Trophy hunting is one of the most divisive issues amongst sportsmen.
If I’m being honest, it’s one of the most divisive issues in my house.
I mean that’s what most couples fight about; Money, chores, and whether to hunt for meat or antlers, right? No? Just us? Moving along.
It all started one archery season when I was tagging along for my husband’s mule deer hunt. It was supposed to be a quick day and a half trip, and I was hopeful that I could be there when he punched his tag.
We weren’t 5 minutes out of the truck when I spotted a small buck. Legal. But small.
In my head, I’m rejoicing because we have a buck in shooting range! This means we could have him in my kitchen to process before the day was over, and I could relieve the baby sitters early; Mom win!
And then it happened.
My husband says, “Neat”, and proceeds to walk in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION of this broadside buck.
I held my breath and repeatedly reminded myself that this was his hunt and he could shoot what he wanted.
But I’m a married woman and that means it’s physically impossible for me not to pester my husband about what he does “wrong”.
“Uh…babe. Did you not see that he was a buck?” I asked
“I saw it,” he said.
“So….what the hell are we doing?”
And so began the running debate in our house of hunting for meat and hunting for trophies.
Let’s break down both sides of the debate.
My husband actually made some really great points about hunting for big mature animals
(don’t tell him I’m admitting that).
Trophy hunting really is given a bad rep. While the size of an animal’s antlers may be a factor in deciding what to kill, it doesn’t take away from any of the ethical parts of hunting.
A swift clean shot is still necessary.
Quick recovery of the animal and use of all the meat is still legally required.
A freezer is still filled, and families are still fed. A trophy just means new wall decor and bragging rights at hunting camp.
In addition, trophy hunting is a great conservation tool. It thins out older males and allows younger males to take their place and diversify genetics. In some cases, you are even removing older animals that might not have survived the winter due to tooth decay or other illnesses.
This obviously leads to healthier herds and growth.
HUNTING FOR MEAT
The “if it’s brown it’s down” mentality also has its merits.
Each state’s wildlife division carefully decides each year how many tags to issue. These calculations aren’t based only on taking trophies. They account for people shooting legal males – and females – of that species.
Shooting an average sized animal is not going to be detrimental to the herd.
For many hunters, trophy hunting is also a luxury we can’t afford. Let’s go back to my husband and I. While we try really hard to keep things fair, I am a mom to three young kids, and that just means that I stay home with them more than he does. So, if I’ve spent the money on the tag, found a baby sitter, and made all the other arrangements to be gone, you can bet your butt I’m on a mission to fill the freezer.
It’s not just moms who fall into this category, though. There are countless reasons why someone would choose to fill their tag regardless of antler size, and that’s ok. Food on the table is the reason we hunt after all, isn’t it?
THE PROBLEM WITH THE DEBATE
While any issue that divides sportsmen is troublesome, this one is particularly problematic. As we tear each other apart over the correct way to hunt, non-hunters have taken the term “trophy hunting” and given it a new meaning. The ignorance that comes with it is a problem for all hunters that can only be stopped by educating people who don’t know better.
“Trophy Hunting” is a buzzword that triggers non-hunters everywhere. Go Google it and see what comes up. The results have little to do with which animals you select to harvest out of a heard. It’s mostly non-hunters raging about killing predators and African game animals. They take issue with killing anything they don’t recognize as food. After all, if average people can’t find that meat in the grocery store or at a restaurant, then obviously no one eats it, right?
While hunters know that sustenance is at the top of the list of reasons to hunt, we also understand the need for population management. A huge part of that is appropriate predator control. Non-hunters don’t seem to comprehend this.
It has been interesting to watch this situation play out in Colorado.
We have more and more people encountering mountain lions and bears in town. They obviously don’t want their pets or children to be harmed, so they want these animals removed. But, by “removed”, they just mean out of site where they can pretend there isn’t a problem.
As soon as one of these city dwellers sees a photo of a dead predator, they quickly label it a “trophy hunt” and chastise the hunters involved.
It’s so cliche at this point, but it still needs to be said.
To protect hunting, we have to let the pointless divisions amongst hunters go. No matter your motives for hunting or your method of take, all that matters is that we are ethical and responsible sportsmen.
To preserve the lifestyle we love, we have to speak louder than the rest.
It’s only when we speak as one voice that we are loud enough to be heard.