Published September 15, 2013
The quest for better deer -- specifically bucks with antlers as freakishly big as possible -- has created a rift among deer hunters.
Prize bucks are measured on a complicated scale that involves measurements between antlers, but suffice to say the more and bigger the antlers, the more valued the animal in hunting circles. But hunters who stalk deer through the woods and take them down the old-fashioned way are seeing their records obliterated by deer created by breeders and set free in enclosed areas for weekend warriors to bring down – and mount in mancaves back home.
"They’ve now created deer that are beyond human belief in terms of their antler size,” said Brian Murphy, CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association. “[The deer] staggers around under the weight of those antlers."
Murphy said some some deer are released into 10,000 acres of land, while others, in the most egregious cases, are released into three to five acres before they are shot down.
"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."
People who kill deer in that fashion follow "a code of ethics that is beyond reproach," he said.
The race for bigger deer has prompted some to fear that cloning methods, first pioneered at Texas A&M laboratories in order to protect the species, could soon be used to accelerate the race for bigger antlers.
In an investigative article written for Outdoor Life magazine, Chris Dougherty describes what he called "Frankenstein Bucks."
"One look at this pen-reared buck tells you there is something wrong, something terribly wrong. His obscenely disfigured antlers look more like something you would find growing on a coral reef or in a post nuclear war sci-fi thriller,” Dougherty wrote. “They twist and turn and droop and bulge and fork and then fork again."
But other deer breeding groups, like Michigan-based Whitehouse Whitetails, said there's no difference between killing deer in the wild and killing them in an enclosed space.
"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.
"They [critics] are saying that one way of killing them is different from another way of killing them," she said. "But the end result is that they kill them."
"It’s no different than raising cattle that’s going to go on people’s tables," Caroll said.