boone and crockett club position statement
Big Game Trophies and Trophy Hunting
There are broad misconceptions that exist among non-hunters and within the hunting community itself about big game trophies and hunting. To compound matters, organized groups whose intention is to end all hunting are attempting to sway the public, policy makers, and the media by building a negative image of trophy hunting. As the leading conservation organization that was the first to promote the selective hunting of mature male animals as a practice of wildlife conservation, the Boone and Crockett Club is concerned with misrepresentations, and wants people to understand the value of big game trophies and hunting to conservation.
The Boone and Crockett Club supports hunting that is conducted legally and guided by a conservation ethic. If the intent of a hunter is to pass up a younger animal in favor of an older, mature animal, or merely take any legal animal regardless of sex or size, these are both choices that should be respected.
Trophy hunting—the selective taking of mature male animals—began as a critical component of the Club’s early efforts to establish the concept of wildlife conservation at the end of the 19th century, when many species of wildlife were on the brink of extinction. To aid in their recovery and to ensure these species would never be threatened again, the Club believed several things needed to happen, one of which was to encourage a sustainable harvest by protecting the core of a wild breeding population (primarily females and younger males).
In order to assist in the recovery of breeding populations, the Club helped establish the first hunting laws and bag limits. To elevate and promote the conservation benefits of pursuing older animals that would have already participated in breeding, the Club began keeping big game records and published its first manual on the measuring of big game in 1906, referring to such animals as “trophies.” To sportsmen, then and to this day, a male with large antlers or horns is considered a fine and coveted specimen, but they are also proof of successful wildlife management policies and that a personal conservation ethic helped guide the hunter’s choice.
At the same time, the Club also began promoting a new code of ethical conduct for sportsmen called “fair chase” that defined how game was to be hunted in support of conservation efforts (the Club further required hunters to verify that they had adopted fair chase principles in order for their trophy to be recognized in its records book, which the Club began publishing in 1932). Fair chase was intended as an overarching ethic for all hunters and not restricted to just those in the records book. It emphasized that hunting should be more about the effort involved and the quality of game taken, rather than the number of animals harvested. Commercial market hunting that had decimated native wildlife focused on numbers, with no concern for the future. Sportsmen however, were concerned with the future and adopting a fair chase ethic helped separate them from market hunters, and also led them to be more selective about the animals taken. With this ethic, along with other conservation actions championed by the Club in the early 20th century, wildlife populations recovered to the abundance and variety we see today.
Older, more mature animals are typically the ones with the largest antlers or horns. They are often more wary and elusive, and harder to harvest. The Club understood that hunting such animals under fair chase conditions would reduce the hunter’s chance of success, but by requiring more skill and self-discipline, a hunt (successful or not) would represent a greater personal achievement. These motivations help explain why trophy hunting became popular in the 20th century. Today, overpopulation of some wildlife species has become a challenge and wildlife managers often encourage or require the taking of females to keep herd numbers in balance with available food. No matter what sex, age or size we choose to hunt, hunters collectively contribute to modern wildlife conservation.
The Club maintains that trophy hunting is not a particular form of hunting but a broad term that loosely describes the intent by some hunters to selectively pursue a particular class of animal. It is not possible to identify when selective hunting constitutes trophy hunting and when it does not. Hunting is practiced by millions of people worldwide. What each person chooses to hunt varies with his or her age and experience, and the game available where they hunt. Many hunters consider the animals they harvest to be a “trophy” regardless of their size. Thus, the term “trophy hunter” is ambiguous and open to interpretation, especially by those attacking it. Their divide-and-conquer strategy relies on a narrative that people who hunt for trophies are unethical, their actions and motivations are unacceptable, and that trophy hunting can be singled out from hunting as a whole and legislated away. These groups call for bans on trophy hunting, stopping the importation and transportation of legally taken animals, and other ill-founded policies that threaten a significant and irreplaceable mechanism for wildlife conservation in North America and elsewhere.
Claims being made by anti-hunting activists often concentrate on the actions of a few unethical individuals to advance the misperception that trophy hunting in general is a “bad thing.” Their tactics include depicting trophy hunters as people with despicable motives who do not care about wildlife, claiming trophy hunters cause ecological harm to wildlife populations. At the same time they attempt to blur the line between hunting and poaching. Hunting is a complex human activity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Like any activity, hunting has its share of people who behave inappropriately, but this is a very small percentage.
An outdoor and hunting lifestyle fosters an appreciation of something greater than one’s self, and teaches the life skills of self-esteem, self-reliance, self-determination, and self-respect, including respect for the wildlife being pursued. Keeping antlers, horns and mounted trophies is part of the tradition of hunting worldwide, and are viewed by hunters as a special connection with nature, a reminder of a memorable outdoor experience, and as a lasting tribute to a wild animal. Since the criticism of trophy hunting seems to have more to do with the actions of people (the trophy hunter) than the actual welfare of wildlife, the Boone and Crockett Club encourages every hunter to uphold the highest ethical standards whenever they hunt and apply peer pressure on others to do the same. The Club believes that if people have a clear understanding of big game trophies and hunting, and their judgments are based on facts, they will continue to advance the most successful system of wildlife conservation ever devised.
See the Boone and Crockett Club Essay on Fair Chase
See the Boone and Crockett Club Position Statement on Canned Shoots
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