High Spirit: Celebrating Thriving Wildlife
Recent Pope & Young banquet spurs
By Ted Nugent
My eyes virtually bugged out of my face, little rivulets of drool forming at the corner of my trembling mouth. I hyperventilated. My heartbeat and pulse thumped like a hyper speed metal rock’n’roll double bass drum from hell, and the hair on my arms and neck quivered and rose to the occasion. The sheer outrageous sea of hornage before me was beyond my wildest big-game dreams.
Along with hundreds of families from around the world, I was staring at four walls covered with the most beautiful, stunning mounted heads of the world’s largest deer, elk, moose, buffalo, caribou, antelope, muskox, bighorn sheep, cougar, grizzly, polar and black bears ever seen in a single setting. This was the 40-year anniversary of the Pope & Young club’s bi-annual trophy awards recording session, and a grand celebratory spirit consumed the Salt Lake City Convention Center. The Spirit of the Wild glowed all around.
Numerous world records had once again been broken, and we all knew why. Since the inception of scientifically based wilkdlife management began at the insistence of hunters in the late 1800s big game populations have improved exponentially year after year. What a world record elk irrefutably represents is certainly the biggest, baddest, healthiest specimen of its time in more than 100 years, cut and dried. Literally.
The evidence is inescapable. Record-book deer, elk, bear, moose, buffalo, antelope, caribou, cougar and others proves conclusively that this incredibly disciplined, ultra selective trophy hunting community performs the ultimate benefit for wildlife populations. In order to qualify for the Boone & Crocket, Pope & Young or various state record-keeping organizations, a big-game animal must be healthy and almost in every instance, very old. And in the animal world, very old equates to being beyond breading capability or providing any tangible benefit to the herd. In most cases, older male specimens are banished fro m the herd and go off on their own to die a slow, agonizing death by starvation or being eaten alive by other predators.
It is interesting to note as well that most older critters that would set world records are never encountered by hunters and vanish without a trace. I am glad that so many are taken by hunters not only for the thrills and challenges of the hunt and the food they provide the hunter’s families—plus incredible sums of revenues generated via these hunts— but mostly importantly for the valuable data they have provided over the years for further and better management information. Even in death, these majestic beasts benefit the wild, their species and mankind. Celebrate the Great Spirit!
Like The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), The Federation of North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), The Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Whitetails Forever, Pheasants Forever, The Grouse Society, Quail Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, the Mule Deer Association and so many conservation organizations dedicated to these precious renewable wildlife resources, it is very easy to see why wildlife is thriving in North America like nowhere else in the world. Even in the face of dramatically dwindling habitat, game and non-game species are doing great because these hunting organizations’ hands-on understanding of real wildlife needs and conditions drive us to manage habitat and harvests accordingly.
Many wildlife lovers outside the hunting community join us in this glowing success story. Even the famous TV personality Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter,” states quite emphatically in Scientific American magazine, that “habitat destruction” is the most important issue facing his home county of Australia, here in America and the whole wold today. Those who actually walk on the wild side know this truth. I repeat, wildlife habitat is where our air, soil and water quality come from. Everybody should be helping these hunting organizations. If intellectual truth instead of emotional hysteria motivated everyone, they would.
Those ignorant souls who criticize and condemn trophy hunters are absolutely full of baloney. First of all, most trophy animals are taken by chance, as a rare lucky encounter with an outsized beast coincidentally comes together for some fortunate hunter just out to hunt. And in virtually every case, dictated by laws and standard hunters ethics, all the valuable meat is utilized way before any head is taken to the wildlife artist taxidermist. The facts are clear.
With literally thousands and thousands of entries every year into many record books around the country, these staggering numbers occur every year, but only represent a minor fraction of the overall annual harvest of all species. That reality adds up to an amazing dynamic truth just how renewable these resources truly are. Isn’t it ridiculous that anyone believes there could even be an anti-hunting argument?
You would have to be pretty dam stupid to deny more than 100 years of consistent evidence. But then there have always been stupid people. I can only hope that they wake up and smell the wonderful, gargantuan field of roses that shine before them. I often wonder just what they are trying to accomplish. I guess weird will always be weird.
Meanwhile, I am going to continue to support all these great hunting/conversation groups. They work tirelessly throughout the year raising millions and millions of dollars, donating by millions and millions of hunters across the land, all for the continued benefit of wildlife and wildlife habitat. It is truly the greatest success story in the history of the world.
When I travel to Africa, for example, it is so very obvious how it all works. Where I see thriving populations for elephant, rhino, hippo, lion, leopard, cheetah, cape buffalo, kudu, eland, sable, gemsbok, giraffe, warthog, impala, zebra, wildebeest, nyala, reedbuck, klipspringer, blesbok, bontebok, tssessebe, duiker, steenbok, and all those fascinating wild creatures, it is always on wild ground where legal hunting is an ongoing business. Conversely, where I see no wildlife at all, there are goats, cattle, vineyards, golf courses and “No Hunting” signs. Intellectually, the choice is ridiculously obvious, unless of course feeling good is more important than doing the right thing. As a hunter who lives with these awesome beasts. I will continue to dedicate my life to educating and motivating people to do the right thing.