Trophy Hunting

Editor’s Note: With all the negative talk about “Trophy Hunting” making the rounds recently, here’s an article on it worth sharing, courtesy of Pope and Young Club President Jim Willems. Let us know what you think about it. Tom


By Jim Willems
Pope & Young Club President

There are a number of terms in today’s culture that have been misused and abused to the point where we no longer know what they really mean. A big one being misused and misunderstood today is the term “trophy hunter.”

To the uneducated or agenda-driven individual, the term, “trophy hunter,” has come to mean someone who hunts only for a trophy that they can hang on their wall, with no concern for the rest of the animal. This definition of trophy hunting is a false premise that only happens with the most unethical of hunters. What I mean to say is this just doesn’t happen on 99 percent of hunts!

Jim Willems
Jim Willems

I’m a trophy hunter and very proud of it. I make no apologies to anyone for being a trophy hunter. I’ve been a trophy hunter since I was 8- or 9 years old. The first rabbit I shot with a pellet gun was a trophy. My first pheasant was a trophy as was the last one I shot and every one in between. Pheasants are absolutely delicious and although I do have a few decorating my house, the real trophy is in the meat. As far as I know, every hunter I’ve ever met was a “trophy hunter.” The hunt itself is a “trophy” to be enjoyed and remembered. If you kill a deer or elk or duck, no matter what the size, you have another great “trophy” to be cherished for however long the meat and the memory lasts.

The anti-hunter crowd have co-opted the term “trophy hunting” and given it a false definition in order to advance their agenda, which is to stop all hunting. They claim that a “trophy hunter” only hunts for the antlers, horns or hides and nothing else. While there may be a dozen or so unethical individuals who actually fit that definition, the number is so low that it shouldn’t even be part of the conversation.

In all of North America and in most other countries, it’s against the law to allow any edible portion of a game animal to go to waste. Hunters pushed for that law and adhere to that law. With the exception of some bears, but not all, and some lions but not all, hunters utilize the meat of almost everything that they kill, even the so called “trophy hunter.” Some bears and some lions are not eaten by humans, but there is still a defined reason for these animals to be hunted. We hunt predators for population control, revenue generation and the overall stability of the entire eco system. To stop doing so is almost always detrimental to the eco system, the local economies and the populations you wish to protect.

As leaders of the hunting community there are a number of things we can do to change the conversation. Just like almost every other issue, there are a small percentage of people who live and breathe hunting on one side and a small percentage of people who abhor hunting on the other. It’s the group in the middle who will decide the future of our sport.

Pope and Young Club Logo 9-14If we emphasize the “trophy moments” of our lives, the term “trophy” will begin to take on a broader meaning. We can use social media to do this and unlike the anti’s we can do it honestly and still make a difference. We can post pictures of the smaller animals we take and emphasize how it was a “trophy,” how the hunt was a “trophy,” how the time in the woods was a “trophy.” Talk about the “trophy moments” with friends and family even when it has nothing to do with hunting. A perfect example is M.R. James’ Facebook postings. He regularly posts photos of does and fawns and other animals he sees while wandering around and while hunting. By doing this he is influencing how others feel about the outdoors in a positive way.

We also need to be very careful about the things we post that can harm our cause. A popular phrase going around today is, “I don’t apologize for being a hunter.” That’s a great statement, but posting pictures of blood and gore will only hurt our image. We have to remember that most of the people who see our pictures simply don’t understand hunting and showing something that gives them a negative feeling is not good for hunting. If the only picture you have shows a lot of blood, don’t share it. If the only picture you have shows a deer in the back of a truck or hanging like a side of beef, don’t share it. If the arrow is still in it, don’t share it. Before you post a picture think about how your co-workers, your church friends and even your daughter’s friends at school will feel about it.

If a few thousand of the best and most ethical bowhunters in the world start doing this on a regular basis, how long will it take to start changing the conversation? It’s time for us to define what we do and not just sit back and let our enemies define it for us. We OWN this conversation. Let’s take the time to make it known in the most positive way possible.

About the Pope & Young Club
The Pope & Young Club is a non-profit North American conservation and bowhunting organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of our bowhunting heritage, hunting ethics and wildlife conservation. The Club also maintains the universally recognized repository for the records and statistics on North American big game animals harvested with a bow and arrow. Click here for more information or to join the P & Y Club.


(Top photo of moose courtesy of Lee Kline)

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4 Responses to “Trophy Hunting”

  1. steve perrins

    Good article, you are spot on. The trophy on the wall after a successful harvest is just a constant reminder of the great time spent outdoors with family/a friend or just time alone with our creator enjoying what he gave us. Thanks

  2. Paul Fi

    BS. Killing the best examples of the particular animal, the biggest rack, etc runs counter to nature no matter what excuse you use. Trophy hunter says more about what’s missing in the “hunter” than nature.
    Just a pitiful bunch.

  3. Jan Romer

    All the hunters I know do it for any combination of love of being outdoors, the thrill of the hunt, they like and/or need the meat. They buy their tag, stalk their deer, make the kill, but it, drag it, butcher it, then eat it. Some keep a “trophy”, but that need seems to fade out quickly as hunters mature. These hunters are fine people doing what our species has always done. And in my area, the deer population is a problem we can only address by culling. We killed all the predators, so we have to be the predators or witness environmental tragedy. But…

    What I hate is a jerk with money to waste who spends it to shoot some poor, usually captive or drugged or lured animal, then stands proudly over the corpse while desperately poor people do all the actual work for him. Or her. When this jerk guts drags butchers and then *eats* his kill, I might develop some respect for him. Or her.

    A true Hunter needs no adjective. And he knows it. :-)

  4. Stephen Stobinski

    Thank you for the article. I agree that hunting wild game is important for populaton controll beside the sport. I’m not a hunter, but I have fished, and those fish have always become dinner. I believe the incidents in Afrrica has caused the damage to the title of Trophy Hunter. Poaching has become a major headache in America. Thats why most people are abhorent to the term.
    Meat from all game is edible, (just a little research on the internet is educational).