Trophies mean different things to different sportsmen. Many hunters hang big game heads on their walls as reminders of a story, memory, or special adventure. Others just want to show off their egos. To each their own.
For most hunters, a Trophy is a legal, ethical, and successful outcome of a hunt or outing. That big buck, bull, or fish is best when accompanied by a great story.
Some guys like a Trophy Wife. They may look good, but can they cook, clean, and do they own a great hunting dog. For many, it’s about a partner that appreciates you and what you are and do. Maybe they also have a fancy sports car, big truck, or huge boat that also supports their needs.
My first white tailed buck was a great trophy! As a teenager, it was my first deer and came at great effort. My friend Vernon and I went deer hunting on top of a snowy mountain. It was cold, miserable, and a long way from my car. After wading through the snow for hours, I finally spotted a buck with several does. They were moving and not going to stop. I hoisted up my 30-30, with my new Tasco scope, aimed at the shoulder, and made a fantastic trophy shot at 150 yards.
We found my trophy and realized that the work was just about to begin. The car was several miles away and the snow was not our friend. Together we dressed the buck and began the long trek to the car. At one point, we tied the buck to a pole and carried it on our shoulders, Indian style. The swaying deer made it hard to keep our balance. Up the mountain, down a mountain, across a river, up a cliff and finally we hit the road where I had parked. I walked to the car, and we loaded up my trophy.
This great buck was my first trophy! Although it was just a spike buck, everything else about this hunting adventure makes it trophy worthy! I have since tagged many bigger bucks and bulls, and each is a memorial to the story. It happened in a certain place, with a certain friend, in a certain way.
During an Outdoor Show where I had just completed a seminar on elk hunting, a guy came up to show me his trophy elk. It was a 7-8 bull that he shot. I have learned to be polite and not ask many questions. He insisted on sharing his story. During the story, he mentioned that he had trespassed, got away with it, shot it off the road, from his truck window, and dragged the bull 2 miles with his truck before he could gut it. This was his “Trophy”! I wonder what his wife looked like. His great trophy is hanging on his living room wall, but I wonder what he thinks about when he sees it. Is he reminded of how he poached, trespassed, and cheated? That’s worth less than a Participation Trophy!
The greatest trophies are earned, ethical, and exciting. It’s not the size of the antler, length of the fish, it’s the adventure, and story that accompanied the trophy. That’s why paying to hunt on a trophy game farm has never interested me. Sure, you guaranteed to shoot a big critter. You hunt from a stand where they place you, do what they say, and don’t have to gut, drag, or process the critter. You pay a trophy price for others to handle your trophy. That’s not hunting. I would rather pay for a beef from the butcher.
Trophies are symbols of many things. First, they remind us about a time when we made all the right decisions, choices, and legally and ethically harvested a critter. Friends and family witnessed and endorsed these moments. Every time we gaze upon these trophies, we remember that special adventure. Secondly these trophies are a respectful memorial to the great critters that enriched and nourished our lives and bodies.
Each hunting and fishing season is one left in our lives. The need for a trophy grows smaller as we age. Getting older prevents us from tagging the biggest buck or netting the largest fish, but when we can still hunt and fish, it’s the BEST!
Hunt and Fish harder!