Trophy Hunting

“In a civilized and cultivated country wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wild life, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”
Theodore Roosevelt (Outdoor Pastimes of An American Hunter)

Every few months, seemingly in a cycle, social media comes alive with pictures of well to do Americans and Europeans posing with an endangered species, and animal rights organizations as well as average citizens blast these people for “killing an endangered species and contributing to their reduction.” Calls of “how can they smile while they contribute to the destruction of a species?” combined with “rich white people killing off protected species for sport” are leveled online. These hunters end up getting death threats, wishes of harm towards them and their families, and just generally harassed to the point they have to almost go into hiding. They are treated as heartless criminals, and vilified online and in the media.

This is all done out of pure ignorance and propaganda on the behalf of anti hunting groups. If those that report and repost articles blasting these hunters took the time to educate themselves they would see that the actions of these hunters actually benefit not only the endangered or threatened species, but also the local populace. In our modern society however, research beyond headlines is more work than most deem necessary to become Facebook experts on subjects.

Trophy Hunting – What Does It Mean?

Theodore Roosevelt with a Cape Buffalo he killed on one of his many African Safaris. Photo credit: Harvard College Library.

“Trophy Hunting” has become a moniker that has been shunned by society and has led some in the hunting community to shy away from and omit from usage. The term conjures up images of white hunters in Africa shooting various animals only to bring back the heads to hang in their homes. It wrongly creates the image of “wanton waste”; where the hunter cuts the head off and leaves the rest of the animal to rot. The animal is seemingly only viewed as a decoration to the hunter, something to be taken for sport.

The average person who has zero context into hunting will hear the term “trophy hunting” and automatically have a negative opinion of it based on the image that is created from the examples above. Popular hunting media is rife with examples of “trophy class animals” seeming to be the focal point of every hunt. The hunting community has done this damage to ourselves but thankfully in the last few years there seems to have been a shift in that.

To a first time hunter that takes their first animal, that’s a trophy. It may not be the biggest animal, but to that hunter, it is a trophy. A parent who spends time in the field to get their child their first harvest may consider whatever animal their child takes as a trophy because of the experience.

Trophy is truly a relative term.
There are hunters that target bigger animals, because generally those animals are more mature, and thus tougher to hunt. For example, a bigger elk or deer got that way because they learned to survive and have thus gained experience at avoiding danger, more so than younger animals. They don’t take the same risks, and have an almost uncanny ability to avoid hunters, making them a challenge to target. These animals also have spread their good genetics throughout the population, and in some cases they are in the decline of their life span. Generally speaking, hunters targeting these types of animals have a respect for their survivability and do all they can to ensure the animal meets a quick death by their hands.

Untruths about Trophy Hunting.

Endangered Black Rhinos.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, every few years there is perceived outrage as a rich hunter takes an endangered species in a hunt they paid top dollar to go on. If one doesn’t take the time to look beyond the surface and how things “appear”, this looks terrible. Hell, most ethical hunters would be vehemently against such action. But like most things on social media, the truth lies below what the popular narrative is. Anti hunting groups play on the fact that most people on social media will not take the time to research beyond the “information” that is presented.
The money that is spent for these well to do hunters to take one of these animals is used for conservation efforts for that and other species. Most African nations do not have the financial ability to carry on conservation programs to the degree that the United States does. Many species in Africa conflict with the indigenous population, which leads to killing. Then there is the poaching aspect, where certain animals are killed by profit seekers, who then take whatever commodity off of the animal (tusks, skins horns so on) and leave the rest of the animal to rot. These poachers know no bounds, they will pursue animals into protected parks and do horrible things to the animals because money and not the benefit of the animal is their main motivation.

African elephant killed by poachers for it’s tusks and left to rot. This is poaching, not to be confused with legal hunting. Photo credit: WUNC.org.

Poachers are not hunters. They are not even part of the same social fabric, or have the same mindset as hunters. Sometimes people uneducated in hunting consider them one in the same, and that is just unfair and incorrect. Those trophy hunters who spend the money to pursue certain species know that their money is going to benefit the species.

The amount of money some of these hunters spend on these hunts is more than those same people who complain about it will make in their lives. This large sum is a benefit to the species, especially in places whose infrastructure cannot support the conservation efforts needed to help those species. In the case of the black rhino, which is a very endangered species, this money helps combat poaching. The animal selected for the harvest was an older male who no longer conducted breeding, but also chased off those who could. While it can be difficult to think this way, when an animal is a detriment to the overall health of the species, that individual needs to be removed from the population. This isn’t a case of spending a lot of money to get to shoot what you want, it is a case of paying high dollar to cull an animal, with the money spent going to further conservation efforts.

I tire of seeing people blast these hunters who are doing more for conservation and preservation for these animals than those who are complaining ever would in their whole lives. The fact that these animals are a revenue source for many nations that would otherwise not have any interest in protecting them is why “trophy hunting” is an important conservation effort. Hunting is not for everyone, however I urge those who have taken part in blasting hunters for these high price hunts to look past the emotionally driven headlines and see that in fact these actions are helping conservation efforts. This may be a hard thing to read, but those hunters who have the ability to spend money on high dollar hunts to pursue endangered species have done more to protect and preserve those species than those who sit in the comfort of their home and blast these hunters from behind a keyboard.

Trophy Hunting is a moniker that carries a negative connotation. In today’s instant gratification culture, it is very easy to push a narrative that trophy hunting is bad, that high dollar hunts are just another example of rich people doing what they want. It takes a willingness to look beyond this oversimplified version to see that in fact these types of hunts can, and in many cases do, benefit species that in many parts of the world would hold no value otherwise. This lack of value in many nations would lead to an unwillingness to protect these animals, which then leads to them disappearing from the landscape. Think of these simple facts the next time there is social media outrage over one of these hunts.