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Asterisk needed when hunt guides do the work

Perhaps the day has arrived for the hunting record books to catch up with Major League Baseball. The way trophies are listed needs to be revised. To be fair, the day of the asterisk has arrived.

Let’s face it, the likes of Boone, Crockett, Pope, Young and Teddy Roosevelt appear to be gone. Trophy hunting today isn’t what it used to be. Proper recognition for hunters taking trophies isn’t what it used to be either.

Somehow we need to separate the trophies taken by the free hunters (the do-it-yourselfers) from the fee hunters (the ones who are using their dollars to bag trophy big game).

If money is involved in any way, shape or form, the trophy listings should have an asterisk behind them.

Don’t think of the asterisk as a penalty. In fact, it’s going to be a free bonus for hunting-service providers. But more than that, it’s going to be a statement of the world of hunting today.

Hunting has changed.

The poster child for the asterisk approach is the so-called “Spider Bull” that the Boone and Crockett Club accepted as the new world elk record last year. That bull, shot in Utah by an Idaho hunter, was the result of a team approach to hunting, marketing and technology with the shooter playing the smallest of roles in taking the trophy.

As the story played out, videos of the big bull were taken the previous summer, teams of scouts and spotters went out to find the bull and follow it and, in the end, the hunter got a phone call at home to drive to Utah and shoot the bull.

Nothing was illegal about the taking of the Spider Bull. And, pretty much based on that, the bull was accepted as the world record.

Washington’s record bull elk was shot in a similar manner two years ago.

The word I hear around Montana is that similar things are happening here for record-book trophies, including the quest for a world-record bighorn sheep from the Missouri Breaks. Airplanes are being used to locate big sheep (but not on the same day that hunters are out which would make it illegal). Scouts and spotters are out. Putting the actual license-holders in position for a shot is the last and least part of the equation.

Yet another part of the asterisk approach involves outfitting and fee hunting where access to the big-game trophies is bought and sold. Some of these situations are almost like a game-ranch shooter operation where big game is protected until it reaches trophy proportions, then “the hunt” for it is sold to those affluent enough to pay for it.

We’re not talking about things that are illegal here. But it’s a far cry from the hard-working, put-in-the-time, hone-your-skills, do-it-yourselfer, which is primarily what trophy hunting was all about until the past 20 years or so.

Some do-it-yourselfers are still out there. I’ve had friends who put in for decades for hard-to-draw tags and then dedicated entire preseasons and seasons to making good on their dreams for a trophy. When they got their trophy, they’d earned it with skill, hard work and plenty of perspiration, not with the weight of their wallets.

So let’s split out the trophy heads between the groups. You don’t need to create new lists. Just add an asterisk if money was involved.

Outfitters, the team hunters, the techno group and the fee operations could crow about how many asterisks they put into the record books and use it in their sales and marketing.

Do-it-yourselfers could point with pride to the trophies they took on their own.

Some states might find it difficult to find any trophy listings without an asterisk behind them. In Montana, it would be pretty easy to distinguish between the two.

But easy to designate or hard to separate, the day has arrived to put those record-book trophies into perspective.

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