Trophy Hunting: Good or Bad?


The Ethics of Trophy Hunting

I’m a trophy hunter. On average I spend around 23 days a year beating myself up in the mountains just for a shot at a giant trophy buck. Most years I come home empty-handed or with a “settlement” meat buck. What can I say; I just love giant bucks! I love big bucks primarily because for the great challenge they provide to a seasoned hunter like myself. I also think they’re beautiful, cunning, and beyond exciting to chase with a bow.

Anti-hunters hate trophy hunters. They think we target big bucks strictly for their headgear and with little regard for meat or sustenance. This may be true of a misguided few, but for me every ounce of meat is considered sacred, and great pains are taken to pack it off the mountain.

This negative attitude towards trophy hunters isn’t just held by ignorant liberals, but by some hunters as well. I was conversing with a hunter last year about the decline in big bucks over the years. Knowing that I was a ‘trophy hunter’ he said, “Well, if people wouldn’t shoot all the big ones, there might still be some around.” At first I thought he was kidding–which he wasn’t–and then responded, “Uh, isn’t that the point? To take the biggest buck you can?” I don’t remember the ignoramus’ response…

Anyhoo, this got me thinking. While in the woods last season I asked myself, “What are the pros and cons of trophy hunting? Overall, is it more beneficial to target trophies, or more harmful?”

As it turns out, trophy hunting is very beneficial, both to the deer herds AND to non-trophy hunters. Here’s the list I came up with:

Trophy hunting does all of the following:

  • Provides larger, more mature animals which better fills the freezer and feeds the clan.
  • Removes old, declining, and territorial bucks from the herds which allows greater opportunity for younger bucks to mature. In effect, this allows greater opportunity for non-trophy hunters AND expansion of the deer herd.
  • Research shows that 80% of bucks 5 years and above will die of old age, NOT harvest. Since these bucks are essentially un-huntable, then trophy hunters don’t compete with non-trophy hunters.
  • Trophy bucks provide a far greater challenge to seasoned hunters who choose to pass up small bucks–often every single day–for an opportunity at a trophy. Since trophy hunters are most often UN-successful, this leaves more animals in the woods which means greater opportunity for other hunters. This also allows younger deer to reach maturity. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
  • Instead of shooting the first buck he sees, a trophy hunter passes up many bucks. Consequently he spends many more days afield. This equates to a longer season and many more deer encounters, and in my opinion that’s the best part of hunting.
  • Don’t be a “baby killer!” Being a trophy hunter means you’re not killing yearling or two-year-old bucks. Young bucks haven’t gained enough experience to effectively evade predators and hunters yet. It doesn’t seem entirely fair to kill these “babies” before they have a fighting chance. Several years ago there was a kill-anything mentality around our elk camp. On the last day of the season I had a young elk calf approach me unsuspectingly at 20 yards. I drew my bow, but then took one look at it’s cute, fuzzy face and just couldn’t release the arrow. I got some razzing back at camp, since “calves have the most tender meat,” but for me it just didn’t feel right.
  • Oh, and let’s not forget the greatest benefit of trophy hunting: A big, beautiful rack displayed on the wall in magnificent glory to serve as a lasting reminder of an unforgettable hunt! Nature really is the BEST art.


In conclusion, I can’t think of a single disadvantage to trophy hunting; well, other than frequent failure. But oft-found failure is easily overshadowed by the occasional harvest of true monster-buck.

Happy trophy hunting this year!

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2 thoughts on “Trophy Hunting: Good or Bad?”

  1. Always good to hear the calm, well-thought side of an argument, as opposed to the screeching of the emotionally charged arguments everywhere else. This happens to be a sensitive topic for both hunters and anti-hunters, alike. A lot of hunters end up in the anti-hunter camp on this one. I think it’s envy and/or despair.

    I certainly don’t consider myself a trophy hunter in the classical definition, at least not a successful trophy hunter. But, I still aspire to one day shoot a trophy. Glad you gave me some good justifications for when that day comes. I think that even hunters that rag on trophy hunters would like to shoot a big one, too. They just have less hope that they could pull it off. It really does take a lot of commitment, unless you resign yourself to just one day getting lucky.

    1. I don’t understand why people get so bent out of shape about trophy hunters, especially other hunters. I’m sure it’s 90% jealousy cuz they can’t get the job done. I mean, how many of the thousands of Utah hunters dream about harvesting two-points? This anti-trophy-hunter hate-mongering is especially prevalent on YouTube. Just read any comments on Melissa Bachman’s videos; mostly threats and hateful comments.
      Regarding hunters against trophy-hunters, I noticed after my harvest of the infamous Drop-Tine buck that people actually treated me worse, not better. I remember talking to another taxidermist and he half-jokingly suggested that I stop shooting all the big bucks so the rest of ‘us’ could have a chance. This attitude was new to me, so I put myself in their shoes; when I see another hunter holding a super-magnificent-trophy-buck, I can’t help but wish it was me, not them. I admit, there is some envy. I guess that’s just natural human response .But that’s no reason to attack them. Whatever; doesn’t matter to me. Everyone has their own reasons for hunting. For some, it’s just the experience of hanging out with their friends and family at deer camp. I think that’s great; I understand. But you can’t eat your friends. For me it’s about the challenge; the chess match of wits and woodscraft. It’s also about experiencing nature and the harvest of precious, sacred meat. People have no right to thrust their own hunting values upon anyone else. As far as I’m concerned, anti-trophy hunters are narrow-minded fools.

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