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deer

Deer smuggling

I had no idea.

The smuggling operation across the Texas border proved lucrative, netting over $2 million for hauling the undocumented 41 who went by such aliases as “Hit Man” and “Spike.”

But the illegal cargo wasn’t immigrants from Mexico.

It was white-tailed deer, secretly brought into Texas from northern states to breed with native deer in an effort to produce trophy bucks with chandelier-sized antlers.

The imports are illegal as the state tries to protect Texas deer against diseases that could decimate native herds.

When the smuggler — a prominent East Texas deer breeder named Billy Powell — was sentenced three weeks ago to six months home confinement and fined $1.5 million, it sent shock waves through a growing Texas industry.

Some people might find deer-breeding a strange niche, since the state’s deer are so plentiful they can be nuisances, munching on gardens and straying onto roadways.

But Texas game warden Capt. Greg Williford said breeders cater to high-dollar hunters who want that “trophy showpiece for their mantle.”

Just proving that size does indeed matter. You learn something new every day.