Shoot Me Down: Trophy Hunters Have Feelings, Too

I'm sure we can all agree that hunters who care for nothing but the size of a buck's rack are silly people. And that those who make fellow hunters feel badly for shooting "small" bucks are worse. These are no-brainers. Along with the whitetail boom has come a particularly twisted sort of antler mania that is easy and popular to ridicule.

What's less easy and popular is recognizing the other side of the same coin: those who make fellow hunters feel badly for shooting big bucks. Don't think it happens? Just ask anyone who has taken a jaw-dropper or two. A common assumption--even accusation--is that he cheated or has an unfair advantage or that his bucks' big antlers are themselves proof that big antlers are the only thing he cares about. If this guy happens to have a little money and maybe some land he manages for deer… look out.

For every careless hunter who lets slip that he passed a 170-inch buck because he wants to see what the deer will look like next year, there will be twenty guys falling over each other to call him a moron--to whom I say: What in hell do you care what somebody else passes?

I never have and can't imagine ever passing a 170-inch buck. (As you may have noticed from the forkhorn I arrowed this fall, I hunt primarily for meat, especially here in New York.) But in my job, I talk to dozens and dozens of guys whose passion it is to hunt mature whitetail bucks. Most, by far, are perfectly likeable folks and skilled hunters who, yes, have a fascination with big antlers (like many of us) but value the hunt and/or the meat above all else.

In digging for blog fodder and other online stories this year, I talked to a hunter who initially didn't want me to post a picture of her forkhorn bowkill because she was concerned about what some folks might say in their mostly anonymous comments. No surprise, I guess. But I also talked to two guys who killed absolute giants--and they were concerned about the exact same thing. That's a sad state of affairs, people, and it points to a growing rift in the deer-hunting community at large. The damndest thing is, it's largely a product of our imaginations. As a percentage of the whole, there are very few real jerks among us. I'm positive shooting a small buck doesn't make you one of them. And I'm pretty sure shooting a big one--even if you have money to travel or your own land to manage--doesn't either.

There you have it: Knee-jerk disdain for hunters who focus on big bucks is too common and no better than antler mania. Both are bad for deer hunting. Stand with me or shoot me down.

We haven't done this in a while so let me remind you how it works: Whoever makes the best argument in the comment section below gets the opportunity to sound off right here in the next "Shoot Me Down," as a guest blogger. Now have at it.