Photo of NHL player Clayton Stoner with head of grizzly bear earlier this year spurred debate over trophy hunting.
News reports today reveal that a recent public opinion survey shows only 10 per cent of British Columbians favour trophy hunting.
In response, the trophy hunters are blaming “urban” dwellers for not understanding what hunting is all about.
“It’s not surprising because I think a lot of people in urban centres are not necessarily familiar with what hunting is. And hunting does capture a diverse range of activities, including hunting for food and hunting for trophies,” Sheldon Clare, a member of the Prince George Rod and Gun club, is quoted as saying.
He also says “all aspects of hunting play an important role in B.C.’s game management process — as well as providing significant economic benefits to the province.”
In truth, trophy hunting is the opposite of the way Mother Nature manages things. She thins out the oldest and the weakest, strengthening the gene pool. Trophy hunting is about killing the biggest and the best of a species, weakening the gene pool.
Interestingly, the Insights West poll framed its question on trophy hunting as “hunting animals for sport (trophy hunting).” All hunters regard what they do as “sport,” which is arguable, but trophy hunting is the least defensible form of hunting.
I wrote about it almost two years ago, in a blog and Kamloops Daily News column under the headline, “Trophy hunting is no easy gig.”
It ran Dec. 17, 2011, as follows:
BY MEL ROTHENBURGER
This newspaper published a picture last week of four people with a California bighorn ram.
The only one not smiling was the ram, which is understandable given that it was dead and, indeed, bodiless. When it was shot in 1920 it was believed to be close to a world record.
Not having further use for the stuffed head, the nice lady who inherited it thoughtfully turned it over to the Rocky Mountain Rangers, as a ram forms part of the company’s insignia.
I propose no criticism of this kindly gesture, though I’ve always found taxidermy to be a grotesque, albeit skilled, practice. This is because I find the notion of killing animals whose only offence is to be the biggest, strongest or prettiest of their species disturbing.
Trophy hunting is an aberrant twist on the concept of wildlife stewardship. I recently talked with a pleasant gentleman who likes to go to Africa to shoot animals, the bigger the better. I presume he’s a member of a group known as the Boone and Crocket Club, whose major raison d’etre is to hunt down the best examples of the gene pools of species throughout the world.
When they “bag” a “good one” (and there are criteria for determining what is “a good one” and what isn’t) they are awarded points. The ultimate brass ring is entry into the club’s records book.
The record for an elk, for example, is a magnificent bull with nine points on one antler and 14 on the other. It is, the B&C acknowledges, an “incredible” specimen. His descendants, if any survive, would be proud, I’m sure. (For the record, as it were, the biggest land mammal ever killed for “sport” was a 13-ft.-high Angolan elephant brought down by three men who blazed away at him for several hours one day in 1956.)
At this time of year, when most of us are thinking of Santa and eight tiny reindeer, trophy hunters have visions of a nice set of antlers above the mantel.
Being a trophy hunter is no easy gig. The rigours of tracking down four-hoofed adversaries are explained in the latest edition of Outdoor Life magazine: “You’re cold, you’re tired and you’re frustrated. The last remaining days of deer season might not be for the faint of heart, but it’s a great time to take the biggest deer of your life.”
One veritably weeps in sympathy for the gallant “sportsman” who has little more than a 4X4, thermal long johns and a high-powered rifle for defence against the vicious ungulates that prowl the forests.
It has been said homo sapiens is the only species on the planet that kills for fun. That’s not quite true — my old cat Square Box seemed to find pleasure, on occasion, in tossing around a fat mousie before crunching it up.
Non-human hunters, though, take what they can find; they don’t go looking to cull prime specimens. Even Square Box enjoyed a tiny vole as much as he did a two-pound pack rat.
No, I’m afraid you’ll never hear me compliment a trophy hunter on bagging a big one.
In a world in which we regard animals as our play things rather than sentient beings, how encouraging it is to learn, on these same pages, of the man who is trying to stop careless motorists from slaughtering deer as they cross busy Westsyde Road.
Thank you, Gerd Dessau, for reminding us there are still people among us who understand the definition of stewardship.