Ethical Hunter

Taking On Antler Addiction

Most of history’s best decisions have not been made with a tumbler of straight bourbon whisky in hand. However, profound thinking and whisky are fine companions. What I’m getting at is this: I’ve been holding off on this post for a while. Why? Because I wanted to get it right. But in the end, that’s just wrong. Blogs are for pouring out ideas and sparking debate. So here goes.

For the past several years, I have watched as the Deer & Deer Hunting offices have experienced a large uptick in letters, calls and e-mails from hunters dismayed by what we have collectively termed as a national antler addiction. In fact, some of our most applauded and contentious articles and television shows have attempted to dive into this subject, bringing both acclaim and anger from our hunting readers.

A quick scan of a local newsstand this weekend revealed D&DH is no longer the only magazine taking up this issue. Many of the other national publications have either toed or dove directly into this discussion of an ailing deer hunting ethic. And it is a sticky discussion because, at it’s heart is a natural drive for hunters to measure their success and the very primal nature of antlers themselves.

It’s murky water. And for ethical hunters, I think it’s worthwhile and necessary to fully explore this subject. In my opinion (which is the whole point of a personal blog), there really is nothing wrong with an antler fascination and attraction. Antlers captivate us because their very purpose is to awe and convey virility and strength. The problems arise when the attraction crosses a line into addiction and hunters place large antlers above herd management, stewardship, sportsmanship and even decency. Antler addiction is bad because, like any addiction, it spirals to spawn a whole host of negative activities and emotions.

So are big antlered bucks to blame? Nope. How about the hunters who delight in the taking of these animals? Certainly some cross the line, but not all.

big whitetail antlers huge whitetail rack
I think the evils of antler addiction are a symptom of society. OUR society. To put it bluntly, our keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, instant gratification, no-fault-of-our-own, over-commercialized way of life. This is what turns quality deer management focused on healthy ecosystems into trophy deer management or worse.

If you look closely at the ugly side of big buck hunting, the nasty issues always revolve around egos, glorification or greed.  Often I think property owners look at the enormous time and monetary investment they put into their management programs and feel they must show a return on that investment. Few see less obvious returns of a healthy ecosystem and natural balance. Greed and egos are just that.

So what is an ethical hunter to do? Shun big bucks? Hardly. I think it is important to focus attention on the less obvious returns. Place an emphasis on land ethic. Simply; enjoy antlers, but do not enjoy them more than the hunt and do not place the hunt above its purpose. 

6 thoughts on “Taking On Antler Addiction

  1. timberdawg

    This should be a headline to every hunter ed class going on now. We as hunters should first & foremost make our claim as conservationists. There are too many areas throughout the eastern US where the white-tailed deer herd is out of control and has resulted in the decimation of the understory flora. I ONLY shoot does and will continue to do so as I recognize my purpose in this game is not bragging rights – but to assist in the management of a wildlife population.

  2. jon 5buck

    Great topic-i truly believe the ”antler illeness” craze has hurt deer hunting’s image from a general perspective.Anyone who reads my posts,knows how i feel.I agree that almost every hunter is in awe at the big rack bucks..me included,but the emphasis is always on giving thanks to our creator for harvesting the animal,than refelecting on actually taking of the deers life….and lastly is celebrating the hunt. It bothers me ,when i a guy walks up to a deer and all you here is he’s a 160..maybe 170-175 inch deer look at those g2′s and his brow tines ..blah blah blah…your lost when you follow a man like this,because he has forgotten about his first hunt and killing does and fawns,,his only feeling of self worth is in the antlers …you can see it in their eyes…they will lie and pretend they still”get it” but the truth is they dont,and most with this type of attitude think the rest of us are either slob hunters and just incapable of harvesting a 3yr old buck.This is just my opinion,and im not mad at the guys that are like that..i just pity them..for they have truly lost their way with what deer hunting is about.

  3. WHB

    I agree. Greed I think is at the root of almost all downfalls in society. People are just never happy with what they have or have gotten and I blame industry. Those who contastantly put on so called hunting shows where the only message is big racks and selling products that supposedly helped the hunter get that big buck. There are so few show that focus on the experience, friendship and future generations. Sure there are some that include youth, but even most of those they are pushing taking a big buck. Sad times

  4. Dan

    Very well thought out post. I too think antler addiction is a result of our lifestyle. One only needs to watch the evening news to see the same things happening in all facets of our lives. The problem is we haven’t done anything as a society to stop any of it, in fact, we go out of our way to marginalize most of these issues that spring up.

    America, as a whole, used to be a guiding light to the rest of the world in matters of justice and ethics. Now it’s probably the best example of what happens when society doesn’t hold anyone accountable for their actions and lets the fox run the hen house.

  5. HoulieMon

    There was a time when the average hunter was lucky enough to get a nice buck once in a life time . Now it seems that every one wants one every year ! In the state of Maine at one time points did’nt matter they wanted weight ! The bigger the better and they shot some real woppers ! Deer close to and sometimes over the 300lbs mark were not uncommon ! I’ve seen som incredible bucks over the years and even managed to shoot two nice ones over the years. But I’ve also shot alot of smaller ones and doe’ s also !

  6. rudy

    A trophy is in the eye of the beholder. For me, I love shooting does because I’m a meat hunter. Re: antlers, I’d rather shoot a spike on public land than a 160 class buck on an outfitter hunt.

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