Breeding farmed-raised deer for hunting is an issue being fought in many states, including Texas. The general public sees deer crammed into small spaces with racks so big, they can't hold their heads up. But are all deer breeders evil?
Scott Bugai is a vegetarian rancher who owns a 406-acre high-fenced deer farm in Guadalupe County, Texas. The hunting industry is obviously huge in Texas; last fall and winter, more that 700,000 hunters bought whitetail tags in Texas alone, spending $933 million on food, lodging, transportation and gear, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ranchers like Bugai are really doing whatever they can to keep their family land lucrative. And for them, it has come to breeding deer.
Bugai only allows about a dozen hunters onto his land to hunt his trophy bucks. This type of "canned hunting" is different than canned hunting in Africa, Europe and even in some places in the U.S.; 406 acres is no small enclosed area.
Bugai raises the deer, only giving them pharmaceuticals when they are sick, and lets them loose on his giant property to get accustomed to the wild. He doesn't allow hunters in to hunt them for several months. Small breeders usually charge around $3,000 per deer while bigger hunting operations can charge up to $30,000 per deer.
Small breeders, like Bugai, are just trying to hold onto their land. Bugai admits that there are some ranches in his industry whose "Franken-deer" canned hunt practices are not ethical but every industry has the few bad apples.
Anti-breeders, big-name ranches, and small farmers have been fighting in the political arena for a while now and it remains to be seen what kinds of regulation will be placed on deer breeders in the coming years.