Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What's In a Trophy?

By Erin Diegel

Last year, after my first season of bowhunting, I was visiting with a colleague at a work function.  In a casual conversation about hunting, he congratulated me on my first bow kill.  I thanked him and asked him how his season went and he answered, “well, I didn’t get anything this year because hunting for trophies is totally different.”  Say HUH?!  What?  So hunting for trophies is different.  Ok.  At that point I realized, there must be something I was missing.  I was new to hunting so I am sure trophy hunting was different.  In fact, I didn’t really even know what trophy hunting was. So I began to read and research and ask questions. 

For the purpose of this discussion:

Trophy hunting is the selective hunting of wild game for human recreation. The trophy is the animal or part of the animal kept, and usually displayed, to represent the success of the hunt. Parts of the animal may be kept as a hunting trophy or memorial (usually the skin, antlers, horns and/or head), in most circumstances the carcass itself is usually used for food, sometimes donated to the local community.

Okay, makes sense.  But how is that different from “other hunting”?  Isn’t it the desire of everyone’s hunt to get a trophy?  I guess that is determined by an individual’s perception of what’s in a trophy.

My first harvest was a Mule Deer doe.  It was an indescribable event that was preceded by a lot of learning.  I put in 9 days of hunting for that doe.  Some days I froze to death and saw nothing, some days I basked in the late day sun and saw nothing and some days I saw only does with fawns. I rushed from work with gear in tow and made every effort to make good use of the time I had.  The morning I shot her, I was in awe.  I just took the life of something for the first time (other than a giant spider or pesky fly) and it was emotional.  I sat over that doe for 20 minutes.  She was my trophy. My time and my hard work was my trophy.  The deep satisfaction I had from watching my child eat venison spaghetti was my trophy. 


This fall, I went on my first solo hunt to Wyoming. And I mean solo.  I traveled alone, out of state, camped, hunted, harvested, gutted and reveled in my very first antelope kill.  I overcame fears, pursued adventure and achieved success:

     tent camping alone in a desolate area with no phone signal
     glassing, stalking and hunting antelope for the first time
     shooting a .243 rifle at a live target for the first time
     gutting an animal on my own for the first time
     hauling a harvest 200 yards straight uphill
     listening to a man drive by and ask, “do you need any help missy?” and responding with a confident “NO, THANK YOU”
     seeing my children “dab” with excitement over antelope stir fry? 

Yes, yes, these things are my trophy.

In today’s day, with the explosion of “Horn Porn” on social media, I can see where one could feel that “trophy hunting” is different. I have noticed that because of this “trophy” pressure, people tend to minimize the harvest, saying things like it is “only a doe” or “it’s not a monster”.  In a sense, this is disrespectful to the animal that was just killed.  This was the decision, this was the choice, and at the time it was right.  Be proud of that, celebrate the hunt and don’t ever be disappointed in the harvest.  

I follow Kyle ( on Instagram and I love his post: 

Blessed to be able to harvest both the buck and doe down here in Kentucky!  Meat in the freezer and backstraps on the grill!  My family will be eating well for while now and the season is still very young!”

Julie McQueen, one of the first female Pro-Staffers in the hunting industry,  Co-Host of "Till Death Do UsPart" on Carbon TV , Producer at Backstage & Backroads and Outdoor Writer was kind enough to allow me to share her post:

When people ask me to send a trophy photo, I usually send something a lot like this:”



I am still bowhunting this season for both Whitetail deer and Mule deer and I can tell you, I have already found my trophies.  Spending quality time with the love of my life and hunting with my son for the first time is what trophy hunting is all about. 

So to my colleague that told me trophy hunting is different, I beg to differ. And to all of you, the trophy is in the eye of the beholder.  Unlike the progression of today’s youth sports where there is much controversy about everyone getting a trophy, I will rest assured knowing that every time I hunt and most certainly every time I harvest an animal, I am receiving a trophy!

“A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.”
~Fred Bear