I can’t imagine anyone not hearing about the recent killing of 13 year old Cecil, the mature African black-mane lion by Minnesota dentist and trophy hunter Walter Palmer.
By most published reports the lion was killed illegally but there is some confusion about who is to blame for the legal part, the lack of fair chase part, and who knows what else. According to an avalanche of media attempts from TV and internet news sources, print media, and radio talk show hosts who know or care little about facts or reality, the big cat was a local favorite and popular tourism draw.
Apparently Zimbabwe officials are trying hard to get their hands on Palmer so that he can be charged with something. PETA has called for the Palmer’s death by hanging.
Airline giants have responded, in an attempt to be politically correct it appears, by banning the transport of many big game trophies and some have cast African hunting trophies as endangered species even though they are not in most cases. All of the above and more before the person named has been charged with any crime or found guilty of any charge that might be made in coming weeks or months. So that’s the news that has dominated us for the past few weeks.
Thirst for trophies
Hopefully, although this story is certainly distasteful and sensational beyond its worth, it does bring to light the current thirst for trophies that seems to have driven some hunters and guides to do questionable things.
To some, deer hunting is a basic outdoor activity that includes enjoyable and social pastimes such as scouting, target shooting, and planning. To the more serious, deer hunting is more of a passion, even an obsession, that adds year-around to equation.
This might include multiple trail cameras, planning food plots, travel, the use of all vacation time, constant long-distant scouting through optics, 365 daily shooting sessions, the imagined need and purchase of new equipment, the latest motorized off-road ATV, and the never ending search for another signed permission slip. All of this is legal, ethical, and enjoyable. So is the pursuit of a certain, identifiable animal such as a buck with a character antler.
Hunting not killing
But then there is this thirst for the biggest buck ever, record book stuff, and another bragging buck for the Wall of Fame or room that is dedicated to the monster of monsters. It’s a thirst that too often leads to what some consider unethical practices at the very least.
Pay to hunt
Things like paying to kill large antlered bucks with charges determined by the size of the buck’s rack and killing head-heavy bucks that have been bred, raised, and released for the purpose. The practice should never be considered as hunting nor should the players be considered hunters. After all, hunters participate in the activity of hunting, not simply killing.
And the quest for easy “trophies” carries on across the globe, not just in Africa and Ohio. Shooters can book costly and quick “hunts” for guaranteed bull elk, sure-thing massive deer, and much more. The only guarantee in opportunities like these is that something is fishy, too easy, and certainly far from fair chase.
Size of animal
Let’s use the demise of Cecil as a motivator for all of us to examine our own outdoor pursuits. If hunting success is measured only by the size of an animal killed, we are missing the true joy of being afield and if we measure our fishing days in limit catches, pounds and ounces, we really ought to take up bowling.
For those shooters and hunters who travel with firearms there is a new edition of Travelers Guide to Firearms Laws of the Fifty States available through the Buckeye Firearms Association. Go to their website for information, cost, etc.
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