Trophy Hunting

Rich man's ego trip or conversation in its purest form? We take up both sides of hunting's hottest debate.

Field & Stream Online Editors

The Purest Form of the Chase
By Thomas McIntyre

It is quite understandable that in this "rather stupid time" (to use Spanish philosopher-hunter Jos¿¿ Ortega y Gasset's classic phrase) the general public would allow political correctness to dictate its opinion of trophy hunting. Were it not for trophy hunting and hunters, there might very well be no game left for anyone to hunt.

Since at least the time of Xenophon, the ancient Greek general and the first hunting writer, trophy hunters have seen the wisdom of conserving wildlife. While peasants (the prototype of meat hunters around the world) relentlessly cut over, burned, and plowed the ground to dust-slaughtering every wild animal unfortunate enough to cross their paths-trophy hunters, in the form of the aristocracy, were busy saving as much of it as they could on the lands they controlled, starting as far back as the Roman patricians on their vast estates and running through kings and princes all the way to the gentry of the 19th century.

If it were not for the protections trophy hunters afforded them, there would no longer exist such large mammals as the European bison, or "wisent"; the southern African white rhino; or the Chinese P¿¿re David's deer, which survived exclusively in the Imperial Hunting Park in Beijing for nearly 1,800 years, the longest recorded history of the conservation of any animal. But when (Continued on page 88) the old orders died, as in revolutionary France or with the end of the Raj in India and colonial rule in Africa, the peasants, those exemplary meat hunters, have responded by storming the estates (or national parks or refuges) and, lacking the trophy hunter's innate sense of disciplined and ethical pursuit, killing everything in them.

In our own country, were it not for the Herculean and visionary conservation efforts of such champions of the "hard virtues" of trophy hunting as Theodore Roosevelt and his fellow founders of the Boone and Crockett Club, who knows what sort of hunting we would all enjoy today? Certainly none, or very little, for elk or pronghorns; wild sheep might well be a thing of the past by now, along with the bison; and there would unquestionably be far fewer whitetails for the meat hunter to plod after during his annual weekend of gun-toting and shooting up deer-crossing signs.

Because of the work started by a handful of Eastern establishment trophy hunters who were disturbed by the deterioration they were seeing in the game of the West in the late 1800s-while the slack-jawed settlers, ranchers, herders, and market gunners who lived there remained utterly indifferent to it-we now enjoy some of the most bountiful big-game populations in perhaps centuries.

Today, trophy-hunting organizations such as the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep channel the powerful impulse to hunt a record-book animal into an extremely profitable means of raising much-needed funds for conservation. According to figures in the recently published history of the foundation, Putting Sheep on the Mountain, it has raised over $12 million for wildlife through the auctioning off of special hunting permits.

Outside the United States, the money derived from trophy hunting may be the only conservation funds some countries receive. In At the Hand of Man, author Raymond Bonner reports that in Tanzania a single trophy hunter is worth 100 hideous German tourists in their zebra-striped vans harrying wild animals from one end of the Serengeti to the other. A recent experimental trophy-hunting program for Himalayan ibex in Pakistan's northern territory has halted the overshooting of these magnificent creatures by locals for subsistence, allowed its populations to increase, and earned villagers $3,000 from each trophy animal hunted (not necessarily killed), that money going to finance badly needed schools and irrigation projects.

The fact of trophy hunting's prtical value to wildlife has, though, done little to prevent the average hunter from being browbeaten into going along with the opinion that it remains nothing more than the grotesque and brutal pastime of vicious parvenus. The average hunter continues to be ignorant of Roosevelt's declaration of trophy hunting's essential morality: "If it is morally right to kill an animal to eat its body, then it is morally right to kill it to preserve its head. A good sportsman will not hesitate as to the relative value he puts upon the two, and to get the one he will go a long time without eating the other."

The heart of trophy hunting lies in how many animals are passed by, not in how many are killed. Not enough hunters are willing to believe that, though. The average hunter chooses to see trophy hunting as a marvelous diversion from which he is barred by a lack of social and economic standing. If he can't enjoy it, no one else should be allowed to.

Quality trophy hunting is, of course, available to anyone willing to put out the effort to dedicate himself to it, and more hunters would be better hunters if they put out that effort. Trophy hunting is, at its best, the purest form of hunting, the most moral and most ethical.

It may require every bit as much of a hunter's time, hard work, and patience to take the first puny "meat" animal that comes along as it does a genuinely grand trophy. It may-as long as he happens to be a really crappy hunter.

Thomas McIntyre has hunted for trophy animals all oer the world.

The Plague of True Sportsmen
By Thomas McIntyre

It should have been said long ago: Trophy hunting bears as much likeness to real hunting as a Texas cage match does to Olympic wrestling.

Trophy hunters-for the most part egomaniacs with entirely too much disposable income-have for generations bored us all witless with their interminable tales of derring-do in distant lands. To hear them tell it, none ever shot a lion that wasn't a man-eater, or a grizzly bear that wasn't charging. And never underestimate the havoc a giraffe can wreak if it's feeling even the slightest bit cranky. This has led some less trusting souls to suggest, in the words of novelist Jim Harrison, that trophy hunting has been "the rich sportsman's hoax on his gullible fraternity of hunters back home."

The rest of the world tumbled to this over 30 years ago when, in a monumental gesture of hubris, trophy hunters began broadcasting their craven deeds on Sunday afternoon TV. The public, over 80 percent nonhunters, was now treated to the spectacle of celebrities gut-shooting Cape buffalo and peppering pathetic, fly-bitten lions with bullets.

The reality of the present day is that the American public has come to view wildlife, particularly the so-called charismatic megafauna such as the large carnivores and herbivores like bison and elephants, as objects of affection, if not outright adoration. Whether (Continued on page 89) rationally or not, they feel a genuine kinship with such animals and positively bristle at the idea of anyone shooting them for no better reason than some sort of atavistic ego gratification, or to fill that gap on the den wall.

Trophy hunters like to lobby for game-management practices that favor the proliferation of the glandular freaks their ravening hearts desire. In the case of deer, for example, according to the renowned deer ethologist Dr. Valerius Geist, the only thing such management does is encourage the survival of overgrown bucks that are, in fact, "incompetents, nonparticipants in the rut"-parasitic organisms that contribute nothing to the genetic strength of the herd.

On top of that, trophy hunters have other endearing qualities, like the inclination to sue wildlife departments to obtain more big-game licenses for landowners and outfitters, who then sell those licenses to out-of-state hunters who are invariably trophy hunters. They also enjoy scoffing at such landmark environmental legislation as the Endangered Species Act or mounting opposition to limits on the hunting of any imperiled species whose severed head they have yet to add to their unspeakable necromenageries.

As bad as all this may be, the worst thing about trophy hunting is the buckets of gooey tar it provides to be splashed on real hunting. The humbug of "trophy management" brings vital, scientific, sound wildlife management into unwarranted disrepute. And about the only action animal-rightists have to take in order to abolish or severely restrict legitimate, ethical hunting for species such as cougars or bears is simply to label it "trophy hunting."

Luckily, real hunting still enjoys the overwhelming approval of Americans (nearly three-quarters of them). And hunters as a whole are also starting to catch on to the trophy hunters' grift, more and more of them (in some surveys over 50 percent) disapproving of their less-than-cute antics. (One sign of the changing times can be seen in the decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to outlaw fee-hunting for fenced game. Unfortunately, that still leaves 1,200 "game ranches" in the country for trophy hunters to frequent.)

Keen observers that most trophy hunters are, it is doubtful that they have even a clue about the changes that are stalking them. So they will probably go blithely on in their arrogant fashion, spinning yarns about how they took that grand slam of wild sheep in under three weeks, how that million-candlepower spotlight nearly set the blind on fire the night they shot that 8-foot leopard, how they have the most extensive assemblage of record-book duiker antelope among all the trophy hunters in the tristate area. Meanwhile they're oblivious to the incontrovertible fact that real hunting has always been, and will always be, about much more than the size of one's duiker.

_Thomas McIntyre is also an avowed meat hunter who pursues game to feed his family. _ate hunters who are invariably trophy hunters. They also enjoy scoffing at such landmark environmental legislation as the Endangered Species Act or mounting opposition to limits on the hunting of any imperiled species whose severed head they have yet to add to their unspeakable necromenageries.

As bad as all this may be, the worst thing about trophy hunting is the buckets of gooey tar it provides to be splashed on real hunting. The humbug of "trophy management" brings vital, scientific, sound wildlife management into unwarranted disrepute. And about the only action animal-rightists have to take in order to abolish or severely restrict legitimate, ethical hunting for species such as cougars or bears is simply to label it "trophy hunting."

Luckily, real hunting still enjoys the overwhelming approval of Americans (nearly three-quarters of them). And hunters as a whole are also starting to catch on to the trophy hunters' grift, more and more of them (in some surveys over 50 percent) disapproving of their less-than-cute antics. (One sign of the changing times can be seen in the decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to outlaw fee-hunting for fenced game. Unfortunately, that still leaves 1,200 "game ranches" in the country for trophy hunters to frequent.)

Keen observers that most trophy hunters are, it is doubtful that they have even a clue about the changes that are stalking them. So they will probably go blithely on in their arrogant fashion, spinning yarns about how they took that grand slam of wild sheep in under three weeks, how that million-candlepower spotlight nearly set the blind on fire the night they shot that 8-foot leopard, how they have the most extensive assemblage of record-book duiker antelope among all the trophy hunters in the tristate area. Meanwhile they're oblivious to the incontrovertible fact that real hunting has always been, and will always be, about much more than the size of one's duiker.

_Thomas McIntyre is also an avowed meat hunter who pursues game to feed his family. _