GOLIATH'S TRAVELS REVEAL GAME FARM DARK SIDE
As the Indiana Legislature approaches deciding whether or not to allow year-round "canned hunting" of captive white-tail deer and classifying captive deer as merely agricultural "livestock," the story of one captive buck named Goliath ought to make the politicians pause.
Goliath is a enormous white-tail buck. Maybe you’ve seen him on television or in a newspaper photo. He is huge, weighing 250 lbs. as a two-year-old. He's pretty tame, because he was born and raised on "game farms" in Pennsylvania. Goliath is owned by one such operation, Rodney Miller's of Knox, Penn. who paid $900 for him in 1997.
His genes are what make Goliath remarkable, valuable and a target for both antler hunters and deer-nappers. He had a 21-point set of antlers as yearling in 1998, and the second year he sported 28 points. According to what records I could find, the largest rack on the books then was a 44-point set on a Missouri deer named Monarch. Monarch apparently died in the wild, causes not stated. Goliath's antlers may have 55 points or more. The Boone & Crockett measurement is probably a world record.
You can take a look at him on the internet at: http://oceanvillage.topcities.com/goliath.htm
Goliath has an appendage atop his head that has to weigh 20 pounds. It looks like a mangrove swamp up there.
He is the most famous representative of thousands of white-tailed deer that were and are born, raised, sold and propagated by owners of similar game farms all across the country. What brought Goliath his moment of fame was his theft. Somebody rustled Goliath in Pennsylvania during the night of Oct. 20, 1999, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. He ended up on another game "farm" not too far away, with a new name, Hercules.
After lots of legal wrangling, including DNA testing at two university labs, Goliath/Hercules was shipped back to his real owners. but more legal wrangling over ownership continued for years.
Wondering why the Wall Street Journal would carry a news story about a deer with big antlers, deer rustling and "game farming?" Simple answer: "Show me the money!"
Here is the Journal's accounting on the Goliath account:
*The neighboring Pennsylvania game farmer who "rescued" Goliath/Hercules had taken a down payment of $20,000 from a Missouri game farmer and gave him Goliath’s second and fifth year antlers which had been sawn from his head. Game farmers sometimes remove antlers during rutting season to prevent injuries to their prime genetic stock. They also sell these anglers to eager buyers.
*Goliath's antlers may be worth as much as $500,000 per rack.
*Goliath's sperm to be used for artificial insemination is worth about $3,000 a dose. Goliath’s owner, Miller, estimates Goliath can produce 100 doses or more a year.
*Offspring of deer Goliath inseminated while visiting the neighboring game farm under the registered name of Hercules, will be worth more tens of thousands of dollars.
Miller says that if Goliath lives another six productive years, he could earn "several million dollars."
That's the money side of the story. The bigger story, at least for American hunters who prefer hunting wild deer the old fashioned way, in the wild, is the money driving the entire deer trophy phenomenon.
There is a group of people whose insatiable desire to hang a huge set of antlers on the wall drives them to pay absurd prices. This greed over racks has touched nearly every state, and it wasn't long ago that a Monroe County archery shop was burglarized, just for the mounted white-tail heads and racks.
Game farms have become so widespread because of the possibility of enormous profits as Goliath's case shows. These businesses ship deer around the country as if they were cattle, swine or sheep, all to satisfy the desires of non-hunting ego-bound collectors who may or may not represent their game farm mount as a kill in the wild.
I've been to guys' homes with these kinds of collections. They got very quiet when I asked about the details of their hunt, although some have spectacular, courageous stories about each bogus trophy on their walls.
A battle is going on in Indiana right now about this very issue. Will Indiana turn over management of confined white-tailed deer to state agricultural regulation or keep the Ind. Dept. of Natural Resources as the proper manager of state wildlife? Classifying confined white-tails as agricultural animals will remove all hunting regulations and the more strict management rules demanded by the DNR.
There is a lot at stake: profits for game farmers who happen to find a Goliath to exploit; bogus hunting trophies for slob non-hunters; the ethical basis of hunting in Indiana; and the spread of diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease, a mad-cow related illness that has spread from many game farm operations all the way from British Columbia to Illinois. Game-farm-confined deer appear to be more susceptible to the disease, and many cases where CWD has shown up in wild herds, as in Wisconsin, for example, have been associated with game farms.
Finally, think of the toll on poor ole Goliath. He has been tranquilized more often than biologists would even think about doing, and his health is clearly not prime. Take a look at his eyes in the photo, and you can see for yourself.
©Copyright 2001 through 2009. Donald Lee Jordan