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.
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.