Why The Trophy Photo?

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I recently had a girlfriend (non-hunter) post a comment on a Facebook photo of mine that inspired me to write and share this piece.  It wasn't a mean, offensive or derogatory comment in any way. She is reasonable person and someone I have known a long time. It was important for me to explain to her the "why." My hope is that hunter or not, you take something away from this.

This is the photo:

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Friend-  I know this is your thing, but it makes me sad.

Me - It's ok. It makes me a little sad too, and it's not for everybody. I can't say that "happiness" is the emotion I feel. It's hard to take a life. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the animal. I help process the animal after the hunt. I feel that if I can't do the dirty work, I shouldn't be hunting. Some things I do feel though - Proud that I am feeding my family clean, antibiotic and hormone free meat. Good that this animal lived a good, free life and wasn't a factory farmed animal. Glad that I'm not contributing (or trying my best not to contribute to) the disgusting factory farming industry. Hunting is way more than a kill. It's about being outdoors, enjoying nature's great beauty, respecting wildlife management and knowing where my food is coming from. You know I fish and dive too. I’ve always loved knowing where my food was coming from. I know it makes some people sad and that's OK. I think it's important for me to take the time to give my friends a little insight into the why

Friend - That's a very reasonable response, thank you. I still don't get the trophy photos but do appreciate what you said.

This got me thinking...

So Why The Trophy Photo?

Why does anyone take a photograph? To remember something they are proud of? An accomplishment? A special experience they want to remember? Perhaps even a loved one at either the beginning or end of their life?

I called my friend, Jen “The Archer” Cordaro to pick her brain on the topic of Trophy Photos and she reminded me that there are many reasons people take photographs. She shared with me that in the Victorian Era it was common to take Post-Mortem photos of and with family members. Creepy now, but common practice in that time.  Journalists take photographs to document, not necessarily to celebrate. The point is that the “why” behind a photo taken is different for everyone.

So if  the reason behind taking a photo is different for everyone, then the reason for taking a photo with a hunted animal isn’t going to be the same for each hunter, nor is it going to be much different than someone else’s reasons for taking a photograph of something else. It is documentation of an accomplishment, or to capture a memory. Of course the term “accomplishment” is different for hunters vs non-hunters. People, who have never hunted or don’t know much about the process think it is similar to a photo taken with road kill….a photo with a dead animal for the sake of showing off the blood, guts and glory. Not really.

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My photo represents many things. It represents many hours of practice time with my bow.  It represents hundreds and hundreds of reps. I built up my draw weight up so that I could make a clean, ethical shot. It represents the time spent sighting in my bow so that whether at 10, 20, 30, 40 or more yards, when the time comes I make an accurate shot. This was also my first bow hunt.

That photo represents several days of scouting.  It means very early mornings and late evenings. It reminds me of the beautiful wonders of nature I was able to enjoy during the hours I was able to spend outdoors and the awesome sounds and smells that I get to take with me. It's the sparkling dew at dawn and the birds singing the praises of the rising sun. The glorious colors of the leaves in the trees as they start to turn color in the Fall and the splendor of the sun as it sets over the hillside. It’s the memory of breeze as it flowed through my blind, and of the mother mouse as she chirped and scurried in and out, feeding her babies. It’s contemplating the grandeur and complex beauty of nature while watching a doe take careful guard over her fawn.  It represents the decision made to pass on a buck because it wasn’t the right animal, or perhaps not a good shot to take.

The photo reminds me of my heart beating when the decision was made and the memory of when I drew back my bow. It reminds me of when I held my breath and took the shot, and waited. The photo represents tracking my buck not even 25 yards because the shot I made had been a good one.

This photo reminds me that I made this trip with my Dad. We had a wonderful time together. We bonded and enjoyed each other. These are special memories I will have long after my Father is no longer with me.

The photo also allows me to teach my children reverence for life and respect for animals and the food they provide us. I tell them about how the circle of life actually works and how we treat animals with kindness and never with cruelty or cause them unnecessary suffering. This photo allows me to teach them that even Mom can go out and bring back food to the table. It allows me to teach my girls, if they put their minds to it, can do anything that the boys can do.  So you see, this photo is SO much more than a picture with the dead deer. It is a memory of the entire experience and when I look at it I get to relive all of it.

I don’t care for the term “Trophy Photo.” What does “trophy” really mean anyway? Like a photograph, it means different things to different people. Yes, I am proud of the accomplishment. The trophy to me is the meat, the antlers, the fur and the memories. All of which are used and cherished. I am proud that I am a female who is able to accomplish this in such a male dominated sport/industry/field. I am happy to be able to feed my family clean, antibiotic and hormone free meat. I feel good when I am not contributing to factory farming. Hunting is a far more humane way to produce meat to eat.

Yes, I understand the “sadness” people feel when they see a hunting photo. I think the feeling is completely normal. There is room to feel sadness, respect, reverence and excitement when referring to hunting.

Not far off from the topic of the Trophy Photo is the subject of the Hierarchy of Cuteness.  Why is it OK (or at the very least not offensive or sad) to post a photo with a fish , or perhaps a lobster, but it is not OK to show a photo with a rabbit, deer, etc? Why is the life of a deer more important than that of a fish? Where did we learn this? Just “food” for thought.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lauren Hill- Lesagonicz
ReelCamo Girl  Founder 

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