The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in captive deer breeding operations in the USA, which are now drawing fire from hunters and non-hunters alike.
Many American farmers have switched from growing crops to starting captive deer breeding operations on their land. Not only is it possible to run a thriving deer breeding operation on land that is only marginal for farming, but the potential profits are extremely high, with the possibility of selling deer for tens of thousands of dollars each.
According to Mark Smith, a wildlife biologist at Auburn University:
It was a small cottage industry to begin with, but in the past 10 to 20 years, more and more folks have gotten into it.
However, these captive deer breeding operations are now starting to draw the attention of wildlife officials and anti-hunters across the United States. Opponents of the practice are saying that not only is the practice potentially aiding in the spread diseases to deer across the United States, but that it encourages unethical hunting practices as well.
Coupled with the rise in captive deer breeding operations is the rise of high-fenced deer hunting. With deer sporting monster racks emerging from private breeders fetching thousands of dollars each, landowners erect fences around their property to protect their investments. This not only prevents the deer from escaping the property, but makes hunting easier for wealthy hunters willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to shoot a monster buck.
The owners of these deer breeding and hunting operations are arguing that they provide a significant boost to the economies of the rural locations where they are located. They point to statistics that estimate that captive deer breeding operations generate $59.2 million, $103 million, and $652 million annually in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas; the three states with the biggest deer breeding industries.
Additionally, they posit that the dangers of disease that their operations present to the surrounding wildlife are overblown, pointing out that less than .001% of the deer in the United States have been infected with Chronic Wasting Disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease, a rare, but contagious and deadly disease that infects deer, has been detected in 22 states and the spread of the disease is theorized to be connected to the nationwide transport of deer between captive deer breeding and hunting operations.
However, Chronic Wasting Disease recently turned up for the first time in Ohio, on a hunting preserve. The disease was traced to a number of captive deer breeding operations in Pennsylvania.
Though the owner will be required to exterminate all of the deer on his land to prevent the disease from spreading, he is unsure of the exact number of deer that he owns, due to poor record keeping. This, combined with the ever-present danger that some of the deer may have escaped his hunting preserve, makes it impossible to know if the disease was contained or if it has spread to wild deer in the surrounding area.
In response, states across the country are beginning to look at tougher restrictions for farming and transporting captive deer. At the same time, the issue of captive deer breeding has drawn criticism from both the hunting and anti-hunting communities.
Many hunters are angered at the owners of captive deer breeding operations because not only do they view the practice as unethical, but that the practice gives anti-hunters even more ammunition to use against them in the battle over hunting rights in the United States.
Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt.