By Mark Kenyon
Last week, in Episode #50 of The Wired To Hunt Podcast, I went on a brief diatribe regarding the use of the term “trophy hunting”, and why I personally would like to see that verbiage removed from our vocabulary. And coming off of that conversation, I knew I wanted to expand on those thoughts with a few written words. At the end of last week I did just that, with an article for Outdoor Life, and it’s one I wanted to make sure I shared with everyone here at Wired To Hunt as well. That said, please take a look below for a quick preview of the article, and then click the link below to finish. Once you’re done there, come on back for a few more closing comments on the topic.
“If you walk past my dining room table, take a hard left and step through the french doors, you’ll enter what I unoriginally refer to as my “Man Cave.” There’s a shelf stacked with sheds, a coffee table covered with old hunting magazines and of course, a TV in the corner. But what most notice when they step into this room are the antlers, mounts, and skulls on the wall. Some might call this a trophy room, but something about that just doesn’t sit well with me.
The targeting of larger, older, or more impressive animals has been a goal of hunters for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and that makes sense. We respect, revere, and desire things that are rare or challenging to come by, and big, old animals certainly fit the bill. Somewhere along the lines though, we as a hunting community began referring to this type of hunting as “trophy hunting,” and to a degree, that makes sense too. But the farther I dive into hunting and the deeper aspects of what it means and why we do it, the more I’ve become unsettled by this terminology …” To finish, click HERE
A Few More Thoughts
Now, assuming you finished reading my article linked above (please do!), I’d like to offer a few more thoughts. First off, please note, I’m not hating on anyone else for being a “trophy hunter” or using the term “trophy hunting.” My purpose here is to simply share why I’ve decided that “trophy hunting” isn’t the right word for me personally. And hopefully this might give you something to chew on too.
That said, as I mentioned in the OL piece, the term “trophy hunting” first and foremost just seems to be an inadequate descriptor of what we do. “It’s not big enough. It’s not complex enough. It’s not rich enough to describe what I’m seeking out when hunting and ultimately killing a deer.”
But just as importantly, I worry about the implications of this terminology and how that might creep over into our hunting psyche and behavior.
The Power of Words
You and I both know that what most people consider “trophy hunting” entails much more than the word seems to imply on the surface. But our words can have a sneaky way of becoming more powerful than we give them credit for and sometimes those words can shift into subconscious beliefs and from there into behaviors.
When we use the term “trophy hunting” enough, it’s surprisingly easy to start looking at the subject of our hunts in just such a manner and it only snowballs from there. How big is it? How many inches? How will he look on my wall? How will it rank in the record books? How does it compare to my buddy’s buck?
I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking this way sometimes, and I’m calling myself out right here too. The obsession with animals as a trophy, in my opinion, is devaluing the essence of the hunt, the other aspects of our pursuit (meat, experience, family, connecting with nature, etc), and the creatures we chase. When we’re hunting an animal, even if our targets are older or bigger deer, they are much more than simply a score or a rack or a ranking in a book. I know that most of us are very mindful of this, but I still worry that our use of these kinds of terms can subconsciously lead us astray.
As much as I worry about how the term “trophy hunting” can influence us hunters, I’m just as concerned about how it’s perceived from the outside. When a non-hunter hears someone discuss “trophy hunting”, they’re seeing something much different than you or I. Think beer guzzling rambo walking in the woods, killing Bambi’s dad, sawing off the antlers and then leaving the deer to rot.
Of course, you and I know that this isn’t reality for 99% of the people out there who might use the term “trophy hunting.” But unfortunately, most Americans don’t.
I know it’s unpleasant and maybe even upsetting to consider, but like it or not, the non-hunting majority in America holds the fate of hunters and our way of life in their hands. That said, as I’ve written before, it’s important that we represent hunting in a positive way, both with our actions and our words.
And one word that doesn’t seem to jive well with the general public is “trophy hunting.” Responsive Management, an organization that studies public opinion related to outdoor recreation issues, found that non-hunters’ approval of hunting varies widely based on the motivations of the hunter. And as you can see in the chart below, “trophy hunting” is something that most non-hunters just can’t get behind.
I’m not saying we need to change all of our actions and words and beliefs to appease anti-hunters, they’re a lost cause. But what I am saying is that it might be beneficial to us and the future of hunting to at least keep in mind how we represent ourselves to the general public. The term “trophy hunting” carries a lot of negative connotations with it, whether deserved or not, that most “regular” people are not going to be in support of. And my concern is that when using these kinds of words, we’re turning people off to something that they might be much more open to if they understood the reality of what we’re actually doing.
We Can Do Better
I’m not here to bash trophy hunters or say you shouldn’t say this or say that. I’m a big believer in the “you do your thing, I’ll do mine” mindset. But this is a topic I’d encourage you all to at least think on for a bit. Chew on it. Brew over it. Ponder it.
That’s what I’ve been doing lately, and I’m glad I have.
I do, in many cases, choose to hunt bigger, older animals. It’s a choice I’ve happily made and stand by proudly. But I think to describe that simply as “trophy hunting” is a failure of vocabulary and respect.
I can do better. We can do better.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!