Hunting Big Game Hunting Deer Hunting Whitetail Deer Hunting

Whitetail Deer: Taking the Trophy Out of Trophy Hunting

If you walk past my dining room table, take a hard left and step through the french doors, you’ll enter what I unoriginally refer to as my “Man Cave.” There’s a shelf stacked with sheds, a coffee table covered with old hunting magazines and of course, a TV in the corner. But what most notice when they step into this room are the antlers, mounts, and skulls on the wall. Some might call this a trophy room, but something about that just doesn’t sit well with me.

The targeting of larger, older, or more impressive animals has been a goal of hunters for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and that makes sense. We respect, revere, and desire things that are rare or challenging to come by, and big, old animals certainly fit the bill. Somewhere along the lines though, we as a hunting community began referring to this type of hunting as “trophy hunting,” and to a degree, that makes sense too. But the farther I dive into hunting and the deeper aspects of what it means and why we do it, the more I’ve become unsettled by this terminology.

I certainly would never begrudge someone for describing what they do as “trophy hunting”—to each their own, of course. But I’ve personally decided that this word just doesn’t work for me anymore.

Yes, I dream of, plan for, and target older and bigger bucks. And I’d certainly love a crack at one of those giants you see on magazine covers. But I’d like to think that what I’m doing is much more than simply trying to acquire a trophy.

You see, the issue for me isn’t the goal of this type of hunting. It’s the word “trophy” itself that doesn’t seem right. It’s not big enough. It’s not complex enough. It’s not rich enough to describe what I’m seeking out when hunting and ultimately killing a deer.

Hunting is a rush. It’s a thrill. But it’s not a game. We’re not running up and down a court for 60 minutes throwing a ball in a basket, hoping to get something shiny and gold to put on the shelf.

We’re taking a life.

That’s something worth sitting back and reminding ourselves of every once in a while. We are taking a life, and as author Thomas McGuane once said, “This is serious and you had better always remember that.”

I hunt for meat. I hunt for an experience. I hunt for a challenge. And yes, I sometimes hunt for the kind of animal that others would call a trophy.

But when I walk by my dining room table and through the French doors, I don’t see trophies hanging on my wall. I see lifelong memories and lessons learned. I see struggles and I see success. I see joy and pain and laughter and failure.

And ultimately, I see a stark reminder of the animal lives that I’ve taken, and the innumerable thanks that I must give for having hunted them.