Kill Big

Daniel Boyco

Outside of hunting circles, the trophy hunter is vilified more than is any other of his kind. The idea of administering death to an animal for no other reason than it has managed, against all odds, to live long enough to grow noteworthy antlers, horns or a skull is just too much to bear for someone who can't stomach the thought of sport killing in the first place.

Even those who would tolerate hunting for meat often cannot abide by the practice of killing something just to hang it on the wall. Does a fundamental misunderstanding of the predator/prey relationship perpetuate the dissension or has the repulsive countenance of head hunting been borne of urban myth, as some hunters would like to believe?

Generally we recognize that there are hunters and there are poachers, but we tend to overlook that the same holds true for trophy hunters and trophy poachers. We should boldly pull our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that it may not be a myth that perpetuates the distaste towards trophy hunting, but rather the brazen antics of a small but pernicious element of our own fraternity.

There is no middle ground when it comes to classifying trophy hunters. They are either the best examples of our group or they are the worst. For those on the high road, respect for their quarry, regard for the law, exceptional ethics and the need for a challenge are key traits that distinguish them from the others. They have evolved beyond the point where killing is necessary, abiding by a self-imposed code to seek out that which is harder to find, harder to hunt and subsequently harder to kill. It is not uncommon for such a person to go an entire season, perhaps seasons, without pulling the trigger or flinging an arrow. We would do well if we all fell into this category.

However, while some hunters evolve, others do not. Are there bloodthirsty killers out there who would stop at nothing to hang a big head on the wall? Absolutely. Why? Because they lack the essential traits of a hunter. Worse yet, they are prone to do whatever it takes to get what they want. Their quarry is less the game and more the fame.

Blinded by the possibility of making it into the record book, ethics, the law and the challenge of the hunt are set aside in lieu of the spotlight, the bait, the money and anything else that might increase the odds of making a killing. A nobody one minute can be instantly transformed into a somebody the next, with little more than a shot in the dark and a creative story. International notoriety in the form of magazine articles, photographs and money perverts hunting and seduces the corrupt to kill big, no matter what.

It is unfortunate that the same animal sought by a hunter for an entire season, is the same animal that will stand bewildered, at the mercy of a poacher and his spotlight. Although the animal is just as dead no matter the details, an animal taken in such a fashion helps support the argument that headhunters are criminals. Like the deer blinded in a spotlight, the poacher doesn't see or care about the affect his actions may have beyond the scope of his quest.

We must always remember that the objective is to get out and enjoy Nature and take pleasure in the opportunity to research and learn about wildlife. It should be the hunt, not the kill that defines who we are.

Daniel Boyco is a member of the Conservation Officers Association of Alberta in Edmonton.