Trophy Hunting — Objections and Answers (Part 6)

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If I had to rank the animals I’ve harvested by trophy quality, I’d probably list my Alaskan moose at the top because it was the most challenging hunt I’ve ever done. I backpacked 10 loads of meat from the kill site, then the antlers. This photo was taken a mile from the kill site.

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

After examining what subsistence hunting is, what market hunting was, and what sport or conservation hunting is, we can ask anti-hunters, “What kind of hunting are you against?”

Some will say, “I’m against trophy hunting!” That brings us to some new questions. What is trophy hunting? Who is a trophy hunter? Do trophy hunters harm hunting and wildlife? Could they bring benefits to wildlife? We can address these by laying out some common objections.

1. “It’s disgusting to kill an animal just for its trophy qualities, and leave the meat behind!” I absolutely agree, but trophy hunters don’t do that. Laws against “wanton waste” in most states forbid valuing antlers above the meat. Trophy record books, rather than honoring hunters for taking a trophy and leaving meat behind, require that all state or provincial laws have been followed, including wanton waste laws. Ask any hunter, “Should you recover and use the meat as well as the trophy aspects of the animal?” The answer will be unanimous and emphatic: Yes!

That ethic is encoded into law. Here’s an example. In Alaska it’s illegal to remove antlers from a kill site until after all meat has been recovered. No hunter can kill a moose, recover the antlers, and then claim bears, bad weather, injury or any other circumstance prevented him from recovering the edible meat.

With the existence of wanton waste laws, anyone who intentionally wastes the meat is committing a wildlife crime. Therefore, opposition to “trophy hunting” on that basis is a straw man fallacy. It makes a case against something that every legal hunter already opposes.

2. “When trophy hunters kill the biggest, oldest animals, they deprive the animals of leadership and social structure. It works against the idea that the fittest should be the one to pass along their genes for the benefit of future generations.” That sounds right, but here’s the reality.

When hunters kill the biggest, oldest animals, the genes are not taken out of the gene pool. Seasons are scheduled so that most animals are harvested after the breeding season.

The biggest, oldest animals are not necessarily the fittest or the dominant breeders. Often, an animal reaches old age by not taking risks, by not fighting for breeding rights, and by not wearing himself down by breeding every female he can reach. Sometimes the most dominant animals die from being aggressive breeders.

It’s a mistake to think trophy genetics reside in the oldest specimens. Genetics don’t increase or improve with age. Younger animals have trophy genetics too, and they take advantage of breeding opportunities.

One value of the record books is that they show, as time goes by, game animals are displaying greater and greater trophy qualities, proving that harvesting trophy animals does not harm following generations.

3. “Trophy hunters are just game hogs.” Actually, the opposite is true. A hunter seeking some objective “trophy” standard is actually a hunter who kills less because those specimens are harder to find. That’s a reason to be in favor of trophy hunting, not against it.

4. “I don’t like trophy hunting because it just doesn’t seem right.” This view is totally subjective. Neither “trophy” nor “right” is defined. In a sense, every hunter is a trophy hunter because a trophy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. When a coyote catches a rabbit, it’s often described as his trophy. We once had a house cat that would often lay her trophies (usually robins or chipmunks) on our doorstep. And every deer or turkey I shoot is my trophy, regardless of whether any measurements objectify it as a trophy.

5. “Trophy hunters are poachers!” Finally, the anti-hunter runs out of arguments. A poacher may have a hunting license, but he is a mere thief. He may pose as a hunter, but a poacher is no more a hunter than a bank robber is the bank’s customer. The poacher’s hunting license does not entitle him to kill wildlife illegally any more than a robber’s bank account entitles him to steal. Wherever and whenever poaching happens, it is a crime. Law abiding conservation hunters, including trophy hunters, are strongly opposed to poaching just as any anti-hunter is.

Modern conservation hunting is scientific, it is ethical, it is necessary, and it benefits wildlife and society. I don’t see how anyone can build a case against that.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.

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Steve Sorensen of Russell, PA is an award-winning writer whose column, The Everyday Hunter®, offers hunting tips, strategies, insights and occasional humor. His byline has appeared in the nation's top hunting magazines and he is a field contributor to "Deer and Deer Hunting" magazine. Steve is also in demand as an event speaker, presenting programs on do-it-yourself Alaska moose hunting, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and eastern coyotes, with new programs coming. E-mail him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com to invite him to speak at your next sportsman's dinner (or to tell him where your best hunting spot is).