Moral, ethical, and legal issues pop up in our lives from time to time. Sometimes things are quite clear, and at other times rather murky. The issue du jour of late has been the killing of Cecil the lion. Justified, or not hunting has been given a black eye in the press. What happened? I don't know. I haven't seen enough of the evidence to make a decision. But what I did learn from listening to the public feed back is that the general public knows almost nothing about hunting, and managing sustainable resources. One issue in particular stuck in my craw, and I'd like to address it (though I'm pretty sure most of my audience knows it already); trophy hunting.
What is trophy hunting, and more importantly, what isn't trophy hunting. As it sounds, trophy hunting is the pursuit of an exceptional example of whatever species you've decided to hunt. Most people quickly think of African safaris, but trophy hunting of big game in the US and Canada is not uncommon. In fact there are TV stations airing programs dedicated to trophy hunting. Anyone with an interest in deer hunting has heard of QDM, quality deer management, a program of managing deer herds to allow them to grow bigger bucks. In the US and Canada QDM is in place to facilitate better trophies, and one of the key elements of QDM is to only shoot trophy bucks, not the little ones which are viewed as future trophies. The science behind QDM is pretty sound, and areas practicing QDM generally have bigger bucks, and healthier deer herds. But don't be misled, it is driven bu the fact that lots of deer hunters want to shoot bigger bucks, and only bigger bucks, and that's trophy hunting.
There are basically 3 kinds of trophy hunting. First there is the "Trophy" hunter. This is the sportsman who gets a thrill out of pursuing, and shooting exceptional animals. This is the African Game seeker, the 200+" buck seeker, the sportsman driven by record books such as Boone & Crockett. These sportsmen often employ a guide/professional hunter to take them out and put them into a position to kill a trophy. Sometimes these sportsmen are accompanied into the field, as is the standard practice in Africa, sometimes these sportsmen rely on the scouting, intelligence, and prep work of their guide who tells them where they are most likely to see an animal they'd deem worthy.
The next type of trophy hunters are those who prefer to trophy hunt on their own, who spend their time in the woods scouting and prepping, and doing everything a guide would do for a client. These are the sportsmen who hunt just like everyone else, but with one big difference; they're determined to only shoot at a trophy animal. Both this type of trophy hunter, and the kind outlined above have to be very disciplined, as they watch animals, often very nice animals, that other hunters would be more than happy to take home, walk away.
The last type of trophy hunter is the sportsman who ends up a "dream" hunt. These are often the sportsman who routinely fills his freezer, and often dreams about one day taking a nice trophy. They are seldom obsessed with trophies, and are often "meat" hunters who are presented an opportunity to hunt somewhere with bigger bucks, or bears, and they take advantage of the opportunity. Quite often this type of sportsman's trophy barely shows up as a blip of a true trophy hunters radar.
Now that we've got that out of our way, lets wade into another area of trophy hunting that is also quite frequently misunderstood. None of these type of trophy hunters I've outlined waste meat from the animals they kill. Trophy hunting is not shooting an animal, cutting off its head, and leaving the rest to the vultures. In all cases, the animal is processed and consumed. In the case of an African safari the meat often goes towards feeding a lot of people in the surrounding communities. But in no case is the meat wasted. In fact it is illegal to wantonly waste meat in all 50 states, and all Canadian provinces. It just doesn't happen, and I think the fact that this is not generally understood by the non-hunting public is what drives a lot of the bad feelings towards trophy hunting. I think that when the subject of trophy hunting comes up, we as sportsmen have a responsibility to set the record straight on this issue.