Hearing the word "trophy" associated with "hunting" makes me cringe. Not because I'm against keeping non-consumable parts of an animal. As a conservationist, I advocate for utilizing as much of the animal as possible. I cringe because the anti-hunting movement has completely bastardized the term "trophy hunting," painting a picture of those who hunt as blood-thirsty mercenaries killing for their next taxidermy mount. This could not be a more fictitious representation of the hunting community. But why do hunter's feel the need to keep something like a skull and antlers, to hang for display?
|This 2015 archery buck provided many trophy meals for family and friends.|
Archaeologists discovered fossil evidence suggesting humans hunted and ate meat as far back as 2.5 million years ago. It was at this point in time that humans began cooking and eating meat, leading to the increased brain and body size of modern man. If we use an average human life expectancy of 80 years, those fossil remains represent 25,000 lifetimes of genetic hunting experience. Considering planet earth formed over 4 billion years ago the length of time humans have walked the planet is a drop in the bucket, but for humans to have hunted that many lifetimes certainly explains why we hunt. But why do hunters keep and display non-consumable parts of the animals we hunt?
Hunting is part of being human, as is our desire to express emotions through song, dance, art and countless other ways. Art is mankind's attempt to communicate an experience, to express what is difficult to describe with words. No different than our ancestor's recreating the emotion of a hunt through petroglyphs and pictographs. Early petroglyphs date back to 700,000 BC while some of the earliest pictographs date back to 70,000 BC. To continue measuring in terms of human lifetimes, that represents 8,750 and 875 lifetimes of artwork expressing and communicating the hunting experience.
|Pictographs from a back country canoe trip in the Boundary Waters.|
Keeping possession of hides, antlers, feathers or creating artwork through taxidermy is a continued expression of the hunting experience. Beyond the nourishing meals provided by the animal, artifacts kept for display tell the story over and over, honoring both the life of the animal and the pursuit involved. This ancient practice is akin to hunting, just as acrylics or oils are akin to creating a painting.
Art is one of the oldest forms of human expression and part of our documented hunting experience for thousands of lifetimes. The argument can be made that in our increasingly modernized society, the discipline of hunting is an art itself. After all, few people existing today have a connection with the natural world, and their food, like a hunter. Regardless of bastardized terminology, hunters shouldn't shy away from these discussions. Instead, we should create conversation and have an open, honest dialogue about hunting. We understand the true trophy is the complete hunting experience, we simply need to do a better job of expressing and communicating this with others.
|I'm thankful to have hunting pictures of my Grandpa, and the antlers from this Colorado mule deer.|