Trophy, Sport . . . What do they mean?

Hunters get a lot of flack for hunting for ‘sport’ or ‘trophy hunting’ by people that know little or nothing about hunting. It’s pretty easy to judge most any activity when you don’t take the time to understand it. That rings true in any aspect of life but for now we’re going to stick with the misunderstood hunter.

SPORT: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

I don’t generally think of hunting as a sport. I’m ok with the term field sport, but for many people the term sport makes the activity seem like something done for fun and taken lightly. While hunting is recreational and fun, there is much more to it and I think the term sport is simply a disservice to the activity. Of course many do take sports very seriously but generally no to the point of death. Hunting requires physical exertion for most as well as skill. However I don’t view it as a competition and I definitely don’t see it as entertainment. Hunting has become entertainment through the various TV networks that offer it up as entertainment but I don’t see entertainment as inherent purpose to hunting. Hunting is a longstanding tradition rooted in survival and for some of us, is a large portion of how we feed our families. Not only that, but hunting is conservation. I won’t go on that whole rant but without hunting and passionate hunters there would be a lot less wildlife on this planet.

TROPHY: a souvenir of an achievement, especially a part of an animal taken when hunting.

Many people that go after trophy hunters, or hunters in general that consider any portion of the animal a trophy. They use terms like ‘sadistic’ and even go so far as to compare hunters to serial killers. There are 19 million hunters in the US, if we were all psychotic serial killers our country would be in pretty rough shape.

There’s also a disconnect on what is truly a trophy animal and many like myself have a very personal definition of what makes a trophy animal. The key to any trophy is achievement. Hunting, no matter how easy it looks on TV is not easy. Additionally, TV hunting can also skew our idea of what a trophy is. Don’t let that frustrate or discourage you. You will most likely never kill at 200″ buck or even see one in your lifetime. That’s perfectly ok. You can still achieve your goals. That is what a trophy is, a symbol of achievement. If you kill a spike and that marks an achievement for you that’s a trophy. Of course we’d all love to kill that 200″ double droptine buck of our dreams, and that brings up another point. Many think it’s all about inches and while that is how bucks are scored for a system of record what it boils down to is what those giant antlers symbolize. They symbolize a mature deer. A deer that is smart, wary, with immensely keen senses and has survived into his prime by avoiding hunters. Being able to figure him out and kill him is an achievement.

I know a lot of this is just reiterating what many of you know and feel but I think it serves as a great reminder as we head into another hunting season. This isn’t a sport, it’s so much more. Trophies aren’t a bad thing. Don’t get caught up in what others consider a trophy. Set realistic goals for yourself and when you achieve them, that’s your trophy. If that means you kill a monster buck, an old doe or rag-horn elk that’s your trophy and I’m proud of you. If I ever kill an elk it might be the smallest, ugliest legal kill but you know what, it’s a trophy and you better believe I’m keeping something from it as  souvenir to symbolize that achievement.

I’m going to close this post out with a Quote from Jose Ortega y Gassett from this book, “Meditations on Hunting”. It’s one of the best summations of hunting and the mindset of the hunter.

One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted. 

If one were to present the sportsman with the death of the animal as a gift he would refuse it. What he is after is having to win it, to conquer the surly brute through his own effort and skill with all the extras that this carries with it: the immersion in the countryside, the healthfulness of the exercise, the distraction from his job.

  • Modern Carnivore

    Great thoughts Will. I agree that the use of “sport” for hunting doesn’t full represent what’s going on. I think that the word “hunt” is definition enough. It’s an important activity in life, but should be descriptive enough. What do others think?

    • TheWilltoHunt

      Thanks for stopping by Mark!

  • Michelle Scheuermann

    I also don’t like using the word “sport” just like I don’t like using the word “weapon.” We are trying to reach a mass audience, so the words we use do matter. Great post, Will.

    • TheWilltoHunt

      Right on, Michelle! Weapon is a weird one, it’s an accurate description but it’s broad definition lends to a negative connotation.