Deer breeding as a commercial enterprise is expanding in Texas, and breeders say it’s time to firm up the permitting process.
Sen. Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands, filed a bill this month, SB 820, that could overhaul some permitting for breeders. Gilbert Adams, President of the Texas Deer Association, said as breeding businesses grow across the state, permitting and permit-revocation processes need to be clarified.
“It’s a long-term proposition, raising deer …you’ve got to have some certainty in this business,” Adams said. “This gives the breeder some due-process rights that other professions have had for years.”
Adams says the bill is relevant now because of the rapid expansion of deer breeding in the state, which is often used for trophy hunting. He estimated breeding is increasing about 20 percent each year, as farming becomes a less viable means of income in some parts of rural Texas.
Texas’ rural population has declined steadily for decades, most notably east of Interstate 35. As younger generations of rural Texans migrate to urban areas, those left in the countryside are older than the general population. The ongoing drought hasn’t helped the situation, either.
Deer breeding is a bright spot in the tough rural Texas economy. A 2007 economic impact study conducted by Texas A&M University found that Texas’ deer breeding operation is the largest in the country, and generated $652 million in economic activity.
“You’re improving the value of properties by improving deer herds,” Adams said. “It’s a wholesome activity. It’s a fun activity.”
One of Adams’ concerns, which is addressed in the bill, are the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s procedures for revoking a breeder’s license. He says the department has some fuzzy guidelines for exactly when and why to revoke a breeder’s license.
Adams and the Deer Association worked with Sen. Williams’ office on the bill.
The bill provides specific instances in which revocation of a breeding permit should occur, such as debts to the state or providing misleading statements on a renewal application. The bill also allows for some leeway for breeders previously convicted of some crime involving breeding, like failing to tag a captive deer. The new bill says that the severity of the act and whether an applicant shows efforts toward rehabilitation should be considered before rejecting a permit application.
The Parks and Wildlife Department would not comment on pending legislation.
Breeding deer isn’t cheap. The permit alone costs $400. Breeders must have a specialized pen to enclose the deer and feed is expensive, Adams said.
Senator Williams’ office had not yet responded to inquiries about the bill by the time this article was published.
David Barer is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas.