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Over the last few weeks, the arguments against trophy hunting have once again come to the forefront. After a presidential remark on allowing the import of foreign hunting trophies that were previously banned, the public outcry has been loud and at times vicious, thus resulting in a hold on the change in policy.
Not since Cecil the lion’s demise has the public been in such an uproar. Likely a combination of distrust and distaste for the current holder of the keys to the White House, as well as a lack of understanding of conservation efforts, many articles and opinion pieces have come out regarding the practice. And yes, this is yet another opinion piece as well.
Trophy hunting gets a bad name. For one, anti-hunters have a loud voice. Then there are those who do not care to hunt themselves, but regard themselves as understanding of how conservation efforts work with the hunting community. As a result, they like to throw shade at just the trophy hunting side of the sport and industry.
Both subsets of non-hunters are wrong.
Yes, that is a bold statement, but what do you expect from a lifelong hunter and family member of a former trophy hunter? And yes, this is my disclosure into my why I have the beliefs I do.
Most arguments for trophy hunting go along with two main points. The first point is regarding money. Money makes the world go-round, as the saying goes. Trophy hunters pay a lot of money to be able to chase the biggest and baddest of the creatures that roam the planet. Usually this influx of income is very rewarding to the areas that are otherwise money-deprived. Not only is the money paid to the outfitter, but the outfitter hires locals to help guide, transport hunting necessities and prepare the fresh kill.
In Africa particularly, trophy hunters tend to stay in what would be regarded as five-star resorts here in the United States. Again, the money pays for the dwelling and all the support personnel such as the innkeeper, cooks and maid services.
As far as the meat, regardless of whether we in the U.S. consider the game as a true dish or not, the villages and local tribes often depend on the game that is taken.
This is not only an African continent scenario.
The first female to take a polar bear with a bow currently has her trophy sitting in a sports department store in Canada. The U.S. would not recognize the legal taking of the polar bear. Thus, she had to leave it on the other side of the border. As for the kill, the thousand pounds of meat supplied the village with food for several months, the transport to get her to the village brought extra supplies to the village and the money she paid for both the hunt and transport was used for those supplies that were taken.
No, the polar bear is not an endangered species as many Americans believe. Neither is the elephant species that was at the forefront of this whole debate.
But even with those two arguments, the real reason trophy hunting is not a bad thing is it is one of the most effective conservation tools that wildlife management has been able to come up with.
Again, money is the key. The costs of the permits go towards protecting the various species that are being hunted, as well as associated species. And that protection comes in two variances.
Number one, it provides the land in which the creatures, both large and small, can dwell. If human encroachment shrinks the areas of habitat, the trophies dwindle, and the size of the big game gets smaller. You can look at North Carolina’s whitetail population as an example. Knowing people will pay big money to hunt big animals, the governments make sure to keep large natural areas in which the creatures can survive and thrive.
Second, the monies also provide security for those preserves and hunting habitats. Poaching remains the number one illegal threat to endangered and threatened species. The wildlife enforcement in foreign areas resemble more of a small army rather than what we are accustomed to here in the U.S. And, it is needed.
While historically, trophy hunting is a rather new take on the pursuit of animals, we have gone from a time in which wild game was the top source of food to a time when conservation of wild species is more important. And trophy hunting is one of the keys to that conservation.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.