by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges
Trophy hunting has taken a beating in the last couple of years.
In an era where truth and levelheadedness sometimes take a backseat to social media hysteria, I thought it might be a good time to dispel some of the myths surrounding the subset of sportsmen known as trophy hunters.
Myth 1 – Trophy hunters waste meat
I spend a lot of time in hunting camps throughout the year and I get to know hunters with different backgrounds and differing levels of experience. Never have I heard one of them say, “Just cut off the antlers, that’s all I need”. Many want to know the logistics of getting the meat home with them, while others want to know what happens if they choose to leave their meat behind.
Those in the latter group are always happy to hear that all parts of the animal get used. Most of this meat is donated to the elders of northern communities who can no longer hunt for themselves.
Myth 2 – Trophy hunters don’t care about the animals or the environment
Part of having one of the best jobs in the world is getting to spend time at several of the sport shows that occur throughout the USA and Canada. After attending many of these shows, as well as the fundraising banquets and auctions, I began to understand that hunters really want to contribute to the preservation of this sport.
Unbelievable amounts of money are spent to purchase a single tag and a lot of this money is used for the betterment of the habitat and health of the specific herd. While this money is generally designated for specific conservation efforts, there are many collateral benefits when the overall habitat is improved.
Myth 3 – Trophy hunters are just rich elitists
In order to make more sense of this, I may need to describe what a trophy hunter really is. To most in the hunting fraternity, a trophy hunter is someone who has decided on a specific target animal, or an animal of a certain size, regardless of the species.
I remember my son’s first whitetail deer hunt in Manitoba. You have to be 12 years old to legally hunt in Manitoba, and with his late birthday, he was nearing 13 by the time he was able to hunt. Our schedule, being what it is, left us with one day to hunt.
On that morning, two different, young-but-legal bucks gave us an opportunity. He passed on them. When I challenged him on passing legal deer on such a limited-time hunt, he told me he was hoping for something a little more “branch-antlered”. This bothered me a bit because, as a dad hunting with his son, I really wanted to share a successful hunt with him.
After the hunt we discussed it further and he went on to explain that since Mom had put an elk in the freezer and we knew we had enough meat, he chose to be more selective. We didn’t get a deer that day, but it was one of the most successful hunts I’ve ever been on. At 14, he is neither elite, nor rich. And with an outfitter as a father, it’ll be a long time before he’s the latter!
Myth 4 – Trophy hunters think they are better than everyone else
I have become good friends with many people that would consider themselves trophy hunters. In my opinion, they’re like everyone else — everyone else who loves hunting, that is.
They love to sit around after the hunt and reminisce, swap stories, and share photos. Very seldom does this behaviour come across as boastful. Usually, they become lost in their memories as they relive hunts made special by a particular animal they were hunting or by relationships built during the adventure. Most of the time they are more than willing to share the stories of times when things didn’t go as planned, in an effort to educate their audience and help them avoid missteps along their own hunting journey.
Myth 5 – Trophy hunters are good hunters because of the money they spend
As we covered earlier, not all trophy hunters are rich, but one thing many of these hunters have in common is their desire to pursue new animals in different, exotic locations. In many cases, when they are on these hunts, they are required by law to hire guides and/or outfitters.
I have guided many trophy hunters that completely surprised me. Experience is an excellent teacher, and usually, trophy hunters will have a wealth of knowledge gained through their adventures. They become excellent hunters because of the experienced gained on these new adventures, or because of the extra time they spend in the woods waiting on specific target animals.
Any hunter will tell you that the more time you spend stalking your quarry, the more you learn about them and their habits. So, by default, these trophy hunters amass a wealth of information just by spending extra time doing what they love.
There are many more myths regarding trophy hunting, but I decided to focus on the ones I most often hear. Once hysteria starts building, these myths can result in unfortunate repercussions. One result that comes to mind is the incidence of airlines refusing to carry specific animals because of trophy hunting. Another is that of governments refusing to allow the import of specific animals because of misinformation.
It’s unfortunate that the Internet sometimes acts as a conduit that allows fiction to become truth. Hopefully, with time, logic will prevail and these types of myths will be dispelled.