Some Thoughts About Trophy Hunting & Hunting Trophies

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by AFRICAN INDABA, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. AFRICAN INDABA

    AFRICAN INDABA CONTRIBUTOR AH Enthusiast

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    Some Thoughts About Trophy Hunting & Hunting Trophies
    by Basie Maartens, Past President PHASA

    “Trophy Hunting and Hunting Trophies”, that is how Gerhard Damm put it when he asked me to submit an article regarding the 54th CIC General Assembly in Belgrade. To me it seems that both are the same. What needs to be examined are the words ‘hunting’ and ‘trophies’.

    So we will not explore the skull of the lion or the boss of the buffalo, what it measures or how hard it is, these are details which will be dealt with by the hunter who actually hunts (and not just shoots) the animal. Rather how it was obtained –for that we need some clarification, and examination, of the philosophy of hunting.

    Hunting needs to be clearly defined, and one should not use the word incorrectly. For instance, “culling” is not hunting, nor is “harvesting” or “taking” of an animal. These are euphemisms used for killing or shooting. There are people who are afraid of using the right word or would consider it politically incorrect and want to disguise what they are actually doing. There is no reason for a hunter to make excuses for what he is doing, providing it is in fair chase.

    To give a definition to ‘hunting’ has racked my brain but I have come up with the following: “Hunting is the pursuit of an animal in fair chase and its ethical killing in a humane manner for a recognized purpose.”

    In the case of trophy hunting, the recognized purpose is to collect a trophy. Robert Ruark said: “I shoot him when he is ready for heaven and his tusks are the monument, as the Cross is revered in Christ’s name. When I shoot an old elephant, I shoot the memory of a man and my particular hope of heaven, which is to be put down at the ultimate prime time, by any man – or beast – like me.”

    But that however, is only part of the exercise. In collecting the trophy, you are also performing a conservationist duty because conservation is not practiced by little old ladies in tennis shoes knitting winter socks. The real conservationist is the hunter because how can you be a conservationist without being a hunter.

    The trophy is identified by the hunter by virtue of its size, age, or configuration, or even rarity. In each case it is the hunter who determines what value the trophy has to himself, which makes the selection of a ‘trophy’ a very personal choice. I will therefore not go into the statistics of trophies, for that we have enough books and more to come.

    Hunting for a trophy puts ‘hunting’ on a different level than just shooting, which is what you do when you have to cull animals, a necessity in game management, if sometimes reluctantly performed. That is why Herman Jonker says you must cull with a cold hand and a warm heart.

    Trophies and books seem to go hand in hand. Trophies must be recorded to be referred to in the future, to be compared and discussed. Trophy books are a source of information but also a source of great rivalry, many try to get a higher listing than the fellow hunter. Unfortunately, in a competitive world we will always have people who are given to one-up-manship, and they might not be honest about their achievements. These people are not worthy to be called hunters and will be a discredit to whatever they profess to be.

    Unfortunately the printed page only has half the story – the heat or cold, the miles of walking, the careful stalking are not recorded. Therefore record books serve a purpose and are there for us to use, but they are not the holy grail of hunting.

    Considering that hunting has come through the ages and has during that time evolved into the form that we know today, it is understandable that it is subject to continuous change. From stone age implements to flintlocks and black powder, today we know rangefinders, 140 grain bullets, 3000 foot-pounds of energy, GPS and laser range finders. So why don’t we condone hunting on game farms, and other enclosed areas? Within reason we will have to move with the times or forever kiss our hunting days goodbye.

    Here again, trophy record books play a role by recording whether animals were taken with a rifle, bow and arrow, handgun, or were simply picked up. Although most trophies are taken with the help of a professional hunter, he does not get credit by having his name appear, even in brackets, among those who are responsible for the entry. On the other hand there are already listings whether the trophy was taken on a game ranch or in the wilds.

    One thing is sure, we will still be hunting for many years and under conditions which are forever changing and there will be more changes, that I can guarantee. So, let us keep our trophy record books, our safari clubs, and our personal trophies on the wall which can remind us of the wild places where we found them.

    So to hunt trophies or is it trophy hunting? It will be with us as long as we change with the times and not shoot ourselves in the foot by being holier than thou. All said without compromising our commitment to ‘fair chase’, but not to tether ourselves to impractical restraints.

    At the moment I do not yet know what the CIC General Assembly has formulated as a statement on Trophy Hunting. Hopefully those involved in the decision making process will have the wisdom of how to have a position paper to present to the CIC Executive Committee by November 2007.

    It is only such a pity that records and record books attract strange bed partners, which is not in keeping with things such as ethical behavior and fair chase. These can be compared to those who are never satisfied with doing things the right way but have to cheat to get in the front of the line. If we can get rid of them, the world would be a wonderful place.

    I would therefore suggest that all entries into any record book be accompanied by a statement of ‘truthfulness’, at least morally committing the entrant to be “under oath”!
     
  2. Shallom

    Shallom AH Enthusiast

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    "Truthfulness" is a hard quality to achieve as long as there are so-called hunters out there who lie to themselves and justify unethical deeds into acceptable scenarios in their view...

    It is only with respect for nature, wildlife and its' habitat that we can observe the truths and principles of fair chase hunting. If we continue to only observe our personal desires, egoistic mentality and competitiveness among peers, hunting will always be controversial. Sadly this reality only increases the burden on hunting, but we all need to play our part in sustaining this fine hunting heritage and the fight must go on...
     
  3. Calhoun

    Calhoun AH Enthusiast

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    ...Excellent posts Gerhard & Ryan! Truthfullness says a lot. Some people obtain trophies in the dark or by riding on vehicles and as Ryan said some lie to themselves so what would prevent them from from doing so under oath!
    ...One of our elder SCI members once stated that "the record book should be done away with" in his opinion. I asked him Why and as he stated "a lot of animals are not taken fairly & The response of many hunters is that it Honors the animal". As he stated that if the name of the hunter wasn't listed the record book would be mighty thin. No one would pay the entry fee to list animal # 8632 which would be a bare minimum animal with out their name beside it. It comes down to recognition and it does become competitive between some hunters. Is that good or bad? It depends on what some will do to beat the other, is it ethical or not? Usually only one person knows!
    ...I myself had my 14 trophies scored by an SCI scorer. They will never be listed by myself but I wanted to know where they stood. Ten of them would make the book, one missed by 1/8" and one by 2". Those two that just missed are my 2 favorite animals and mean more to me than the 10 that would make it. The hunt, circumstances, the stalk and the commeraderie of my trackers & the PH in the taking of those 2 animals are what hunting is all about! It keeps me fueled up for a return to Africa in the near Future!!
     
  4. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    Sirs - The thing I enjoy most about this site are the debates - not arguments - true debates about our sport. And yes, I consider hunting a "sport." I say that because I do not need to hunt for survival, I am fortunate to have a good job, my bills are paid and my family generally buys our food from the grocery store. Since we do not need to kill an animal for survival - the truth is I do it for other reasons and to be honest with myself and others, I have to recognize what I do for what it is, a deep and personal pursuit of game to know that somewhere deep within me is the ability to survive on my own in the woods or wild. In other words, I hunt to fulfill that personal need to know that I am not so socialized that I have lost my basic animal instincts. But since I do not depend on it for survival, it is a sport.

    All of that said, I do not exactly agree with you on what "hunting" is. I should say that it is unusual for me to disagree with you, as I find your insights deep and meaningful.

    But I think that if "hunting" is going to maintain the credibility it needs to survive, the definition must broaden to accommodate the realities of the 21st century. Before I go own - let me say that I DO AGREE that the best thing that could happen to add credibility to "hunting" is if every one of those darn "record books" was piled high and burned - they diminish everything I believe in when it comes to "hunting."

    To me, hunting is the use of owns' best instincts against the instincts of his or her quarry in the pursuit of game. "Harvesting," "killing," "reducing to possession" are all components of a hunt that ended with a kill. Note that I did not say ended successfully - I said ended with a kill. Many hunts end successfully without any shots fired.

    But in today's world, game ranches, large and small, have become a necessary part of "hunting." I may, and do, choose not to pursue game on a fenced ranch (or ranchette in the US) but as a person mindful of the sport in which I engage, I cannot condemn those who do by eliminating them from the definition of being a hunter.

    Restricted space, habitat encroachment and game management practices are now part of what hunting is. And I think we must all recognize that we cannot and should not judge others by our own cultural upbringing.

    For instance, in Europe and South America, hunting at night is perfectly legal and traditional. So should I deny them the recognition as hunters because of the why in which they pursue game is different than how I do it? I do not think you can - for your traditions are no better or worse then mine - or anyone else's.

    Shooting from a truck - no - that is not hunting. Violating a law to take an animal is not hunting. But there are many aspects of the sport that only a few decades ago would be unfathomable - and today fall squarely in the definition of hunting.

    I guess my point is this - you cannot judge historical events by current social standards - you must look to the accepted practices of the times and judge events against those standards to fairly comment on a historical event. Hunting is the same thing. You cannot define hunting in a stoic and inflexible way. What that term meant decades ago is not what it means today - yet it was then and still is hunting.

    The broader the definition, the more inclusive the group, and the more inclusive the group, the stronger the sport will be for hopefully generations to come.

    Just one man's thoughts.
     
  5. Safari Chick

    Safari Chick AH Veteran

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    Wow, this is such an excellent thread! Wish I had more time to comment but have already indulged in AH for too long today.

    Cleathorn, I completely agree with you, part of what I love about this site is that there are real discussions here, intelligent people who share their opinions and who can debate a subject even when all parties do not agree, it's refreshing.
     
  6. milford

    milford AH Veteran

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    I would have to agree , with you safari chick . This site and the people who post on it , do so with a lot of class no name calling , no snide remarks just different opinions . In the winter I have some spare time and vist quite a few sites, Most of the net is not like this . People on this site give away hunts and books < In the name of advertising I know > but look around this site and its people are up near the top in my books . I would challenge you to find a better run site
     
  7. Shallom

    Shallom AH Enthusiast

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    Cleathorn... thanks for your input on the matter. I cannot disagree with you and points raised are valid and justified to some extent. But I for one, would not classify hunting as a "sport", though in some ways it does incline that way. The reason i am not too keen on seeing hunting as a sport is because with sport comes competition and commercial value. These are realities of hunting as well i realize and accept. The fundamentals are similar i suppose...

    On the matter of 'fundamentals', here is my take on hunting... we are a hunting species and the foundations of our hunting past are still alive today - we hunt to provide. Back in the day it may have been for reasons of survival (meat/skins etc.), but it is not much different today in its' fundamentals, only the provisions have evolved from meat & skins, to additional benefits such as jobs, funding, conservation & community programs. So in essence, hunting today is as important as it has ever been and the reality is that without hunting, there is a large segment of rural populations in free-range countries like Tanzania, that will not be able to sustain their living needs. Hunters provide & sustain - not just for wildlife and habitats, but for people and communities.

    Is it a sport? Well i am in no position to judge, but it is "game" and that word goes hand in hand with sport. Please note that my expressions and opinions are based on wildlife and habitats that have minimal human influence in terms of management. These are vast wilderness areas where wildlife is as wild as it has always been and there are no fences or breeding programs in place. Personally, when hunting in such habitat, I would not feel comfortable using the term 'sport'. 'Hunt', 'Pursuit', 'Safari', 'Expedition' and 'Adventure' are more appropriate terms that come to mind. But thats just my personal opinion. At the end of the day, they are just words i suppose...
     
  8. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    Ryan - Your points are well taken. I do not like the competition of hunting that in part lead me to the definition of it is a sport (whcih I stand by - only with a more oen mind about my views). As I said, I would like to see the record books used to heat the homes of needy families around the world.

    But the semantics of the discussion are not the real point. What we all seen to agree upon is that hunting represents a part of where we fit into the food chain, it ha a long and story history worth preserving and we, as hunters, need to a unified effort to fight back against those who would like to see or heritage taken away in the name of - well, I do not know - as I cannot see any justifiable reason attempt and deny the fundamental instinct of hunting tha when combined with intelligent understanding of wildlife needs - is not called conservation.

    There, I just did it without even intending to, its not a "sport," it is a conservation paradigm essential to the preservation of many species around the world and the keeps the balance of nature intact. We should never be ashamed of our position on the food chain.
     
  9. Shallom

    Shallom AH Enthusiast

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    Absolutely... we need to be unified as hunters, preserve this rich heritage, acknowledge the responsibility and our position in the chain and keep the ignorant out of the equation. We need to give our resources a sporting chance and to that practice i am a big fan!
     
  10. DUGABOY1

    DUGABOY1 CONTRIBUTOR AH Enthusiast

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    The act of hunting has nothing to do with sport, or competition. Hunting is part of what man is, and always has been. Hunting is not something man does, but what man is.

    Homosapien started out as a hunter-gatherer and though the system has changed the result has not. We find the pictures on the walls of caves stories of the hunt, starting with rocks, and driving animals over cliffs, or butchering them while they were mired in mud, and still alive. That would be considered “UNFAIR CHASE” today, but was what was needed for the tribe to survive against animals that were far stronger than they were. Nothing has changed as of five minutes ago. We still use weapons that give us an advantage over large animals today, but the “HUNT” has not changed.

    The hunt is the search for the animal, and the skill needed to accomplish this feat is what makes one hunter better than another, because we both have the weapon advantage, but the hunter who has developed the skill to overcome the cunningness of the animal being hunted is what makes one hunter more successful than another.

    Unfair chase, say, being the use of a rifle, when only bows were used prior, is only unfair till most folks started using rifles, and fewer used bows. At that time the rifle became FAIR CHASSE, and the use of a bow was considered a stunt or something you do to increase the challenge of the hunt. Native Americans once only had foot travel, and hunted on foot. Then the Spanish brought horses to North America. Once the natives had horses did they get off their horse, or did they run the game down with their newfound speed that equaled or exceeded that of the game they hunted? No, they did not! But today many consider the fact that you use a 4X4 to get far back into the bush where game are is somehow not Fair Chase. OK well if you get off your 4X4 before you shoot it’s OK. The 4x4 is our horse.

    This is where some seem to see a certain type of hunting as fair chase, or simply killing. Everyone uses the things he has learned to narrow the gap between his skill, and that of the game animal. Both the man and the game adapt as the game changes and one advantage comes along, one side or the other will find a method to counter it. Even the EVIL high fence property, no matter how large, or what the habitat inside is like, is in the opinion of many not Fair Chase.

    This goes back to the taking on an old skill like the bow, or stalking on foot, or only the use of iron sights and crawling through the mopon holly so thick a rabbit would have a problem getting through, and with all the natural escape routes, cover, food and water sources, because the property has a fence around it any type of hunting inside is an UNFAIR advantage. The same guy, who thinks this way, has no problem hunting any animal on an off shore island which the ocean fences in.

    I think the biggest threat to hunting’s future hunters is, intolerance of every hunting practice except theirs, and stating it on public forums.

    I believe all forms of hunting are Fair Chase as long as it is done properly, and I think all forms of intolerance are bad no matter how it is expressed.

    Just my 2 cents!
     

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