Billy Powell and his grandson are fined and temporarily banned from
breeding after sneaking in out-of-state deer, a scandal that has rocked
Texas' $2.8-billion deer hunting and breeding industry.
Breeder Roy Douglas Malonson and his wife, Shirley Ann, run RS Deer
Ranch… (James Nielsen, Houston Chronicle) January 28, 2012|By Molly
Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from New Summerfield, Texas — Texas' hunting season for
white-tailed deer draws to a close this month. Normally Billy Powell
would be counting his profits from catering to "hornographers," hunters
who will pay as much as $100,000 to bag a monster buck with impressive
Instead, the 78-year-old deer breeder is under house arrest and
wearing an ankle monitor.
Meanwhile, hundreds of his deer, part of a herd that had included two
big bucks named Hit Man and Barry, have been put down in a scandal that
has rocked Texas' $2.8-billion deer hunting and breeding industry, the
largest in the nation.
Powell is one of 1,236 registered Texas breeders. Some have paid up
to $1 million for first-rate bucks they mate with captive does. Their
progeny, 103,155 registered this year, are raised in pens and released
on high-fenced ranches before the start of hunting season, which runs
from October to late January.
But Hit Man and Barry were smuggled into Texas from northern states
where two deer diseases are found.
After a four-year federal investigation, Powell paid $1.5 million in
fines and restitution and pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling more
than three dozen white-tailed deer worth more than $800,000 from
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania over a three-year period.
Mitch Lockwood, big game director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife
Department, said Powell put the state's 4 million wild deer "and the
entire Texas deer breeding industry at risk."
Powell and other breeders say regulators have become overzealous, out
for hefty fines that become their agency's cut of the burgeoning cervine,
or deer, farming business.
"Parks and Wildlife don't like deer breeders, and they'll do anything
to get you," Powell said earlier this month, wearing a western shirt
adorned with bucks and rifles outside his ranch in New Summerfield,
where deer blinds and "Deer Lease" signs punctuate the piney woods. "I
did wrong, but they did more wrong."
Hunters rate trophy bucks according to a scoring system developed by
Theodore Roosevelt's Boone and Crockett Club in 1887, even though the
club does not recognize farmed or high-fence hunted deer. The score
includes antler length and circumference, with the best Texas
white-tails traditionally scoring 150 to 160.
Today, thanks to breeding, mammoth deerzillas are scoring 200 or
Breeders say they can sell semen from outstanding bucks for up to
$35,000 dollars a sample, or "straw," to engineer the next generation of
Dr. Seuss-worthy antlers.
The breeders advertise pedigreed Texas bucks with storied names and
bloodlines like those of racehorses: Stickers, Dinero and Golden Boy.
"It's like a rock star: The white-tail is the most sought-after
animal in Texas," breeder Roy Malonson said while checking on his herd
of 168 deer recently at RS Deer Ranch outside Houston. "We have the
challenge to produce that."
Many breeders rely on artificial insemination partly because Texas
outlawed importing out-of-state deer seven years ago to prevent the
introduction of bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, a
neurological disorder similar to mad cow disease. Texas has never had a
case of chronic wasting, which can be spread by contact, but regulators
are concerned because 17 other states have, including neighboring New
Mexico and Oklahoma.
Still, some breeders have ignored the ban.
Powell, who made his money running successful nurseries, became
interested in white-tailed deer as a hunter, and started breeding them
as a hobby at his 5 P Farms in the 1990s. By 2008, his buck Barry, named
after Powell's eldest son, had scored 440 on the Boone and Crockett
scale, well above the white-tail world record of 333 7/8.
But Barry was among the bucks Powell had smuggled from Pennsylvania,
distinctive enough to draw the attention of regulators. (In
Pennsylvania, the buck was known as Fat Boy.) After Powell placed an ad
in the Texas Deer Assn. magazine to sell semen from Barry and another
monster buck, Hit Man, the investigation began.
Hit Man, it turned out, was actually Silver Storm, a well-known buck
Barry and Hit Man died of natural causes before authorities brought
charges against Powell last year, but their presence helped establish
the government's case. Powell pleaded guilty in June to smuggling 37
deer into Texas.
"I brought it on myself," Powell said.
Karl Kinsel, executive director of the San Antonio-based Texas Deer
Assn., said the group has expelled Powell and about 20 other breeders in
recent years for smuggling and other violations of its ethics policy.
"This business has gotten so lucrative; we don't want somebody
messing up the ethics of hunting," Kinsel said. "We don't like to be
considered a bunch of Billy Powells."
Fair Use Notice: This document may contain copyrighted material
whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. We believe
that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes
a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section
107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted
material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must
obtain permission from the copyright owner.