“It is, of course, self evident that there must be pervert hunters, and even fishermen, just as there are pervert clergymen, or boilermakers. No group is exempt … and we have to watch out for the pervert who deliberately takes up hunting.” – C.H.D. Clark

By Mark Kenyon

A recent bit of investigative reporting in the IndyStar, regarding the “captive deer industry” has been causing quite a stir lately on the interwebs, and I’ve decided it’s now time for me to chime in. Before I do so though, I’d encourage you to at some point give the IndyStar report a read. It’s sure to enrage most of you, as it did me.

That said, I’d like to begin by very clearly affirming my position on the matter at hand.

To my mind, the captive breeding, farming and genetic mutation of whitetails to be hunted in a high-fence environment is a perversion of these incredible wild creatures, more akin to prostitution than hunting.

Are we clear?

Let Me Count The Ways

The depravities, risks and sins of the captive trophy deer industry are many. So many in fact, that I can’t and won’t take the time now to cover them all. But if you’d like to see a very thorough break-down, visit the Quality Deer Management Association’s website – where they breakdown their concerns related to this industry and practice (click here to view). Here’s a quick list of those concerns:

– Erosion of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the Public Trust Doctrine

– Loss of public support for hunting (non-hunters, just like many hunters, are disgusted by this treatment of whitetails. AND, unfortunately, the actions of these people claiming to be hunters are reflected back on to the rest of us)

– Unnatural and extreme manipulation of white-tailed deer

– Potential spread of disease and other biological agents

– Public cost (aka – we taxpayers pay the $ to deal with the TB or CWD that is spread to our wild herds of deer via captive deer)

– Devaluation of the intrinsic value of deer and the hunting experience (we’ll chat more about this later)

Going just a bit further down this path, I’d like to share this quote from Dr. Valerius Geist, an acclaimed authority on biology, behavior, and social dynamics of large North American large mammals:

Game farming is utterly incompatible with the maintenance of free-roaming wildlife on this continent, standing in direct opposition to all four basic tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and democratic hunting: (1) Wildlife “ownership” must be held exclusively in the public domain. The corollary is that wildlife must never become private property. (2) In order to save North American wildlife from extinction, we long ago outlawed market hunting and commercial trafficking in dead wildlife. But game farming depends utterly on developing a huge and growing legal market in dead wildlife, throwing the doors open to illegal marketing of wild animals as well. (3) The allocation of the public wildlife resource among private citizens must be regulated by due process of law. It’s the American way. It’s a way that works for all. And what does game farming give us? Wildlife allocation by financial privilege. Canned hunts make a mockery of ethical democratic hunting. (4) Fair chase! Neither the U.S. nor Canada allows the frivolous killing of wildlife. But what restraints against frivolous killing exist in the private sector? None. A canned shooter may buy as many animals as he or she wants and kill them for whatever reason, in whatever fashion, no matter how frivolous, immoral and disgusting.”

Canned hunts, trophy breeding, captive deer – these notions and practices are simply so egregiously out of tune with what hunting and wilderness are supposed to be in North America, and so potentially dangerous to the animals and ideals that we hold so dear – that I cannot begin to understand how any true, self respecting hunter could ever support them. I certainly cannot.

A Desecration

That all said, my goal here today was mostly to focus on that last issue raised by the QDMA, the “devaluation of the intrinsic value of deer and the hunting experience.” To me the farming, mutating, pimping and then slaughtering of whitetails is truly on par with prostitution.

This practice is stripping the wild animals we cherish so much of their wildness, of their beauty, and of their souls. It is a desecration of the whitetail.

The term desecration has been defined as “the act of depriving something of its sacred character, or the disrespectful or contemptuous treatment of that which is held to be sacred or holy by a group or individual.” And for those of us who cherish and revere the hunt, how else can you describe the trophy captive deer industry and the way it has trampled upon, pimped and sold off the sacred character of whitetails?

And then, as if this isn’t enough, some have the gall to label the shooting of penned or high-fenced animals as “hunting”? This seems no different to me than bragging of the blonde you bedded, whilst forgetting to mention the money slipped her way as she left.

We would do well to listen to Steven Rinella when he explains that, “We as hunters need to regard canned hunts as what they truly are–shooting domestic animals. The practice has nothing to do with the true culture and discipline of hunting. It’s a sham.”

Ending The Silence

For these reasons and more, I can no longer be quiet. I can no longer sit idly by as canned hunts and trophy breeding desecrate the way of life and wild things that I care so deeply about. Teddy Roosevelt claimed that “shooting in a private game preserve is but a dismal parody”, but in my opinion, for us true hunters to stay quiet about it is equally as damning. For if we are not against, we are with.

I believe David Petersen said it best when he asked,  “Why in the world should ethical hunters allow ourselves to inadvertently support, by our timid silence, such an overtly anti-hunting activity as canned killing?”

It’s time for us to be heard. It’s time for us to stand for what is right. It’s time for us to end the timid silence.


Note: What I have expressed above are my own personal opinions, but I also recognize and appreciate that there are other opinions on the matter. In no way do I speak for any of our partners, affiliates or related organizations. My views do not necessarily reflect those of any of our partners.