Trophy hunting is a misunderstood topic these days, even among hunters. The many misconceptions and myths that surround trophy hunting have helped turn it into a controversial subject.

Some of these misconceptions are probably the result of anti-hunters deliberately looking to misconstrue the true benefits of trophy hunting and use it to divide the hunting community in general. However, some of the misconceptions about trophy hunting are undoubtedly the result of people being misinformed and ignorant of its benefits.

Hopefully, this article on trophy hunting will clear up some of the misconceptions about it and help set the record straight.

What is trophy hunting?

Put simply, trophy hunting is the careful and selective hunting of a particular wild game animal, usually because that particular animal has a desirable characteristic, such as large antlers/horns and/or a distinctive hide. Most hunters then keep the trophy — be it the hide and/or the antlers/horns of the animal — and preserve it as some sort of memento of the hunt.

This helps memorialize the memory of the hunt (and all of the experiences that went along with it) for the hunter. However, it also preserves the beauty and majesty of the animal, which lasts much longer and can be enjoyed by many more people in a trophy room or museum than it would in the wild.

Normally, trophy hunters target older animals that may be past breeding age, or at least are old enough to have had a chance to pass their genes along. Especially in the case of the very old animals that are often pursued by trophy hunters, they may be so old that they would not have survived the next winter or dry season, dying of exposure or starvation instead.

The great hunter Elgin Gates said it best in his description of trophy hunters:

"The true trophy hunter is a self-disciplined perfectionist seeking a single animal, the ancient patriarch well past his prime that is often an outcast from his own kind ... If successful, he will enshrine the trophy in a place of honor. This is a more noble and fitting end than dying on some lost and lonely ledge where the scavengers will pick his bones, and his magnificent horns will weather away and be lost forever."

Misconceptions about trophy hunting

On the surface, it would appear that a trophy hunter is only interested in the actual "trophy" of the animal. This is a common misconception that is reflected in comments like, "I'm OK with hunting for meat, but I think trophy hunting is wrong," which are made by hunters and nonhunters alike.

Comments like this help perpetuate the myth that trophy hunters are interested only in hunting for an animal's trophy. In fact, to hear some people talk, you would think that trophy hunters will shoot a big animal for its trophy, take some photographs, then cut the head off the animal and set the carcass on fire. This could not be further from the truth.

Hunting for meat and hunting for a trophy are not mutually exclusive. A hunter can shoot a buck with an impressive rack of antlers and still use the meat. In fact, failing to utilize as much of the edible meat of an animal possible is illegal in most jurisdictions of the United States, not to mention unethical as well.

All true trophy hunters fully utilize the meat, as well as the trophy, from all animals they hunt. Even the meat obtained from a buffalo or elephant trophy hunted in Africa is not wasted. The meat that is not consumed by the hunters in camp is given to the people in nearby villages, where it is eaten with much gusto.

I do not begrudge any hunter for hunting primarily for meat and not hunting for a trophy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with meat hunting, and I've done a fair bit of that myself over the years. I also agree that a "hunter" who shoots an animal just for the trophy and lets the meat go to waste is not worthy of being called a hunter and is an embarrassment to the rest of us.

That being said, I do not enjoy watching hunters fight with each other over the subject. You don't want to trophy hunt? No problem, it's a free country and nobody is making you. But don't turn around and criticize another person for trophy hunting.

The decision to trophy hunt, just like the decision to meat hunt, is a personal decision. There is nothing wrong with doing either one, as long as the hunter follows all laws and regulations, utilizes as much of the animal's meat as possible and treats the animal with dignity and respect.

Why trophy hunting is a good thing

The fact of the matter is that there is big money involved in trophy hunting. Hunters will pay a lot of money to shoot a large trophy animal, and that money goes toward supporting conservation in the United States and all around the world.

The money also provides a significant boost to the local economies near where the trophy hunting takes place. Unfortunately (as good as wild game meat tastes), people are not willing to spend nearly as much to hunt an animal only for the meat as they would to go on a trophy hunt.

Trophy hunting is the primary reason why Tanzania has large, robust populations of wild game. Neighboring Kenya (which has banned hunting since 1977) has much smaller populations of game.

Trophy hunting is how the populations of animals such as the Scimitar Horned Oryx, Addax and Dama Gazelle, which are hunted on game ranches in the United States, have flourished to the degree that animals captive bred on game ranches are being reintroduced into their wild habitat in Africa, where they are critically endangered. Though these are just a couple of examples of the tangible benefits of trophy hunting, the list goes on and on.

Like I said earlier: there is nothing wrong with not wanting to partake in trophy hunting, and I don't have any beef with people who prefer to hunt for other reasons (or not hunt at all). All I'm trying to do here is provide information to correct some of the most common misconceptions about trophy hunting and explain some of the benefits of it.

So the next time you hear someone start to bash trophy hunting, keep some of these points in mind and help set the record straight. Trophy hunters also use all the edible meat from their animals, and trophy hunting provides real, tangible benefits to conservation efforts.