You know, trophy hunters get a bad rap sometimes. What got me to thinking about it was a video I saw recently on the internet. It was a crude voice-over cartoon that portrayed the trophy hunter as a Cecil the lion-killer type, an affluent, self-centered nimrod focused solely on putting a trophy head on his wall. Those folks do exist, but they’re in the overwhelming minority.

Ironically, the point of the video was to shed a positive light on so-called trophy hunting.

The narrative went on to explain in detail why, if it weren’t for trophy hunters and the money they pay to hunt trophies (costs range from $10,000-$40,000 per hunt), most of the imperiled or endangered game and non-game species in Third World countries of Africa would have long ago disappeared. Furthermore, the money spent for just one such lion hunt supports local economies and pays the salaries of biologists and wardens who protect rhinos, elephants and a host of other species that are seldom if ever hunted. While you may not agree with the motivations of trophy big-game hunters, they do provide a benefit.

But those aren’t the only kind of trophy hunters. In North America, there are many trophy deer hunters. Some will pay whatever it costs to shoot a giant-racked buck that was raised in captivity and released into a pen. But that’s not really hunting, and wouldn’t be considered a trophy by anyone except the person who killed it. Far more individuals have set personal limitations on themselves above and beyond the rules and regulations, and define a trophy as something they obtained through those limitations.

For example, the Maine Antler & Skull Trophy Club sets a 140-inch minimum for deer in the Perfect category killed with a firearm. Yes, many hunters take trophy class animals purely by chance and circumstance, but the ones who intentionally set out to do so must make sacrifices. They must be willing to pass up antlerless deer, and in so doing increase the potential productivity of the population. They have to pass up legal yearling bucks, spikes and forkhorns, and in so doing, improve the age structure and sex ratio of the herd. They also have to pass up those tempting 2- and 3-year-old bucks that most hunters would take to the taxidermist, and in so doing leave those deer for other folks.

Perhaps most important of all, they’re willing to eat tag soup. If they don’t see a deer that meets their personally imposed minimum, they don’t feel the need to “cash in” their tag on whatever comes by the last few days of the season. They’ll chalk it up to bad luck and experience, buy another license and redouble their efforts the following year.

Big bucks are rare. It may take time and effort to bag one. In the process of doing so, trophy hunters are contributing money to support conservation, as well as local economies. And they’re passing up opportunities to kill what they consider lesser deer. It’s not about killing. It’s about achieving personal goals, so if and when they do finally collect that which they seek, it should be celebrated.

I have set my figurative sights on one particular buck this fall. I realize the odds of even seeing him, never mind shooting him, are long. But trying to do so will be my motivation to go into the woods every day. And the realization of improbability will make my lack of success more acceptable. I’ll buy my license, treestands, arrows, bullets, camo apparel and deer scents at the local sporting goods store. I’ll buy gas and food at the local convenience store on my way to and from the hunt. I’ll sit for hours, day after day, all the while gaining insight into the behavior of my quarry, insight I can use the next year or the year after that to possibly achieve my goal. I’ll do that because I am a trophy hunter.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]