Trade in trophy deer could lead to commercial sale of white-tail meat

For those of you who haven’t heard, there has been a proposal brought forth that would effect Texas whitetail deer regulations. Scott Vaca of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin verified the proposal in response to an e-mail that I sent to him. It has been proposed that it to be legal for licensed whitetail deer breeders to slaughter and sell whitetail deer meat. The average hunter or rancher will be excluded from this proposal. Only the elite will be able to sell for meat the animals that were once the property of the Texas taxpayers and hunting license holders.

I believe that this all began several years ago whenever exotics became popular in Texas. Because they were purchased by individual ranchers and imported, the exotics were considered non-game animals. That’s more like cattle. The owners were free to hunt them year around. The animals adapted so well that there became so many surplus animals as to create an overpopulation problem. Several licensed meat packers sprang up and contracted with some of the ranchers to kill and process the surplus exotic animals just as cattle.

There has been a great demand from restaurants for the low-fat non-chemical venison. Since these animals are not native to our country, there was no problem with this process.

Next came the high fences that according to the landowners kept undesirable deer off their property. The fences also kept the deer that were on their land from free ranging. Then after a number of years of selective harvest called deer management, some really high quality whitetail bucks were conceived. There were also a huge explosion of does. With the trophy hunters only interested in trophy antlered bucks, the does soon became overpopulated. Since many of the high fenced ranch owners don’t like to fool with a lot of doe hunters, a new regulation was lobbied for.

The state’s biologists are now going to survey any of the ranches that have joined the state’s management program. When surveys are conducted, the state tells the ranchers, which are in their programs, to take out given numbers of does, bucks and spikes. Should hunters not take out those animals, the landowner or a representative may go in after the season and kill the remainder of the number that the state prescribed. There is no requirement for those animals to be retrieved. They can shoot them and let them lay should they decide not to utilize them for the table. Hunters would not do such a thing. They would enjoy utilizing the fresh venison that originally belonged to the citizens of Texas.

The whitetail deer breeders were the next step toward marketing and selling native venison. When the proposals were made and the lobbying was over, it became legal to trap, breed and transport native whitetails. The selected animals, both bucks and does, may be raised in pens, sold as cattle are, and bred to promote the desirable antlers. These whitetail bucks, as well as the pregnant does, and straws of sperm are now legally auctioned.

There are actually places called deer farms that will possess the once free ranging native whitetails in large numbers. When the auctions are held, the ranchers with the highest bids will be free to take these animals to their ranches. The super antlered bucks and select does will be retained for breeding at the ranches. After a few years, there will be some so-called trophy bucks available to be purchased and killed by so-called hunters. The more desirable the bucks, the more dollars they will bring.

The organizations that have profited by the use of the people’s deer have become very big and politically powerful. They are heavily supported by many of the hunter-oriented industries that sell products to them. Farm equipment, seed companies, fence companies, feeder manufacturers, some ammo companies, and similar industries are all supporters of this new money making opportunity. The prices for taking one of these co-called trophy buck may range up near $40,000.

Finally, several years of this high fence hunting has created an over abundance of antlerless or cull deer. These animals will eat as much as the trophy whitetails, but they aren’t worth as much money from those folks well healed enough to believe that they are hunting.

Now comes the proposal to allow the game breeders to control the slaughter of their surplus animals to be killed for the meat market. Better than shooting and not retrieving the surplus deer, you say. Better for special interests, not for the true sportsmen and women in our state. The point is that the native whitetails that were once free ranging and belonged to all of the people might now become commercial meat-market animals just as waterfowl once were. Hunters should decide for themselves how they feel about this new proposal.