Thursday, July 14, 2011

Antler Addiction

© By Othmar Vohringer

I’ve been holding off with this column for a while now. Why? For two reasons. First I was not sure if the hunting community would perceive it as a slander and second I wanted to get it right. So why write it now? Well I thought about it and in the end found it’s just wrong to worry about what other might think or if I get it right. So here it goes.

For the past several years I’ve received a considerable amount of emails and calls from readers of my blogs, newspaper columns and hunting magazines articles, that are dismayed by the amount of “antler addiction” that is going on. Or, as one email writer said it. “No matter what magazine I read or hunting TV show I watch, it’s always about big antlered deer and bigger antlered deer and I am getting tired of it.” That hunter is not alone. There are many others that feel the same way. The simple fact is that big antlers sell magazine and increase viewers for hunting TV shows. But does that make it right?

It’s a tricky discussion because at the heart of it all it is human nature to be competitive, wanting to be better than the next guy or simply doing better than in the past. Outdoor writers know about this competitiveness, they are part of it, and so most keep writing articles about the “ten secrets to hunt big antlered trophy bucks” or “how to grow you own monster bucks on your land.”

How far this obsession with trophy-sized deer has gone becomes clear with the Quality Deer Management. From the onset this has been a very noble program aimed to improve the overall health of deer herds, but over the years it had been reduced to nothing more than a management program to achieve maximum antler growth. The question I ask myself is this antler addiction we all seem suffer from, yes I like big antlers too, doing the hunting sport any good? Or more to the point. What are we teaching our children and future generation of hunters with this addiction to antlers? I don’t think that there is anything wrong with the antler fascination. The problem arises when the attraction crosses the fine line into addiction and hunters begin to place large antlers before herd management, stewardship and sportsmanship. Antler addiction is not good because, like any addiction, it spirals into and obsession that can spawn a whole host of negative activities and emotions.

So are hunters to blame for this antler craze? Certainly some are, but not all. I believe the evils of antler addiction are a symptom of society in general. We’re a society focused mainly on keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, instant gratification, entitlement and totally commercialized-way-of-life. This is what turns quality deer management focused on healthy ecosystems into trophy deer management, or worse, greed. I think it is important to re-focus our attention on the less obvious returns. Place an emphasis on the hunt. By all means enjoy antlers, but do not enjoy them more than the hunt and do not place the hunt above its real purpose.


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Jason Gill said...

I feel pretty much the same way. The one thing that comes to mind to me is most people only dream about getting large racks. They do not have the land to manage trophies. As for myself I do like large antlers but I do my part in the management of deer. Good story though it gets you to think about the subject.

Othmar Vohringer said...

I like large antlers too. Who doesn't? But what really disturbs me a bit is how many young and novice hunters are suckered in by this promotion of big antlers. I lost count how many times I've heard thins like. I rather wait for a big buck rather than waste my arrow/bullet on a small buck or doe. Most of these hunters haven't shot any deer. With an attitude like that some of these young and new hunters may never kill a deer ever.


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