There’s an intensifying debate heating up among some in the hunting and wildlife management community over the practice of captive deer breeding in the United States, and if you haven’t heard about it in your state, chances are you soon will.
The business of breeding white-tailed deer primarily to obtain large and trophy-class animals for hunting purposes is perhaps entrenched most deeply in Texas, where high-fenced, pay-to-hunt private operations have thrived for decades. Similar ventures exist in other regions, to some degree, but not on the widespread scale that occurs in the Lone Star State.
This year, legislators in Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, N. Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia are considering measures that could significantly liberalize regulations regarding captive deer breeding in those states, and at least one national conservation organization has come out aggressively opposing such action.
The Georgia-based Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), a 50,000-member, nonprofit organization dedicated to “ensuring a high-quality and sustainable future for deer and deer hunting,” stepped forward last week to adamantly oppose any expansion of the deer-breeding industry. The QDMA’s action marked the first time any hunter-oriented, conservation-minded national organization has taken a public stand on the controversial issue of deer farming in the country.
And that, in itself, is significant.
Also significant is the fact that a high percentage of QDMA’s leadership includes current or former professional game biologists with a background in agency work and in-the-field experience.
“There are no benefits for deer hunters in the growth of the captive deer-breeding industry—only risks,” Kip Adams, QDMA’s director of education and outreach and a certified wildlife biologist said in a Feb. 22 press release. “It is QDMA’s mission to protect the future of white-tailed deer and our hunting heritage, and we oppose anything that puts those at risk.”
QDMA estimates there are nearly 10,000 deer-breeding operations in North America that sell semen, artificially impregnated does, and live bucks to other breeders and “game preserve” operators to produce white-tailed bucks with enormous, often grotesque antlers.The organization also suggests that chronic wasting disease (CWD) likely arrived in several new states through transportation of live deer, either legally or illegally, and not through natural deer movements.
For the QDMA, there’s no middle ground on the issue of deer breeding for profit. It wants its expansion halted and the jurisdiction for existing facilities to be reassigned to state wildlife agencies.
“Some argue [captive deer-breeding] is an innocent endeavor with no negative impacts to wild deer or the everyday deer hunter. I emphatically and unapologetically disagree,” said QDMA CEO Brian Murphy. “Not only does this industry undermine the North American model of wildlife conservation in which wildlife is a public resource, it also threatens the health of wild deer and the public’s perception of hunting.”
Whatever you think about high-fence hunting and captive deer breeding, you have to admit QDMA has made a gutsy move to take a position on an extremely important issue—and one that should concern all sportsmen.