Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Keller: in defense of trophy hunting

The past few years, the word “trophy hunter” has become
darn-near a blasphemous phrase in the realm of deer hunting. Some
people believe being an antler enthusiast is bad for the sport.
They say going after antlers of mammoth proportions gives
anti-hunters fuel for the fire. They say trophy hunters are nothing
but ego maniacs who are driving up the price of recreational or
forested lands because they’re willing to pay big money for lease
rights.

In some cases, they’re right.

But Myles Keller, one of the most famous trophy hunters of all
time, would like people to stop an take a look at the whole picture
before passing judgement.

“I, like many other trophy hunters, enjoy just sitting in the
woods,” he said. “Just because I’m out there for more than meat
doesn’t mean I don’t respect the process.”

Is deer hunting just a game of cat and mouse to trophy
hunters?

“There’s really not much difference from me and a guy who is
satisfied with taking a mature doe each year. A person who chooses
to pass up a small doe, instead waiting for a big doe, may just say
that they want more venison sausage, but I think that they’re
really trophy hunters in their own way.”

What hunter wouldn’t agree that a yearling doe tastes a heck of
a lot better than one that’s been around for several years? With
today’s high numbers of deer, most Wisconsin hunters draw a choice
permit and many will have bonus tags offered to them this year.
There will even be bonus tags available for counter sales in many
units. If the taste of venison is the only thing that’s supposed to
drive an ethical hunter, then why aren’t more yearling does
shot?

“I think that there’s an undeniable urge for humans to have the
need to outwit the game they’re after,” Keller said. “There’s an
urge to act as a medieval hunter. It goes back to our roots as
hunters in general. We want to hunt. Not just to feed the tribe,
but to prove our intelligence in the art of hunting itself.”

So if being a predator is natural, why do trophy hunters receive
such bad PR?

“We’re not liked by everyone, much like tournament bass anglers
aren’t liked by weekend anglers,” he said. “Perhaps people who
don’t want to put the time in to be trophy hunters like to condemn
us for our passion because the space above their fireplace has a
forkhorn occupying it. Heck, if a forker is a trophy to you, then
mount the thing; it wouldn’t bother me a bit.”

A trophy hunter isn’t a person who hunts an occasional weekend.
A trophy hunter is someone who devotes the bulk of his or her life
to the sport.

“There are definitely days where I don’t feel like getting up at
4 a.m.,” Keller said. “There are days when I don’t feel like
hanging a new stand because the wind isn’t right for the spot I’m
hunting, but I suck it up and do it. You just can’t get sloppy if
you’re a trophy hunter. It means scouting all year.”

That sort of routine probably isn’t worth it to many hunters, so
if you’re the type of hunter who likes to sleep in if it’s pouring
rain, then go ahead and turn off the alarm clock. There’s no shame
in that.

“People don’t judge the guy who takes a nice doe every year, so
why do they condemn people who aren’t fully satisfied if the buck
doesn’t have a shot at (scoring) 125,” he said.

But what does all this have to do with trophy hunting, and why
it is good for the sport?

“Education, pure and simple,” he said. “Trophy hunters are the
ones who are often found on the front cover of magazines. There’s
no question that if someone sees a magazine with a doe on it,
compared to one with a 160-inch buck on the cover, which one will
sell more copies.

“Even the people out there who say they’re just meat hunters
will pick up the title that bears a big buck on it.”

Those fancy covers are nice to look at, to dream of, and they
get people to buy the magazines.

“Not to sound egotistical, but we trophy hunters, frequently,
put in more time in the woods than most hunters. So we usually have
some good tips and advice to offer the guy who only gets out once a
month. We’re also out in the woods longer because we don’t shoot
the first deer that offers a shot.”

Generally, a hunter who scores is one that will buy a tag next
season, too.

“The more successful hunters we have out there, the more people
we have who will continue the sport, and defend it,” Keller said.
“Maybe all these trophies I’ve shot don’t make a difference to most
hunters, and that’s fine by me. But if going after big bucks all
these years helped me learn one tip that I passed down to someone
else and made them a better hunter, then how can that be bad?”

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