White-tailed deer are not only the number one game animal in North America, they are a big business, too. And unfortunately, not all of that “business” is legal. In Texas, properly licensed individuals can breed and sell whitetail to other breeders or ranches, but there is also an underground trade that is estimated to involve hundreds of thousands of dollars. This deer trade is not only illegal, but it risks the health of the state’s deer herd.
Source: It’s a humid summer evening in central Texas, and a man we’ll call Cal is about to make an illegal purchase. As a result, his anxiety level is high. His palms are damp, his heart is racing and his mouth is dry. The item in this particular transaction isn’t a bale of marijuana or a stolen laptop, or even a crate of bootleg CDs. It’s an 11-point white-tailed buck with highly desirable drop-tine antlers off each main beam. Eyeballing the deer, which has just been darted with a tranquilizer gun, Cal agrees that this buck will earn a Boone & Crockett score of at least 150, as promised. A trophy by most standards, and a bargain for $2,000.
Cal pays the price — in cash, of course — and just like that, the deer is his. No permits, no inspections, no hassles from state game wardens or biologists. As he hauls the animal away in the back of a livestock trailer, Cal can’t help but smile. The buck is no longer just a deer; now it is evidence, because Cal is a sergeant with the Special Operations Unit (SOU) of the TPWD’s law enforcement division. His investigation is just beginning.”