'Bred Simply To Be Shot': Inside America's Exotic Hunting Industry
El Dorado, Texas - The evening before their wildebeest hunt was set to start,and her husband Andrew arrived at the 5 Star Outfitters hunting ranch later than planned. They had driven more slowly for the final stretch of their six-hour drive from Dallas; as darkness fell, they worried about hitting deer.
"We've gotten to know Koby from our last time here," Talley said of ranch owner Koby Howell. Talley, an avid trophy hunter from Kentucky who now lives in Texas, became infamous when ain South Africa went viral in June 2018. She still receives death threats.
The Talleys were met with hugs and a couple of beers by Koby Howell and his wife Amber. They referred to their guests as "good people, and good friends."
5 Star Outfitters is one of the many hundreds of hunting ranches in Texas that stock their grounds with exotic animals like the wildebeest. There's no official count, but some estimates place the number of such ranches in the thousands. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which has oversight over hunts in the state, an exotic animal is defined as any animal that is not indigenous to Texas. Texas is the epicenter of the exotic animal industry in the U.S.
Howell, who owns two ranches and leases an additional three, says he currently has 10 different species of exotics, about 100 animals in total, between 5 Star and one other ranch. Here, they roam the 35,000 acres enclosed by a fence.
"I couldn't even tell you how many people raise exotics in Texas — hundreds, tons," Howell told CBS News. He explained that he couldn't "name names" or give specifics about ranches and breeders, as there is no official overview of the industry. It's almost entirely privately-run, with some permitting required by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA mandates all Texas breeders and dealer of exotics, as well as auctioneers, have operating licenses. The industry falls under the federal Animal Welfare Act, but critics have noted that implementing regulations is not straightforward.
"The domestic wildlife trade is the dirty underbelly of trophy hunting industry," said Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, an animal welfare group that opposes the practice. Block described the hunting of exotics in the U.S. as canned hunts, motivated by the desire to obtain a so-called trophy.
"Animals are fenced-in, hand-reared, hand-fed, and they're baited so food is out when hunters come," Block told CBS News. "Hunters are then driven up to the area where animal is eating and they're shot there."
She expressed other doubts about what goes on at the ranches: "What are they actually breeding? Are they even from Africa?"