Trophy Hunter, Meat Hunter or Just Plain Deer Hunter?

By Will Brantley writes Brow Tines and Backstrap

Some antler restriction proposals are on the table right now in Michigan, where Hansen lives, and last week he had the gall to suggest that both of the two archetypal sides of the debate -- the trophy hunters and the meat hunters -- aren't always completely honest when arguing their stance.

The meat hunters use their stance as a cop-out to oppose any rule that might prevent them from legally killing a small buck.

The trophy hunters promise that if only these new antler restriction rules are passed, Michigan will become the next Iowa.

My buddy from out of town passed on this little buck twice before shooting it on the last day of his hunt. He was happy, and I was happy for him. He's a pot-stirrer, that Hansen. And his post got a pretty lively discussion going. This isn't just a Michigan debate, of course. It's a big-picture, "us vs. them" debate that pops up in every level of deer hunting decision making, from the family club to the DNR.

Hansen's post was quite logical, and really, the only conclusion he drew was that there is no perfect solution. And yet, many of the comments to Hansen's post solidified exactly what he was saying: That the pervasive "me first" attitudes in deer hunting accomplish nothing.

I don't understand why this debate is so heated. Not many people “meat hunt” any more than me. We had Doe-burger Helper for dinner last night, and we eat venison at least two or three times a week, every week, all year long. When I’m sitting in a stand over a corn pile with my bow, I bring extra arrows so that if a whole herd of does comes in, I have a chance at killing all of them.

Much as I like to shoot does, I let forkhorns walk. I’m legally allowed to kill any antlered buck in Kentucky, but only one of them. There are a bunch of deer around here. Shooting a forkhorn is pretty easy, and if I did it, I wouldn’t get to hunt much. So I hold out. A 3 ½-year-old buck is simply a smarter animal than a year-and-a-half old buck, and therefore, more challenging to kill.

And as a product of his age, he has bigger antlers. When I see a good buck, whether he scores 115 or 140, I get excited. I have since I was a kid. Can’t help it. And to that end, I like knowing more bucks in the places I hunt live long enough to get “good.” So, perhaps I'm also a trophy hunter.

And yet, I don't care one bit if that forkhorn walks over the ridge and gets shot by another legal hunter. I'm happy for the guy (or girl). Maybe he only has a couple days per year to hunt, a litter of starving, adopted children at home, and needs a deer for the freezer. It’s not my place to say, “you shouldn’t shoot.” So it's back to meat hunter.

But then, the trophy hunter in me remembers the guy who kills the forkhorn and then acts a fool when the 12-pointer the next day. And I think, "You already shot your buck, Bub. Keep the complaints to yourself and the finger away from the trigger." Such is the way a one-buck rule works.

In most of Michigan, as I understand it, you are allowed two bucks. One can be any buck you want. The second must have four points to a side. Proposed new regulations mirror those that are in place in the U.P. and other select parts of the state. Hunters get a choice: one buck, any buck. Or two bucks that must both meet the four-point-per-side restriction.

I can’t see how even a dedicated meat hunter could have a problem with that. But neither can I see the huge difference it would make to the herd makeup. Most 2 1/2-year-old bucks meet the 4-point-per-side requirement.

I grew up hunting a one-buck state, and I guess I'm unlike many deer hunters in that I have few complaints of the KDFWR's management of the deer herd. Seems to me the "one and you're done" buck rule works pretty well.

Then again, Iowa and Illinois allows their resident hunters to kill two, even three bucks, in a season.

Hansen's right. There is no perfect solution. So maybe the safest thing is for me to refuse to pick a side. That’s been the Kentucky way since 1861. I can't pigeon-hole myself as a meat hunter or a trophy hunter. I’m just a guy who really likes deer hunting. And who wishes we could stop freaking arguing about it.