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So I Guess I’m a Trophy Hunter

This week hunters and anglers in the state of Colorado achieved a small victory by lobbying that several commissioners nominated for positions with Colorado Parks and Wildlife not be recommended by the Agriculture Committee before going to the full session for a vote. People voiced their opinions by calling, emailing, and sending form letters to their public officials, riled up by advocacy groups. In turn, the advocacy groups fighting for the nomination of these commissioners got riled up. They claim that I, and my fellow hunters are trophy hunters. A tiny minority that oppose seating multiple people on the commission in charge of managing wildlife for the state and interacting with and regulating lawful hunting activities. From the Colorado Sun writeup:

An Excerpt from the Colorado Sun article detailing Samantha Miller calling us trophy hunters.

When taking the tone that she did in her statement, Samantha Miller painted with a broad brush the people that contacted their elected officials, like me, as trophy hunting anti-wildlife extremists. I also find myself opposing the Mountain Lion Ban, and the Wolf Reintroduction. I’ll need more time to review the proposed Wolverine Reintroduction — actually proposed by CPW in part, so I’d like to understand that better rather than putting the decision to the voters via ballot measure. For what it’s worth, Ms Miller was the co-author of Wolf Conservation Planning: A guide for working together using science, inclusivity, and ethical practices. In that document hunting is mentioned three times, once adjacent to poison (how wolves were managed in the 1800s), once related to regulations, and lastly the hunting lobby. Hmm.

I Guess I’m A Trophy Hunter

But let’s get back to the trophy hunter comment for a minute. I’ve been hunting my entire life, and have been taught from a young age never to waste anything or conduct any wanton killing. If you kill it, you eat it. That’s led me to some peculiar stances among my peers.

While I see value in predator hunts, I generally don’t do them myself, as I wouldn’t eat a coyote or fox. However, I see the value in it — so I would never denigrate those that choose to do so. I’ve been on bear hunts, and last season completed my Mountain Lion test so that I may enjoy a hunt sometime in the future. I plan on eating whatever I kill, sharing the wealth of protein, and getting the fur tanned. Attacking predator hunters would be fracturing the unity we provide for our sport as one voice for advocacy in a changing world.

So I guess when painted with Ms. Miller’s broad brush, I’m a trophy hunter. My freezer in my garage has mule and whitetail deer cut and ground by me, it has wings of pheasants and grouse vacuum sealed to help train our bird dogs who take great joy in finding them. My mantle has been adorned by sheds, tail feathers, and cute grouse likenesses in the form of decanters. I’ve kept every rack of every deer I’ve ever taken, same with my father. So much so that when we moved, and entire two boxes were titled “Antlers and Hats”. I have hackle, body, and tail feathers from birds that I’ve taken stowed away and categorized as neatly as I can to tie flies to catch everything from wild trout to hungry bluegills on.

The meat is long gone, but I remember hunts from the better part of twenty years ago, the experiences, the people, the dogs, the nature because of these trinkets. Without them, are we really paying tribute as best as we can to the animal life taken?

Social Media and Trophies

Its funny, I’ve noticed a change not too long ago. Maybe it’s the influx of hunters from the COVID era, maybe it’s the millennials and homesteader types finding their niche, and hopefully it’s not me creating a social media echo chamber — but reactions have been positive to my hunt outcomes. Both when I succeed, and when I fail. Hunters via social media may cast stones about your weapon of choice, or your critter of pursuit, but those interactions have become the vocal minority among a plethora of support for what we’re doing out there.

Part of this though is optics. I try to focus on the creature when taking photos, though I also take grip-n-grins. I also don’t purport to be some sort of 1950’s era great white hunter that has a trophy room. People who simply share context free photos of critters, or strip away the context to sell a narrative (Looking at you pretty much every animal rights advocacy group) open themselves up to having the script flipped on them. In a modern world of misinformation and disinformation — you want to be in control of your narrative, the story you tell. You really don’t want alternative facts.

The Hunting Lobby

What riles me the most about this situation, and these comments is that the anti-hunting community can be organized, build coalitions, and advocate. The political atmosphere in Colorado can be almost ambivalent to the existence of hunters 99% of the time — which makes it easy for our voices to be lost in the din of the other outdoor recreation voices vying to be heard. Hunters themselves can be fractious and tribal — team Mathews and team Bear. Smoke pole, or long distance. When it comes to the totality of hunting versus non hunting, the actual rights to go out and pursue your passion. We can all agree. So please. For matters like this, pay attention, be politically active, do more than an angry react on Facebook.

How can you help? Consider joining Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management, or HOWL for Wildlife. They will help keep you informed with issues that matter to you directly. Because while you are a hunter — it’s probably not your whole personality. You’ve got stuff to do, but you don’t want to suddenly wake up some day and realize because you hadn’t been paying attention that you’ve lost out on opportunity.

So yeah, I guess I’m a trophy hunter. I’ve taken and eaten some Boone and Crocket grey squirrels, flushed coveys of quail that still live rent free in my brain after seeing the dog work, and I’m still looking for my first ptarmigan despite trying and trying. But I want to make one thing clear. That is because every animal is a trophy, every experience, every memory, every friendship we make afield. When my legs fail me, and my cardio no longer allows me to climb the mountains in pursuit of elk and ptarmigan, I’ll have these memories, these trinkets, these totems, these photos, I’ll have fed my family and friends gathered around a big table, and what’s so bad about that?

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Tags: , Last modified: March 10, 2024