A trophy is in the eye of the beholder
By: John Martino
Every year I hope things will be different. Guess I was wrong. Just last week while answering messages on social media I came across a picture of a young man posing with a nice buck he had recently taken. He was proud, as he should be. Amid the notes of congratulations, there it was. Some guy had posted “should have waited, he would have been a trophy next year.” “It’s a trophy now!” I couldn’t help but post.
The phrase “trophy buck” has been around for decades or even longer. Even petroglyphs depict animals with gigantic antlers. So what really constitutes a “trophy?” Without a doubt it can be a deer of any size, even a yearling doe. Don’t believe me. Ask any child or beginner about the very first deer they have taken with archery equipment and see how they feel about it. I guarantee it is a memory that will be cherished for the rest of their life and a trophy in their eyes.
To some veteran hunters a trophy may have to be above a certain score. “Score” is basically the measurement in inches of antlers. There is a precise method to figure this total. For most there are two basic record books where these scores matter. For archery hunters there is the Pope and Young record book which accepts a buck sporting 125 inches of antler. Boone and Crocket minimum is 160 and is for animals taken with gun, bow or muzzle-loading equipment. But trust me, there are far more “trophies” never listed in these books of record.
So is trophy hunting all about inches of antler? For some yes and that’s too bad. But for others it could be their first deer regardless of size. Maybe for others it could be some special circumstance that led to a successful hunt.
One of my own special trophies involved taking a decent nine point buck. It was far from some of the bigger ones collected through the years but this one was a trophy to me. It involved painstakingly sneaking up on him from ground level with my bow in hand, then actually getting close enough for an ethical shot.
Another trophy is actually one of the smallest bucks I have ever taken. It was my very first deer, a small six-pointer taken back in 1976. That deer still graces my wall, reminiscent of years gone by, a reminder of the beginning.
I personally believe that hunting specifically for a huge set of antlers has hurt hunting. It has reached a point where high-fenced hunting can provide almost anyone with a gargantuan buck, provided you have enough money. On a side note, bucks taken from these types of facilities are not included in record books.
A true trophy, taken fair chase, is anything the hunter desires. To an experienced hunter a small six pointer may not be worth pulling the trigger or dumping the string. But to a 10 year-old, or first timer, regardless of age, it sure is.
Speaking of beginning hunters, too many times they hear stories or see others who have taken great sized bucks. Unfortunately they seem to believe if they don’t have an opportunity at an adult buck they should pass. What they fail to learn by doing this is gaining valuable outdoor experience when the moment of truth finally presents itself and then having the knowledge of what to do afterwards. To a beginner, the first shot at any deer provides moments when they feel like they are coming unhinged. Buck fever isn’t reserved for only those deer that carry a rack. Does can do the same for a novice. Because of this I have always believed a new hunter should take the first deer they can, regardless of size.
So the next time you see anyone who has been successful offer them a sincere, heartfelt “congratulations” and keep what you personally consider a “trophy” to yourself. After all, a trophy is in the eye of the beholder – not yours.
Below; "Lane Waddell, a graduate of Howard County's Hunter Education program collected this great buck during this year's early archery deer hunting season."
Photo Provided. And 2nd photo "Avery Fields took his first buck during this year's archery deer hunting season."