By Ed Gebert

Times Bulletin Editor

OHIO CITY - Kevin Missler has a relaxed smile on his face as he looks out at the pen off deer on his property east of Ohio City. The animals are wandering together while staying near the shade to beat the heat. Three fawns tread carefully from doe to doe. One curls up underneath a pine tree.

"I love dealing with them and watching their reactions," he said, but added, "But it's a lot of work, and a lot of money."

Missler began about eight years ago with five deer purchased from a deer farmer near Defiance. Those five are all gone now, but in their place are 14 deer with more fawns expected any day.

"My son talked me into it," Missler explained. "He was reading where people were raising deer for antlers and selling them to other deer farmers or trophy hunt places. We started off with basically not-really-great stock, so what we were getting was just alright. But long-term to get any kind of size, we went to Wooster, Ohio and talked to a deer farmer there and looked at his stock. We bought a doe off of him. He showed us her ancestry and genetics and the genetics of the buck that bred her. It's all good stock. That has definitely upgraded what we can grow."

Since that time, Missler's herd has become heartier. He purchased a couple of does from a local businessman in the Ohio City area and brought them back to his enclosure to join the herd.

"We've got good genetics now, so we're thinking of moving most of the herd and investing some money and buying some higher-grade genetics and mix with what we have and see what we can grow," he disclosed.

The deer are within easy sight of the cars that pass along Mendon Rd. and interested passersby are not unique.

"We have a lot of people stop out on the road and look, and we're out here we always tell them to pull in and come up and see them closer," said Missler.
One of the biggest challenges right now is feeding the herd. Fresh grass clippings and tree branches help to supplement the deer's diet. Missler noted that he is also using sweet feed usually given to horses and livestock to get more protein into the animals' food. The additional protein helps the nursing does and the growing bucks.Not only has the herd grown in size, but so has the size of the animals' enclosure. According to Missler, his first deer were kept in one small pen covering about an eighth of an acre. Now he has two pens over a little more than a half-acre of ground.

Being a deer farmer is not just as simple as buying some animals and putting them into a pen. "You have to have a state license to be in the business. To buy and sell, you have to have a commercial license. To just own and raise for your own use, you can have that," he pointed out. "The regulations state that the fences must be eight feet high. If you have animal get out and you cannot get it back in, you must contact your local game warden so that the animal can be euthanized because they don't want a chance of transmitting diseases such as tuberculosis or CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease)."

Even though Missler raises deer, that does not mean he is against deer hunting. He was and still is a deer hunter, and he admits that his experience watching his own deer has helped him as a hunter.

"The best part for me is learning about the deer for my deer hunting -- the sounds they make, their reactions," he said. "I heard a lot of things when I was out in the woods that I didn't realize were noises being made by deer until I got this."

This time of year, the herd gets bigger as the does start to give birth. Missler stated that while a doe can give birth to one to four fawns, his seem to average two fawns. It all depends on the animals' system, nutrition, and weather conditions for food. The three fawns in the enclosure are not the only animal babies on the property. There are also baby chicks and baby kittens to enjoy as well as the fawns. But the fawns seem to bring a special delight to Missler, as do the rest of the deer. He admitted that these animals are not simply a side business for him.

"It's kind of become a hobby more than raising them up to sell them," he declared.