Trophy hunting is passé

It’s time to protect our remaining wildlife heritage

Ernest Hemingway immortalized the African big-game hunter: handsome, strong, brave—standing firm in the face of potential death from a charging lion, buffalo or elephant. But Hemingway died in 1961 and the concept of killing the biggest and best for no reason other than to have done it should have died with him.

As an ex-hunter, I understand the chase, the hunt and the kill. Personally, I never killed anything I didn’t plan to eat. My last hunt was in 1981, when I found “hunters” on motorcycles far into a canyon it had taken me all day to walk to. Since that time, I have seen “hunting” taken over by technology.

My old deer rifle is obsolete, as it only holds four cartridges (two more than I ever needed on a hunt). The norm now is a military-type rifle with 10-plus-shot clips equipped with night-vision scopes. Nowadays, video-equipped drones are employed to search for animals from the comforts of camp (usually a fully equipped RV). Still, hunting is often necessary to keep game populations in check and needs to continue on a regulated basis.

But here’s the rub: Wildlife populations have decreased drastically worldwide in the past 50 years. A study recently published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science indicated “Large herbivores—elephants, hippos, rhinos and gorillas—are vanishing at a startling rate, with some 60 percent threatened with extinction.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently warned the African lion faces the threat of extinction by the year 2050. And studies indicate that the removal of the biggest and best animals from a population tends to upset the social order, often resulting in accelerated population declines.

The time has come for society to bury the concept of trophy hunting in the same cemetery where market hunting was buried in the 1900s, when the passenger pigeon and a number of waterfowl species were hunted to extinction or near extinction. In light of a rapidly changing Earth, retaining our remaining wildlife heritage is too critical for an individual to hang the mounted head of the last of a species on an office wall as a “trophy.”