Monday, July 25, 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 to 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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Brian said...

Amen Othmar,

I also believe much the 'blame' lies with big-buck TV shows and organizations like SCI that promote and perpeptuate the notion that the primary purpose of hunting is record book uber-alles. If the horns or antlers dont make 'book' the hunt wasn't a full success. Of course many hunters consume that doctrine too, unfortunately. We all like big bucks but the obsession and competiton with bone-length is unfortunate.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Hi Brian. Thank you for your comment and valued input on the topic.


SimplyOutdoors said...

Unfortunately, I think antler addiction is very real, Othmar.

While I understand the desire to shoot a large buck - we all want to - I do believe that that desire has completely taken over.

Your example of QDM is perfect. The principles of the organization are great, and I abide by some of their guidelines, but I will not join the organization because I've been turned off by too many of their members who look down upon those who shoot younger deer, specifically what they consider "smaller" bucks.

It would be a nice change of pace, though, to not watch a hunter on TV, verbally whispering what the deer will score before letting it pass or putting it on the wall.

And for the record - I'll shoot a simple doe any day of the week - no antlers required!

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thank you Arthur, you make some very good points. It seems we think alike on this issue. Antler addiction seems to has gotten a firm grip on hunters over the past few years. I can get especially upset when I see or hear of new and young hunters that go many years without shooting a deer because they rather wait for that "special deer" than "waste" an arrow/bullet on a "lesser" deer.


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