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Old Aug 28th 2009, 09:39 AM   #1
 Russell's Avatar
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  Mar 2009
  Edmonton, Alberta CANADA

Cervid: Western Canadian white-tailed deer
By William Pack, San Antonio Express-News

For Sheldon Grothaus, deer are a significant part of his life.

“I raise them and hunt them and sell ranches with deer on them,” said Grothaus, who owns Texas Ranch Sales in Hondo and two ranches were deer are bred.

While the nation's economic woes have caused bookings for the upcoming hunting season to slow and real estate sales to soften, they haven't kept Grothaus' breeding operations from setting revenue records this year or convinced him he's chosen the wrong industry as a livelihood.

“I never thought it would be this big,” said Grothaus. “For us, it's been great. I wouldn't trade it for anything.”

Today through Sunday, Grothaus and more than 1,000 others are expected in San Antonio for the 11th annual Texas Deer Association convention.

The association touts the convention as “the biggest and best deer enthusiasts' event” for an industry that has rapidly claimed a place as an agricultural powerhouse.

In retail sales alone, Texas hunters spent more than $2.6 billion in 2006, up by about $870 million in five years, surveys done for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department show. Wildlife watching activities claimed an additional $2.9 billion in retail sales in 2006, more than double the total from 2001.

While deer are not the only animals stalked by hunters or watched by wildlife lovers, they are important enough that a growing number of interests are breeding them to improve their quality and the size of their antlers, a crucial feature for hunters.

Officials said Texas has about 1,200 licensed deer-breeding facilities now, a threefold increase in 10 years. A three-year-old Texas A&M University study estimated that each of those facilities spent about $306,000 a year.

The total economic impact of Texas' deer breeding operations was $652 million annually, which included 7,335 jobs, most in rural towns, the study said.

It's an industry where a top breeding buck can bring $500,000 at auction, packets of semen from the highest-quality bucks can command $20,000 and hunting leases for the entire season can run into six figures if the acreage is large enough.

Karl Kinsel, executive director of the Texas Deer Association, did not want to say the deer industry has surpassed cattle — a $10.5 billion industry that remains the state's top ag sector.

But in some areas like South Texas, which historically has been known for trophy deer, producers can make more money off deer leases than they can off cattle, Kinsel said. So the interest in deer production grows.

“I don't say wildlife is bigger,” said Kinsel, who also ranches in South Texas. “We'll use wildlife to enhance or complement what we do.”

The association's convention, scheduled for the Westin La Cantera Resort, has drawn more pre-registrations than last year's event and should attract 1,500 or more people to its seminars, exhibitions and auctions, Kinsel said.

The industry is growing, he said, because as the quality of deer increases, the value of ranch land also increases.

It's been particularly beneficial for rural communities, which have received an economic shot in the arm from the growing interest in hunting and wildlife watching, Kinsel said.

But the deer industry for many is more than just a way to make more money. It's a lifestyle choice that can be relatively easy to start and appeals to young and old alike, said Kinsel.

“It's probably the last thing people will give up,” he said.

Source: American Deer and Wildlife Alliance
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