By Alex Comstock
I've been thinking recently about how big bucks make people do things that are pretty crazy and dumb. And I'm not talking about in a good way. Not the crazy and dumb where you sit all day in a tree in single digit temperatures. I'm talking about about the crazy and dumb where people steal, trespass, poach, etc. all because of one thing - big bucks. Big antlers and giant bucks are awesome, no doubt about it, but when they start dictating you, or cause you to do illegal things that you otherwise would never think about doing, that's when it becomes a problem.
The million dollar question then becomes WHY? What really makes people go through with the action of stealing a trail camera, hanging that stand on the wrong side of a fence when they know it's trespassing, or any other thing to sabotage another hunter? To help understand why, I reached out to a few hunters that I respect to get their opinions on what makes some hunters do these crazy or illegal things.
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Dan Johnson, founder of the Nine Finger Chronicles Podcast and Blog and the Sportsmen's Nation Podcast Network says that, "Some people get so obsessed with big racks it makes them do crazy shit, they think that if they kill a big buck it will elevate them to some superstar status. You should never lie, cheat, or steal in the pursuit of wild game."
Curtis Zabel, owner of Behind the Bow brought up a lot of good points when answering this tricky question. "I think big bucks and antlers definitely test hunters' morals. It's sad actually. It's a jealousy/ego thing. Just like in business or in other areas of life, some resort to doing things out of line to be better than the 'competition' or to make money. One thing that makes it 100% unacceptable in the hunting industry is because you are literally taking another animal's life. There is a great deal of respect and responsibility when it comes to hunting and it's truly sickening when some have to resort to unethical practices and breaking the law. Unfortunately that's the world we live in today, with anything really. The best thing responsible hunters can do is lead by example. There's always going to be bad apples. Just do what is right and at the very least you know yourself that you did your part."
Lastly, Adam Crews, Co-Host of The Down South Hunting Podcast said that, "It really doesn't surprise me that people act the way they do over big antlers. Large antlered bucks are a status symbol, and everyone is out for attention in today's world of social media. Some people enjoy the challenge of taking a large deer and some just want the perception they are a great hunter, it's really kind of sad."
Based on my thoughts, and input from these guys, it seems to me that the top few things that drives people to do illegal or unethical things when it comes to hunting big bucks is ego, and thinking if you kill a big buck it will elevate your status.
I think that as hunters, we need to be cognoscente of everything we do. Hunter numbers are declining, and at the end of the day hunting needs to be portrayed in a positive light. Poaching, stealing, cheating, trespassing, or anything of that nature gives hunters a bad rap, and we need to avoid that as much as possible. For as amazing as deer and big bucks are, they aren't worth unethical or illegal actions. Hunting should be predicated on everything that goes into it. The whole scope of the hunt. The hard work, the memories created, and maybe every once in awhile you'll shoot a big buck too. But I can promise you this, a big buck shot legally and after putting in a lot of hard work will feel a million times better than having to do it illegally or unethically because you think you "need" to shoot a big buck.
Overall, I think topics such as this aren't discussed enough. Trust me, I would way rather be typing about spring scouting, or reflecting on my crappy shed hunting season right now, but I want to raise the point that at the end of the day there are too many hunters out there doing things that shouldn't be done. If you can influence even one person positively, you can make an impact. So I encourage you if you know someone like this, or ever run into a person like this, have the conversation. It might not be easy to have, but it could make a big difference in the long run. The more down to earth and ethical hunters in the world, the better.