50 weeks 4 days ago

Quote from article...."If these deer are being called “livestock” by breeders, how can they be called “trophies” by “hunters?”

This need to feed the obsession many hunters have with killing more and bigger trophy deer has lead us to this point.

When I first started deer hunting people didn't ask what your buck scored. You could say "I killed an 8 pointer" and they would reply..."nice deer". Now they want to know the net score (along with the point total).

Many of us spend thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest food plot seeds, 4 wheelers, game cameras, minerals, etc. We are willing to spend money to travel and hunt the states that produced last year's biggest bucks. We'll spend thousands to lease or buy property soley for deer hunting.

Now I know many will say that this is different, that they are managing their herd and that fair chase still is the rule. Others will say that fair chase doesn't include monitoring deer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with game cameras over food plots planted soley for the purpose of attracting/feeding deer.

My point is simply this....What did we expect to happen? We'll pay to hunt on land that deer are fed, managed and watched 24 hours a day but balk at the thought of killing a genetically engineered deer behind a fence on a 1,000 acre preserve.

Like it or not, many trophy hunters look @ preserve hunting as the next step in the obsession.......and that obsession grows more every year.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 50 weeks 3 days ago

The solution? Give it a name. Reindeer and caribou share the same genus, Rangifer, and species name, tarandus. Domestication is the biggest difference between reindeer and caribou. The traits are different enough now to discriminate between the domestic and wild whitetail deer. It has been done with the wild caribou and now can be achieved with the whitetail. The proposal would protect the heritage of the whitetail deer and allow the farmers to pursue the wanted traits of the domestic deer.
By not distinguishing between the domestic and wild deer in an enclosed arena the public is also falling prey to marketing schemes. Some citizens believe they are shooting the equivalent of a wild whitetail deer behind a fence, which they are not and this information is not being disclosed in an ethical or moral manner. (Please don’t claim the “1000” acre theory, it’s the animal being domestic not the size of the hunting property.) They are being led to believe the two situations are equal and they are not. It is the equivalent of reprint baseball cards being sold as the originals. I also feel that maybe the animals are not getting a fair shake. In order to take a wild whitetail, the hunter must practice many situations that can be encountered in a wild setting. Because it is known beforehand how easy it is to take a domestic deer, the consumer does not put the time in practicing and the chances of wounding the animal goes way up. I feel that when harvesting a domestic deer, the best probable guidelines to follow are what the department of agriculture has laid out for domestication which consists of a bolt gun and a hair net.
The domestic deer farmer is mimicking the whitetail deer hunt for a monetary gain. The author mentioned deer farming is a 1 billion industry, I have a feeling whitetail deer hunting is much larger. Why risk damaging the whitetail deer herd with diseases such as CWD or the genetics of an animal that has been here for 4 million years in order for a farmer to make some money. There is plenty of government welfare in the form of subsidies for farmers to use if they are having a hard time making it on their land.
In the end hand feeding a domestic deer its last snickers bar before being put on the truck and shipped to the fence enclosure, mimics the cow’s ride to the slaughterhouse, more than the hunter going into the wild. CHANGE THE NAME.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Catpool9 wrote 50 weeks 2 days ago

I certainly would not call any of these pen raised deer trophies or those that kill them " hunters ", and I think most all my fellow deer hunters age 50 and older would agree, I would not trade my four deer mounts on my wall ( 120 inch - 135 inch ) for a wall full of 200 inch deer taken from a deer breeding facility, my deer are wild and eat nothing but acorns to fatten up on! it's a shame that people are so greedy and money hungry that they will stoop to levels of raising deer for folks to shoot.

David H.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

could not agree more with that last paragraph

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buck wrote 47 weeks 1 day ago

First, I always say, "Feeding takes the wild out of wildlife, the hunt out of hunting, and the natural out of nature!"

We now have people doing all sorts of things to make a buck (the deer & the $). They sell easy "hunting". They try to raise bigger racks for bigger money... For good or bad the entire industry promotes what I call the "trophy mentality".

I however believe a bigger problem is than many real hunters and even wildlife agencies seem to think it is ok to feed, bait, grow, largely manipulate wildlife. Billions of dollars are spent on feeders, feed, seed, fertilizer... that is farming and ranching, that is not a part of hunting.

I built may website because I believe this will eventually destroy authentic hunting from the inside.
buck@score-your-hunting

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