Trophy hunting….. Bring it up and you may quickly have a debate, the questions of what makes a trophy and if it even matters come out right away. Those are usually followed by people complaining about how others rate it differently, not considering the hunt conditions, and the accusations of you weren’t there you wouldn’t understand. Mature animals are what we all have a desire to harvest, everyone is after that large bull, boar, tom, or buck. The reason why though usually differs, some want the rack for bragging rights, some want to outdo what they have already done, and some want to outwit an animal that was smarter than all the rest in the area…..
I had the grand scheme planned out in my head. Wanderlust was always there for me, I loved to just take off and hunt through canyons I’d never seen, but I wanted to add a trophy animal on top of just being out there. I didn’t want to do it for the bragging rights though, that wasn’t my motivation. Mine rested on the idea of thwarting the smarter animals of the mountain, not the year old spike who wanders into camp on the second day. I thought I had it figured out, I had practiced, ran through gear and gotten back into the woods past the majority of people. I’d read how to do it a million times, I had shot smaller animals so I just had to get a little lucky and a monster trophy would be mine! Or at least that’s the way it played out in my head…….
Though I tried hard I came home without the monarch of the mountain, but I wouldn’t say I failed. I came to realize that not only would most animals have been a trophy to me, a bow in my hand hunting back off the beaten path alone, but that would have been a stepping stone. I was after the smartest of the heard but had yet to tag out enough of the younger animals to truly have knowledge for what I needed to be doing. I had passed on animals that I now regret passing, I have stories to tell of some decent animals that most people would have shot, yet at the end of the day they are just stories. I don’t have the meat to feed myself, I don’t have a rack from the animal I hunted hanging on the wall to go with that story and I don’t have the knowledge of what I did right to win that small battle.
No person can decide what a trophy is but yourself, sure a paper saying it was “book” worthy certainly will make you feel great yet you should never feel down on a small animal you EARNED. I’ve began looking at this “Trophy Hunting” in a new light, no longer based on the single hunt but a never ending battle. The battle to outsmart an animal that lives in this rugged country year after year, a battle to learn the things that lead up to continuous success, the battle to end that hunt satisfied to have put meat on the table, monster or not. Though you probably still won’t find me shooting a spike opening morning a mile from the road you will (hopefully) very rarely find me with unfilled tags from here on out. I will of course be after the next higher notch each year, wanting to prove to myself that my skills are getting better with every season. Yet I feel each animal is a trophy even if it’s the smallest animal you have harvested. Trophy hunting from here on out has a new name for me, battling for superior success, it means that I reached my goal of filling a tag and gained knowledge on how to do that more frequently. I feel that even that small feat season after season will quickly add up to the caliber of animals that every person would consider a trophy.
Focused on filling tags and hunting smart instead of counting points……..