For a long time, I’ve had people pin me as a trophy hunter. In my very first year of hunting, I got a chance at a buck of a lifetime. I put my very first punched tag on a 175” mule deer buck with nothing but a big ole smile on my face. After that, I was stuck on the idea of a big chocolate-antlered mountain mule deer. After a couple of years of harvesting mature mule deer and some years of eating my tag or tagging a whitetail doe, I started to hear things like, “Oh, she’s a trophy hunter,” “She’s just in it for the antlers,” and so on. I am a management hunter who also has to fill the freezer. This is the difference between the two.
Trophy Hunting vs. Herd Management
Trophy hunting is hunting an animal for a desired part of the animal, such as horns/antlers or body size. Often, people refer to trophy hunting as hunting for ONLY large antlers. A good example of a trophy hunter would be someone who hunts a large bull elk and has absolutely no interest in anything else that that animal has to offer besides the head and antlers. To me, and to many fellow hunters this is wrong. We hunt every year to put food on the table, and large antlers are often just a bonus.
Herd management is carefully choosing and selecting the animal you decide to harvest out of a herd based on things like age and the impact the animal has on the herd. When hunting, I have chosen to practice good herd management. Choosing to do so is a decision everybody has the freedom to make. I decided to practice herd management because I often hunt in the same areas and would like to see young bucks grow to be mature bucks that will breed does. This is why I will typically choose to harvest a large-bodied doe over an immature buck, given the opportunity. I will also harvest a “heavy” buck that has a good age class and is very much mature.
When taking the mature buck out of a herd some people worry about the quality of the meat. This is where your freedom to decide comes into play. A couple of years ago my mom shot a buck that was estimated to be between 8-10 years old. He survived a broken jaw and nearly had no teeth. As a family, we had harvested many deer that year. However, he was the best game meat we had in the freezer that year. Many times, I struggle to tell the difference between a doe and a big mature buck when it comes to meat quality.