Monday, 28 July 2014

Trophy hunting: notes from a frustrated reader

Please read the article without notations here first.

Trophy Fight
In defense of hunting for the biggest game of all

In a feature article I wrote for this very magazine in 2001, I recounted the hardships I faced during a bighorn sheep “trophy” (you weren’t meat hunting, be specific) hunt in Alberta’s Rockies. The ram I took on that adventure was a true trophy, with the age and score to back it up, and that is how I referred to it in my story.
To my surprise, (how on earth were you surprised? You write for Canada’s only national fishing and hunting magazine, you want us to believe you didn’t know prior to this article that some people don’t like trophy hunting? Don’t try and garner sympathy points by playing that you were somehow blindsided) the article prompted a letter from an irate reader, outraged that I would hunt an animal just for its horns and allow all the meat to go to waste on the steep mountainside. Nowhere in the article, however, did I discuss the meat (because the point of the hunt wasn’t the meat). While the horns were indeed my ultimate goal, I just thought everyone would have taken it for granted that the meat was equally important (you JUST said the ultimate goal was the horns, and inferred the meat wasn’t worth writing about. Don’t try and tell us the meat was equally important. It’s contradictory, and again chasing sympathy)—not to mention that I was legally bound to recover it (we will talk about laws later… stay tuned). The letter was my first real taste of the disdain for trophy hunters in some quarters (again, proving you weren’t blindsided since this implies you’ve had at least one previous “unreal” “taste of the disdain”).
Indeed, there’s no group of hunters surrounded by more controversy than trophy hunters, with most of the ill will born out of nothing more than ignorance (most? So you admit there is ill will born out of knowledge not ignorance? Thanks for the concession, and the insult, you’re gaining respect for trophy hunters by the second). Sure, there are bad folks in every crowd, but in most cases, a trophy hunter is nothing more than someone who chooses to pursue the biggest and most mature specimens (was that supposed to be a defense? Because all it does is outline why trophy hunters shouldn’t exist) while still respecting the laws (again, we will discuss laws later) of the land and the universal ethics of hunting (there is nothing ethical about trophy hunting, but more on that later as well).
Certainly the University of Alberta’s David Coltman didn’t help the cause of trophy hunters with his 2003 paper Undesirable Evolutionary Consequences of Trophy Hunting. While the paper created quite a stir upon its release, many notable wildlife experts later took Coltman and his co-authors to task for his conclusion that hunters had prompted the evolution of smaller-bodied and smaller-horned rams. The paper is now basically regarded as too limited in scope to have any universal value, with some even referring to it as junk science. (Is there a scientific paper on how trophy hunting helps wildlife? Didn’t think so. Furthermore, “too limited in scope” and “junk science” it may have been, but that doesn’t prove the conclusion wrong, it proves the method wrong. With a less limited scope, the conclusion could still be proved, could it not? So this whole paragraph of yours doesn’t prove that trophy hunters don’t “ prompt the evolution of smaller-bodied and smaller-horned rams” it just proves that one scientific paper had too small a data pool. What a waste of words.)
Nonetheless, Coltman’s paper briefly reared its ugly head again last year when Alberta’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development was looking at reducing sheep-hunting opportunities, citing the declining quality of rams in the province. The department quickly washed its hands of the paper, however, after being challenged by Alberta hunters. Trophy hunters are an easy target, I suppose, in part because some are driven by ego(trophy hunters can only be driven with ego, by definition. Please remove the word “some”). There’s a certain pride that comes “to some” (here’s a good place for the word “some.” Don’t lump all hunters into this category please and thank you) from taking a high-scoring animal, after all, with numerous clubs and organizations recognizing trophy animals and the people who hunt them (“some” of us don’t need a club to send us a certificate, or a list with our name on it). But with that ego typically (really? Typically? I’d be curious to see that scientific study) comes a commitment to the resource and to the heritage of hunting that is unmatched (so earlier we were “ignorant” for having ill will, and now we are “mostly” not matching your commitment to the “resource?” Again, you’re really ingratiating yourself to your viewership. Making fun of the people you are trying to convince and convert is an interesting approach) by most others in the hunting community.
I’m not saying that only (are we ignorant again? We knew what “typically” and “mostly” meant in the previous paragraph, but thank you for explaining things and talking nice and slow to us “ignorant” folk) trophy hunters work hard for conservation and our heritage (standing behind “heritage” is a really pathetic ploy. Give me a minute to ask my girlfriend if we should revoke her voting right because it was part of our heritage, I’ll be right back). But if you look at the prominent hunting and conservation groups in North America, most have a strong trophy-hunting component (are you going to jump off the bridge after me, because I did it too? Monkey see monkey do isn’t much of a defense. Other groups do it? That’s your proof of it’s righteousness?). I can’t see why an apology is required for that. (I really hope you regret this sentence someday)
Safari Club International, for example, is a global conservation and hunter advocacy group, and one of the leaders in promoting the benefits of trophy hunting across the globe. In 2011, the president of Safari Club International Foundation, Joseph Hosmer, testified before the U.S. Congress about the benefits of trophy hunting. According to Hosmer, hunters inject more than $200 million a year into the rural African economy alone (Damn, I forgot that money makes things ethically defensible, my fault). And without trophy hunters travelling to Africa, the future of wildlife in many areas of the continent would potentially become tenuous. (Interesting time to use a word like “would” on it’s own, don’t worry I fixed it for you. “Typically,” “most,” “mostly,” “many,” should you really be picking on scientific articles? Also, that entire final sentence is simply conjecture.)
Even here in North America, trophy hunting puts a lot of money into local economies (really? Money is again your defense?), while playing a major role in ensuring the future of wildlife in some regions (be honest here, “some” means that you want to ensure areas with “trophy” potential). Combine that with the countless hours that trophy hunters volunteer to promote conservation, and wildlife is the ultimate benefactor (except your ram, and any genetic lineage and offspring he could have sired, but you’re right, this is an article about wildlife winning).

In the end, trophy hunters are simply hunters who choose to travel, focus only on the mature males of a species and dedicate a lot of time to their passion. They practise good ethics (we’ll see about that), follow the law (again…. Give me a minute to broach this point) and promote the heritage (*coughs) of hunting. Why is it again that these dedicated people are so hated? (Thank you I needed a reason to write a follow up piece) They really are just hunters who pursue their passion for reasons that may differ from those of others (certainly can’t argue with that). I guess for some, that’s reason enough (it’s not, THAT their reasons differ, it’s HOW their reasons differ). And that’s a shame.