Heads or Tails?

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

Among deer hunters, the topic of trophy hunting versus meat hunting has long been a source of serious - and sometimes heated - debate.

It’s surprising that deer hunters, who have so much in common, perceive themselves on opposite sides of the coin when it comes to trophy hunting or meat hunting. After all, most deer taken end up as food on the table, and all are trophies to some extent. Maybe for some folks the trophy part matters a little more, or vice versa, but it’s all the same coin, whether it comes up heads or rump roast.

Last year I had the opportunity to take two deer within minutes of each other. The first was a young doe that passed my tree stand while traveling from a small prairie plot to her bedding area in a nearby cedar thicket. The second was a yearling buck. I saw him dash away at the report of my blackpowder rifle, so I quickly reloaded and coaxed him back with a doe bleat.

Deer season would run another seven days that November, and 11 more days in December, but I was done, having filled my limit in 10 minutes.

Some trophy hunters are mystified by such behavior. Why, they wonder, would anyone put a premature end to a season that already seems too short?

For starters, I’m not such an accomplished deer hunter that I feel I can pass up an easy shot at a legal deer, let alone two. It’s not unusual for me to go an entire season without a chance to shoot even one deer. The opportunity to kill two in less time than it took me to dress for the hunt was a rare blessing.

Second, my family and I love venison. For a hunter who values completely natural, high-protein red meat unaltered by steroids, antibiotics and other additives, those two deer were definitely trophies by my definition. My decision to harvest them was a practical and satisfying way to end the season.

Nick and Rick Hilkemeyer of Freeburg have a different philosophy. They aren’t members of Safari Club International, and they have never entered a deer for recognition by the Boone and Crockett Club or the Show-Me Big Bucks Club. Still, they wouldn’t dream of using their last deer tag to shoot anything but a big-antlered buck before the last day or two of firearms deer season.

Their approach to deer hunting is different than mine,

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