Trophy hunting is a little different from your standard hunt. The purpose here isn’t food, nor is it just getting a kill for the sake of getting a kill and having a story to tell the kids when you get back for the weekend. It’s all about the trophy.
This means that you’re not just going to be satisfied with, for example, the first deer that you see on your hunt. You’re going to wait for the one that’s going to look amazing mounted on your wall for generations to come. If you don’t find that animal on your hunt, you’re just going to go home and plan for the next trip.
Indeed, many trophy hunters are not going to be satisfied even with deer. They’re going to look for something a little more exotic. And this is where ethical concerns start coming into play. There’s nothing wrong with flying to Africa to bag an elephant or a lion per se, but there are serious ethical concerns to take into account for those who pride themselves on their desire to use hunting as a way to respect God’s creation.
If you’re on the fence about trophy hunting, let this guide act as your map through the potentially confusing and complicated world of trophy hunting. You might ultimately decide that it’s not for you, but at least you’ll be making a fully informed decision about whether or not this is the right choice for you and your family.
Is Trophy Hunting Legal And Ethical?
The question about whether or not trophy hunting is legal can be answered very easily: Yes. There are legal restrictions on it as there are all forms of hunting. But you can trophy hunt legally, provided that you’re following the rules. Rules vary widely from one place to another and one animal to another, so you need to be extremely meticulous about making sure you’re not breaking any laws or local regulations.
Ethically, things get a little more complicated. One of the main problems with trophy hunting is the “canned hunt.” This is where animals act as the proverbial “ducks in a barrel.” Basically, the guides set animals up to be shot by the participants. This is ethically dubious in the best scenarios, but when we’re talking about endangered species, it becomes particularly heinous.
It’s worth noting that there is a significant upside to trophy hunting from a conservation perspective, even among animals that might have declining populations. The money used in trophy hunting expeditions often flows back into conservation efforts in the form of taxes, fees and simply giving your money to organizations who, while they are preserving a species from extinction, are using ethical hunting as one of their strategies to both maintain the population and draw attention to their plight.
So while it’s true that some trophy hunting acts against conservationism, don’t listen to your snowflake cousin who says that it’s all bad for the species involved. Indeed, the Southern white rhino was able to significantly recover its population numbers due to hunting.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re hunting more mundane trophies like the world’s nicest white-tail buck, there’s nothing preventing you from keeping the trophy and having a coffin freezer full of meat on top of that… but you probably don’t want to eat rhino or elephant.
Beyond The Kill: Memorable Hunting Experiences
At the end of the day, hunting is all about the experience. Trophy hunting can create a unique hunting experience. This is particularly true of big game hunts in Africa or even in Alaska if you prefer to remain stateside.
The important thing to remember is that hunting an elephant or a polar bear is such a radically different experience from hunting big bucks that it’s almost an entirely different sport. For many, that’s going to be precisely the appeal of trophy hunting such exotic animals – the prospect of having a special experience that you simply can’t get on a typical weekend in the woods.
The main thing to remember is to keep yourself on the right side of the law. Especially in African countries, you don’t just have to worry about state actors cracking the whip. There’s the very real threat of anti-poaching paramilitary groups, brave groups of men and women who will gladly place themselves between your gun and an endangered animal you have absolutely no business hunting.
As always, keep ethics and respect for God’s creation at the center of your trophy hunting and you’ll have no problems – other than finding the right animal for that perfect trophy kill.
What’s your most memorable trophy hunt? Do you have any experience hunting exotic game? Share your experiences in the comments below.