The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Value of a Trophy

A Mythical Unicorn?
I am in Torino in this gorgeous Sunday morning. The sky is blue and the air is warming quickly. Spring is in the air! And, for the last several days it has been difficult for me to put the time aside to write a new post, but here we go.
People hunt for several reasons. Some for food (subsistence), others for profit (poaching), and a few because they need to prove something to themselves, but most of us I believe hunt because as Ortega Y Gasset said “men are fugitive from nature” and therefore we hunt to have a “vacation from our human condition.”
To most hunters the act of hunting is the biggest prize that we could have, and Robert Ruark put it perfectly that “the best part of hunting and fishing was the thinking about going and the talking about it after you got back.”
If we consider the above, a trophy is not really required to make hunt unforgettable. However, a trophy is something tangible that allows us to revive the experience and talk about the hunt many years, sometimes decades, after it took place, but it took me sometime to understand that.
To illustrate that, I would like you to read two excerpts from my book “A Wild Beast at Heart.”
From “Opening Day
By first light the fusillade almost made me think I was in Iraq or some other part of the world not as nice as Michigan and I started seeing something white across the field, but it was nothing more than some paper taped to a pole. Around eight, I missed, just missed, a very nice buck running at 60 or 70 yards. But since I was quite comfortable in my blind, I endured.
Nature was forgiving to me. Around nine, a nice sized buck came walking about 40 yards, directly in front of me. I took my time, put the cross hairs to his shoulders, kept moving my shotgun like on a very slow “high house” clay pigeon, and could see fur coming out of him when he was hit, and before he took off.
After a quarter of an hour or so we started trailing him. Bob was the first to find the blood spoor and we located the buck about a hundred yards into the trees (but it felt like a mile after I had to drag him) and for one moment I felt as being robbed of something. The left antler was crooked, twisted downwards and just barely attached to the skull skin. At once I remembered Robert Ruark’s “The Horn of the Hunter”, when after trailing Kudu for several days or weeks, he shoots this prize bull only to find out that he was an immature animal with only one curl in his horns. But this feeling only lasted a moment.
I drove home and brought my family back, so my kids could see that beef (or venison for the matter) doesn’t come from “Meijer’s”, and took the rest of the day butchering and packing the meat. I could say that this story ends at Christmas Eve tasting the very well prepared venison ham, but no. Those unimpressive antlers will keep bringing me back nice memories, especially of friendship. Thank you, Bob.
From “The Winterberg Journal
As we continued trailing, uphill, Munguezi, our tracker, spotted a bushbuck, one of Africa’s most beautiful antelopes. We scouted this particular animal for almost two hours before I could take a shot. Up and down hill, closer and farther, the sun shining on my rifle barrel and turning my scope in a perverse flashlight. We lost him in the bush until a young kudu bull spooked by Frans made him move again.
I shot my bushbuck at about 170 meters (or yards, who cares?) and he went down, out of sight. As the light was starting to fade Frans asked me to go along with Munguezi while he covered the general area with his rifle in case the animal tried to escape while we approached him. Frans was kind enough to remind me that bushbucks are very dangerous animals that will often charge when wounded.
Again, the approach was very exciting but we had to climb down a hill and climb up another before we reached the area the animal was when shot. We found the animal, dead from a fatal, if somewhat misplaced, neck shot. And disaster struck me once more. This absolute huge bushbuck, 15 and 1/5 inches horn length, suitable to ingress in the prestigious Rowland Awards big game record book, had a single horn, the missing one broken at the base.
My heart and soul are twisting at this moment. What to do with this magnificent animal? I need to think.
In Africa, our professional hunter, Frans Bussiahn ( had said that if were told by one of the PH’s to shoot an animal that was not a trophy animal, then we could shoot an additional animal of the same species at no additional cost. True to his word, be immediately made the offer for another bushbuck, but he said that I could only keep one of the trophies.
I should have remembered the story of my own first whitetail deer, but after some thinking I decided to hunt another bushbuck to have a nice representative specimen with both horns.  While it was great to hunt a bit more, getting the second bush buck was not as challenging as the first and almost anticlimactic, and although it made a very nice mount, in my mind it lacks the majesty and mystery of the green-eyed unicorn that I shot on my first day on safari.


  1. For those beyond the preparation, action and memory, they want to go beyond writing a book
    Eloir -from Brasil

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