Since “Cecil the lion” was taken by an American dentist, animals considered “trophy animals” are becoming more and more the subject of debate. Often times extremely heated debates. Most U.S. states consider animals like cougars, bears, and wolves to be trophies rather than just big game.

However, what determines a trophy animal varies. Especially state to state, country to country, and person to person. For example, living out West, any opportunity to harvest an eastern whitetail would be a trophy to me. To others, they are looking for the buck of a lifetime. What’s the difference?

The difference is perception. Because of negative perceptions, many hunters and anglers across the United States are at constant risk. Anti-hunting advocates seem to be getting a louder voice. Often this voice is crying out against “Trophy hunting.” Well, what are they defining as trophy hunting?

The Debate

I once read a study that surveyed various people and asked them specifically about hunting. When asked if they felt hunting for food was acceptable, the responses were highly in favor of hunting. However, when asked if “trophy hunting” was acceptable, responses dropped significantly.

This led researchers to believe that those surveyed thought that hunting a trophy meant not eating it. Personally, I don’t know any hunters that hunt and then leave the full-body behind to rot.

For many of us, we love big antlers and predators. However, we also love the freezer full of meat that comes with it.

I had the opportunity to hunt for a black bear this past fall. I had many people ask me, “What are you going to do with it?” What does that even mean? In addition to having a great bearskin rug, I’d have a full freezer of meat! Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in harvesting a bear. But my mindset is the same each time I hunt. A freezer full of meat and hopefully a great-looking animal. If you’ve never had bear meat you are missing out. In my estimation, black bear meat tastes a lot like pork, and taking a nice-sized bear can leave you with at least one hundred pounds of good meat.

A similar conversation can be had about mountain lion hunting. Almost every non-hunter that finds their way into a conversation or situation where mountain lion hunting is discussed. They automatically assume it is a “trophy” hunt. What they fail to realize is almost all mountain lion hunters take the meat home and eat it.

Get Involved

As hunters, we have a responsibility to help non-hunters. They are our neighbors and community members. We need to teach them our hunting values and that we are there to aid conservation. Not oppose it. We must also work to change the stereotype of a “trophy” hunt or trophy hunting. It’s a hard thing to do but the best way may be by showing the process of breaking the animal down and showing the harvesting of the meat.

One issue anti-hunters take up with hunters is that we do nothing for the resource. Although hunters and anglers contribute more to conservation it helps to talk about it. Volunteer and attend your local wildlife-related meetings. Share your voice and help keep hunting and fishing opportunities open for others in the future.

We will never covert anti-hunters to hunting supporters, but we can do our best to create more support from non-hunters.

You can read more about the trophy hunting debate by clicking here. In several countries around the world funds from “trophy” hunters allow many amazing species to thrive, grow, and in some cases keep them from going extinct.

If you’d like to read more about how hunting dollars contribute to wildlife check out our conservation news section by clicking here.

What are your thoughts on the trophy debate? How do you support conservation? Let us know in the comments!


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