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Trophy Vs. Meat Hunting: Do You Hunt to Fill the Freezer or the Wall?


Trophy Hunting

Every "meat hunter" is a closet trophy hunter. Many would have you believe otherwise, and some even openly deride the practice of trophy hunting. Yet almost every blessed one of them, when offered a shot at a tender young forkhorn beside an honestly big buck, will shoot the big deer. Durned hypocrites.

Kidding, folks. Don't get your knickers in a twist. There's nothing at all wrong with maintaining that a young buck is trophy enough for you and fills your freezer to perfection, especially in areas where management practices don't favor bucks' chances to mature. However, trophy hunting, when correctly practiced, is a valuable conservation tool for hunters concerned about the quality of both present hunting and for the future generation of hunters.

Where plenty of mature bucks are present, the biggest, healthiest, strongest males breed the does, favoring future genetics. They more efficiently breed the does and shield them from continual harassment from hordes of horny, inexperienced small bucks, favoring conception and conditioning against the coming winter.

Additionally, mature bucks provide significantly more meat per kill. Many will argue that younger bucks are more tender, but when properly field dressed and aged, meat from mature bucks tastes splendid, chews easily, and the steaks and roasts are up to double the size — allowing you to shoot less game to get the same amount of meat.

So try not to shoot the baby bucks. Extend your time in the field and do the local deer population a favor by holding out for a mature buck. Forkhorns, does, and your freezer will all thank you.

— Joseph von Benedikt

Meat Hunting

I'll be honest: I could argue this topic either way as I am both a meat hunter and a trophy hunter, depending upon species hunted, season, and even time of day. I'm not committed to either camp 100 percent of the time. I'm an opportunistic predator. I think most of us fit into this category.

Sure, we all love to occasionally wrap our hands around the antlers of a wall hanger, and many of us pass up younger deer, but deep down we enjoy filling the freezer with delicious, healthy meat. At its core, the pursuit of meat is the real reason why we hunt. It is why our fathers hunted, and it is why our ancestors crawled out of their caves€¦to feed their families.

Meat hunting is also socially acceptable. Don't believe me? Go tell a non-hunter you hunt for meat. You will find they are often accepting of your passion. Tell that same person you hunt for trophies and you will never get the chance to tell them you pass younger deer or go seasons without pulling the trigger, and when you do tag a trophy, you utilize all the meat (and support the local economy by giving a taxidermist a few hundred bucks to preserve the part of the animal meat hunters throw out).

But forget about being socially accepted and let's talk about pure fun for a moment. I have spent many seasons passing game — more often than not, going home empty-handed. So this past season I decided to hunt purely for meat. Cows, does, small bucks€¦it didn't matter, I was filling the freezer.

And I found out I enjoyed the actual hunt; the appreciation of a clean, ethical shot; the time in camp; and celebrating the experience with family or friends more than I had in years. If those aren't enough reasons to be a meat hunter, I don't know what is.

— Mike Schoby

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