Monday, November 10, 2008

I cut my deer hunting teeth on mule deer even though I grew up in Oklahoma where today whitetail deer are like fleas (as they are in many parts of the country). There were no deer around my hometown in the 50s through 70s and to hunt deer we drove 557 miles to CaƱon City, Colorado. I was 12 when I went on my first deer hunt and although I was not allowed to carry a rifle the experience stayed with me. Sometimes, when I am tired of seeing my words on this screen, I slip the DVD of home movies into my computer and skip through it until I reach that deer hunt then I sit back to watch and relive it. Twenty-plus years after that hunt, in 1988, I wrote a short story titled “Coming Home” which is about coming home from the Vietnam War in 1969 and being unable to shoot a rabbit. It was another nine years after the rabbit hunt in that story before I could again hunt.
Now I live as close to my hunting as possible and on many of the days I don’t hunt I do something that is, in some way, associated with hunting.
This evening I went whitetail hunting and spent the last 45 minutes of shooting light sitting near a slough some deer call home. I’m hunting for the kitchen not the wall so I’m looking for a big, dry doe but today the only thing I watched was a jackrabbit and a true trophy whitetail buck.
Trophy hunting is an interesting issue. Some people detest it and others are wild about it. If you want to learn about successful trophy whitetail hunts you might want to get a copy of the 2001 book Legendary Whitetails II (Legendary Whitetails II: Stories and Photos of 40 More of the Greatest Bucks of all Time). This is a collection of 40 stories about some of the greatest whitetail bucks ever killed by hunters. The stories are fascinating looks into trophy hunting and the hunters dedicated to it. For many years I loudly opposed trophy hunting until several biologists told me those trophy hunters are important to opening the gene pool and insuring healthy herds of deer, especially in areas where the deer tend to concentrate. Okay, I can buy that argument.
I've even learned a few things from the stories in that book, however, because my deer hunting began with mule deer I have accumulated several shelves of books on whitetail hunting and a book that I actually refer to for sound advice was written by Dave Richey back in 1986 and reprinted by Lyons Press in 2001. Richey’s book, The Ultimate Guide to Deer Hunting (The Ultimate Guide to Deer Hunting: Tips and Tactics for Every Situation), has helped me transition my thinking from only hunting mule deer to successfully hunting whitetail deer. It is just a good good book on deer hunting and it has lasted because it is good.
Both of these books are about big deer—trophy deer. Maybe you don’t agree with the idea of trophy deer hunting and you are like me, hunting for the freezer. On the other hand I’ve never met a hunter who did not stop to marvel at a trophy buck and it isn’t uncommon to see a little green in the eyes of most meat hunters.
Whether you meat or trophy hunt I hope you have a great and safe season.
PS Next Blog I want to talk about lead in venison. I wrote an article on this subject for Whitetails Unlimited magazine and it is worth reading. I have my views and they are not popular with some people in the world of hunting.


NorCal Cazadora said...

I think the term "trophy hunting" can be misleading - and is deliberately misleading in the hands of HSUS and the likes. The problem is that the non-hunting public interprets it as hunting for the head while leaving the body to rot; few seem to understand that the overwhelming majority of hunters eat what's on the other side of the trophy.

I met a guy this weekend who had lots of big fascinating animal heads mounted on his wall. An observer might brand him as one of those guys who cares only about the trophy. But he proudly told me about his enormous freezer in his garage where he kept all the meat from his kills.

I think it's human nature to want the biggest and the best of whatever we're after. As long as it doesn't preclude common-sense use (eating), I can live with it.

Galen Geer said...

NorCal, I think you are spot on regarding the trophy hunters. I think the perception of trophy hunting being wrong is also shared by many hunters who were brought up as meat hunters—as I was. That said I have to say that I have my doubts about many of today’s outdoor writers (and broadcasters) being able to effectively tell their readers (and viewers) that trophy hunting is okay because they, themselves, are perceived as being out of touch with the average hunter and as unrealistic trophy hunters.
What do you think?

NorCal Cazadora said...

I don't doubt their ability; I doubt their propensity for effectively telling the true story of trophy hunting, which is that the head is half of it (albeit the half by which success is judged), and the body that's butchered and put into your freezer is the other half.

Recent studies confirm the obvious: that meat hunting is far more acceptable to the public than trophy hunting. But I think too much of hunting infotainment is run by people who live and breathe hunting and possibly don't have a single friend who doesn't hunt or isn't also immersed in hunting culture. So they make decisions about content based on what people in their world want to see - and that's the head. And I certainly understand the requirement of visual content: Two backstraps side-by-side don't say nearly as much as two racks side-by-side about the measure of the animal.

There are some exceptions. Ted Nugent - for all his extremism - is actually excellent when it comes to talking to the food aspect of hunting. I don't get the sense that he wastes a thing.

The show "American Gun Dog" is also fantastic because it ends with a cooking segment that always goes beyond, "Breast it out and wrap it in bacon."

But I think for the most part, hunters and their representatives in pop culture take the eating for granted and don't talk about it, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Not only does it say the wrong thing to the public, but it lets us pay insufficient homage to what I believe is a sacred obligation to honor the animal you killed by using its parts to the fullest and appreciating its unique flavor by serving it as part of delicious recipes.

I think I veered pretty sharply off course from your question, which probably goes more to the credibility of hunting's version of spokesmodels. That's partly because I haven't thought about the issue in those terms. I divide these people into two categories: Those who teach and show a realistic depiction of hunting (including misses, miscalculations and bad shots), and those who don't do anything more than show off and yuk yuk yuk it up.

See what happens when you ask me to pontificate? :-)

Blessed said...

We're meat hunters but we have trophy's on the wall too because when the opportunity presents itself... it's a fun way to decorate the house while filling the freezer. However - we just enjoy being out in the woods so we'll get our quota for the freezer and then we just keep going out and start trophy hunting. If we happen to harvest a trophy deer during that time, we butcher the deer take the head and skin to the taxidermist and start calling the widows in our church to see who would like some deer burger, a roast or some steaks - it's always received with pleasure! If we get to the end of season and haven't harvested a trophy we'll take another doe, butcher her and start making phone calls...

Galen Geer said...

NorCal and Blessed,
Today I tested your theory (NorCal) by watching four hunting shows. Not once was there any discussion of the meat. I was hoping that I would at least see something about using the meat but nope, nothing. This is not to say it is never a topic because there are several shows that include a cooking segment and they seem to be doing quite well. I wonder why some producers recognize the value of the presentation of the value of the meat and others ignore it? Outdoor channel ratings?

The public perception of meat hunting being more acceptable is one that I would like to explore in a little more detail. I might be able to pull some writing projects out of it.

As for myself, I like to believe that I have managed to merge meat and trophy hunting into one outlook on hunting. Right now I have an antlerless deer tag and the only deer I’ve seen in range (I’m using a muzzle stuffer) have been bucks! It has been fun to watch the deer amble across the open grass and then disappear into a draw before some hunters drove past. I don’t know if they had antler or antlerless tags but the deer weren’t taking a chance. The hunters drove within a hundred yards of one buck. I could have told them but then it would have been cheating. glg