The debate seems to rage all around us. The trophy hunter versus the meat hunter, but is it even a real argument?
The sort hand answer to that questions is yes. There is a very distinct and ongoing debate about the separation between meat hunters and trophy hunter in the Whitetail community. In my opinion that debate is fueled more from miss communication and understanding, rather than proactive obsession of either supposed groups, in particular- trophy hunter.
Recently we conducted an ongoing survey that had one particular question relevant to this topic (take the brief survey). What is more important to you? (Trophy or Meat)? The overwhelming majority of the people that answered the survey said meat. In fact, even the people who mentioned trophy, still associated themselves as being meat hunters.
I feel like the fundamental flaw of this ongoing and in my opinion “false” debate, is the actual perceived image that the commercialized end of the hunting industry has created. We watch TV shows of in many cases hunters with superior access to property, far greater amounts of free time and even active staff doing the scouting and preparing. The part-time hunter, which is the majority of hunters in America feels like they are an afterthought, because none of that represents the everyday hunter.
For most of us the reality of having the time as a part-time hunter to actively be picky about what we shoot is non-existent. Combine that with regional relevance and you can start to understand that not everyone has opportunity, which is distinctively different than not having the skill.
That lack of time, (rather than skill) is one of the primary things that fuel the ongoing emotion that creates the meat hunter versus trophy hunter debate. I would like to put myself out there as a very particular and transparent view of what I mean.
Where I hunt primarily in eastern Massachusetts, there is a high availability of doe tags. As a result I have plenty of opportunity to fill my freezer for the year. This availability of game associated with my distinct location makes me picky about the bucks I shoot. The honest fact is that I have fulfilled my primary goal- filling my freezer. Allowing myself the freedom to pass up younger bucks and hope for bigger opportunities.
If I am hunting northern NH, my perspective on what I am willing to put a tag on drastically changes. When in hunting camps rather than my own stomping grounds, my time frame is significantly shrunk. Combine that with different deer demographics and availability of game and no buck is safe.
Further past all of this perceived notion of trophy hunting, is that in a way we are all “trophy” hunting. We all set afield with a goal. Whether it is meat, challenge, experience, friendship, or any other purpose, we strive to complete that goal, which is a personal trophy. That personal growth is the only relevant competition going on.
As I said in my book, The Urban Deer Complex.
“If you randomly picked a group of people and asked the question, ‘what is a trophy Whitetail?’ You would get a wide array of answers. Some will tell you a deer that has 125” net score Pope and Young, others will say a deer that weighs 200 pounds, another might say a nice doe for the dinner table, and some might even say a unique and rare looking deer. Your answer does not really matter, what matters is the right answer. The right answer is whatever makes you happy as a hunter is a trophy Whitetail.”
As an adventurer and hunter, the pursuit is still where the heart of the hunt lies. You learn at a certain point that the trophy is the anti-climax, just a marker to give solid resting points to the memory of mankind.