Fences, ‘Frankenbucks’ Stir Passionate Emotions in Debate About Hunting and Ethics

Giant bucks bred to grow large antlers through genetics and supplemental feeding programs continually spark debate within the hunting community. (Photo: WhitehouseWhitetails.com)

Giant bucks bred to grow large antlers through genetics and supplemental feeding programs continually spark debate within the hunting community. (Photo: WhitehouseWhitetails.com)

Headlines grab the spotlight every day in the 24-hour news cycle and nudge each other around in trending categories on respective sites.

One of the biggest stories is the devastating flooding in Colorado.  In the political world the big discussion is about Syria and chemical weapons. In the entertainment world, it’s about Miley’s twerking or the Miss America pageant. Sports? No doubt, Sunday’s big NFL showdown between brothers Peyton and Eli Manning or Saturday’s epic Alabama win over Texas A&M and gunslinger Johnny Autograph Manziel.

Sunday afternoon, whitetail deer and the ongoing debate about breeding, fences and hunting took the top “trending” position on FoxNews.com with this story about the situation. With the headline “Hunters trade shots over deer breeding, killing methods,” the non-bylined story focused on deer breeding operations, bucks with enormous and sometimes freakish antlers, and whether killing these deer in fenced enclosures is hunting or ethically sporting.

The story quoted Brian Murphy, CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association headquartered in Georgia, as describing some of the deer as “beyond human belief in terms of their antler size.” Murphy noted that some of these bucks are released in high fenced tracts of 10,000 acres or more while others are on smaller tracts.

“Most hunters find great disdain in a known outcome,” he told FoxNews.com. “That is not hunting. There has to be a high degree of not being successful. The deer has to have a fair chance to escape.”

Outdoor Life touched on the issue in April with a story titled “Deer Breeding: Are Whitetails Wildlife or Livestock?” It said the deer breeding business and shooting preserve business “is estimated to a billion-dollar operation” but did not supply hard numbers or attribution. It is known, however, that breeding and preserve operations throughout the country annually account for thousands of jobs and generate, indeed, an incredible amount of money.

But is it hunting or merely shooting? That’s the crux of the ethical debate, along with questions about whether these farm-raised deer are wild or if they have lost their wild instincts.

Proponents say large tracts, such as the thousands of acres under high fence in Texas and other states, don’t automatically guarantee a kill. Opponents are quick to point out that even on such a large piece of land that is fenced, the deer has no chance of escape. And the breeders and landowners argue that unless prohibited, landowners can do with their property and animals what the law or game agencies allow.

“They have the right to do that because it isn’t to hunt. They just want the head to mount on their wall,” said Laura Caroll, who, along with her husband, owns the deer breeding company Whitehouse Whitetails in Michigan. She told FoxNews.com that “they [critics] are saying that one way of killing them is different from another way of killing them. But the end result is that they kill them.”

With more emphasis on trophies, the interest in breeding and genetics, and the diversity of personal ethics we all have to decide upon when we go afield, this certainly is a debate that won’t end anytime soon.

What do you think? We’d like to hear your comments and thoughts about this issue. Let us know.


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