Correcting PETA’s Myths About Deer

DSCN7508On Friday morning, November 18, 2011, I nearly choked on my breakfast cereal when I opened my morning newspaper and saw, spread all across the top of the op-ed page, a diatribe against deer hunters by Paula Moore of PETA, a radical national animal rights organization.

Given the fact that Maine sportsmen just spent more than $2.5 million to defeat a ballot initiative from another national group, the Humane Society of the United States, perhaps this column, originally published in 2011, will be of interest.

My highly-anticipated deer hunt that morning was nearly spoiled as I read Moore’s opinion that “increased deer activity associated with hunting is a major factor in the rise in deer-collisions in the last three months of the year.”

Her column was riddled with incorrect information, myths, and lies, and three hours later, sitting in my tree stand, I was still steaming while thinking about a response. Here it is.

It must be nice to live in a pretend world where nature is at peace. In reality, it’s eat or be eaten out there.

Ms. Moore, whose organization insists that coyotes eat only the weak and sick deer, should spend some time looking at the photos of huge bucks and pregnant does killed by coyotes that pop up on a regular basis in my email. And perhaps visualize a struggling deer being eaten alive by a pack of coyotes. That’s how it goes down in the real world.

Her charge that hunters cause car-deer collisions ignores all of the facts, including these. Eighty percent of the collisions occur when it is dark. We don’t hunt in the dark. More collisions occur on Sundays than Saturdays. We don’t hunt on Sundays. Many collisions occur in urban neighborhoods. We can’t hunt there.

Collisions peak in the last three months of the year because that’s the deer mating season, and because deer normally begin moving after dusk, which comes earlier in the day in the fall and winter. Those are the facts.

Perhaps Moore’s most bald-faced lie – and that’s what it is because she certainly knows the truth – is that “sterilization programs may provide an effective, long-term solution to controlling deer populations.”

One of the most expensive and extensive deer sterilization programs, by the New Jersey League of Municipalities, was dropped due to failure, after they’d wasted a stunning $5 million. The contraceptive cost $1,000 per doe and did not work. Good luck, Ms. Moore, in blaming hunters for that fiasco.

She also managed to insult Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by claiming that, “They destroy the deer’s homes by clear-cutting to increase the amount of vegetation for the deer to eat,” somehow interpreting this as another reason for increases in the population of deer. Doesn’t make any sense, at any level.

Moore did provide one nugget of great information for those who are worried about running into a deer. “Drivers should also slow down and watch the road carefully,” she wrote.

She could have done more for you by writing a column about the devastating illness called Lyme disease, caused by deer ticks and most prevalent in areas of the state where deer populations are high due to lack of hunting. Lyme disease is no myth. It’s a terrible reality for too many Mainers.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long to put Ms. Moore’s foolishness aside. Being in the woods during November’s deer season cures a lot of problems, mental and physical.

Climbing up the limbs of a huge Hemlock on my woodlot, where 15 feet off the ground the limbs are configured just right for me to sit comfortably, and enjoying the 360 degree look out over my woodlot, managed for deer and other wild critters at significant expense, hearing the ducks zooming overhead toward the nearby stream, protected by the townspeople and private landowners as critical wildlife habitat, I wonder if these PETA people spend any money actually helping wildlife.

I haven’t seen PETA’s name on any conservation donor lists in Maine. I haven’t read anything about them buying conservation easements or participating in our important Land for Maine’s Future Program. I don’t think they’ve even given any grants to Maine’s hard-working wildlife rehabilitators, as our Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund does on a regular basis.

Finally, a week after her column appeared, sitting in a nice stand of snow-covered pine that borders my bog, I finally put PETA and Ms. Moore out of my mind, satisfied in my pride as a Maine conservationist – and hunter.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.