Monday, November 03, 2008

Defining What A Trophy Buck Is To Me

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A trophy deer means different things to different people. It’s like beauty: you recognize it when you see it.

Every outdoor magazine worthy of the name will run cover photos of some great huge bucks. Most of the television bucks seen would be considered a trophy buck to all but those record-book hunters.

I’ll shoot an occasional big buck but I also shoot small bucks as well as does. There are some bucks that do not fit the criteria of what I want to shoot. An 8-point with a basket rack of scraggly antlers doesn’t do it for me anymore. It’s a fine buck for a kid to start out with. I’ve shot my share of basket racks in the past, and if that’s all I see, I’ll move somewhere else or shoot a doe for winter meat. Shooting a buck for bragging rights doesn’t get it for me.

So what defines trophy status? What you or I think may be miles apart from what others consider a trophy buck.

A youngster on his or her first season of hunting may consider a doe or fawn a trophy, and wisely so. For most hunters who can count on one hand the number of deer they have shot and have fingers left over, may consider a forkhorn with a six-inch spread to be a trophy. Perhaps it might be a buck with 10-inch spikes.

On the other hand, many seem to set a standard of 8 points. Whether it has heavy mass or is a 1 1/2-year-old with a tiny basket rack, if it has 8 points that makes it a trophy buck to some people. Frankly, I believe any buck should be considered a trophy. Read that again if you didn’t believe it the first time around.

Setting goals is fine but for most people, once that goal is met, they ratchet their standards up still another notch. Say they want an 18-inch 8-point with heavy tines, and get it, then they will probably want a 10-point with a 20-inch spread next season.

If they score on such an animal, where do they go next? Many then lust for a 200-point buck. If they don’t get it, they are disappointed and upset, and therefore lose track of what hunting is all about and why they should be hunting. The hunt is, and always should mean, something more than a dead deer and a mass of antler bone.

Such people soon learn their hunt for bigger and supposedly better bucks will eventually end, and thus their lusting for a huge trophy will ultimately destroy all of the valid reasons they began hunting in the first place. It’s hard to keep climbing that bigger and better ladder. Sometime you will reach the top, and may not be happy with what you find.

The challenge of the hunt is far more important than the size of the animal taken. Want a really tough challenge? I’ve got one for you.

Start hunting the oldest doe on your hunting property. She will run a bow hunter around in circles. Taking an old doe that knows she is being hunted is a challenge worth taking up, and in many cases, taking that ol’ girl is more difficult than shooting a big buck.

Hunting is not about winning or losing but it is about how the hunt plays out. It’s not about the winners and losers. Hunting is so much more than just dead meat and big antlers.

Some sportsmen compare hunting to a game. This is not a game but a matter of life and death for the animal. How we look at hunting is an important part of the experience, and it may well play out to be a part of why hunting will or die in the future.

If we are to kill an animal, we must show it all due respect, and utilize that meat to nourish our bodies. We must hunt with a passion; respect that which we hunt and kill; and make any deer we kill a trophy, regardless of its size, antler spread or the number of points it wears.

We are hunters, and to us, a trophy doesn’t have to be a huge buck or a buck at all, but it must represent a personal challenge. We must be ever mindful of exactly what that animal is and what it truly means to us.

It is, and must always be, something more than antlers and meat. It must be a deep emotional moment for us, and when we learn to accept that fact, any deer taken becomes a trophy animal. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/03 at 07:33 PM
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