The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 29, 2013

Shoot Tarzan, just don't call it a hunt

By John Cross
The Mankato Free Press

---- — Since the Minnesota archery deer season opened two weeks ago, many hunters have logged many hours in their stands waiting for a trophy buck to wander by.

Before that, they probably spent weeks scouting, viewing trail camera photos, erecting stands in promising ambush points, all for the chance to harvest one for the wall.

But they really wouldn’t have to work so hard.

They could just go to Craig’s List, where forking over $9,400 could buy them the opportunity to shoot “Tarzan,” a 4-year-old, big-racked whitetail buck that apparently has outlived his usefulness as a stud at a deer farm near Vergas, Minn.

Sporting impressive head gear scoring about 240 points, Tarzan is billed by his owner as the “Buck of Bucks.”

Now, if you’re a proponent of free markets and good old-fashioned capitalism, it’s hard to blame a fellow for trying to make some bucks from the buck.

After all, big antlers are big business. Trophy racks can fetch pretty fair sums from serious antler collectors.

So sell ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.

But from a hunter’s point of view, there is something sad, even a little pathetic, in all of this.

Stalking a tame deer that is confined to a fenced, 25-acre site isn’t a hunt. It’s an execution.

A fundamental tenet of modern-day hunting is the idea of fair chase, of pursuing wild game roaming free and unfenced.

Admittedly, the idea of what constitutes fair chase can be a regional and cultural perception: In Texas, hunts within the confines of high fences are business as usual.

We can argue the fine points — some of those fences stretch around hundreds, even thousands of acres.

Nevertheless, the animals are confined.

Likewise, in many states, animals frequently have their noses buried in bait piles or are foraging beneath motorized feeders when a hunter draws a bead on them.

Fortunately, neither of those practices constitutes what most Minnesota hunters perceive as fair chase.

In the case of baiting, it is specifically illegal.

But the allure of wrapping one’s hands around the gleaming tines of a trophy-class whitetail is a powerful one.

Always has been, always will be.

But especially now, with outdoor television shows emphasizing trophies instead of experiences, it seems to have reached a fever pitch.

Watching one of those programs is like driving past a bad accident. While one would prefer not to look, it’s hard not to sneak a peek.

Big bucks are the rule. Apologies are made for killing an average buck or a doe. The moral high ground is claimed by celebrity hunters who choose to pass on less-than-trophy class animals and depart with an unfilled tag — an easy thing to do when you’re not the one paying for a costly, non-resident license.

Sure, it’s hunting. But it’s Hollywood hunting.

Every deer hunter hopes to bag trophy at some point in their hunting experience.

No doubt someone with a large bankroll and an ego to match will pony up the asking price for the opportunity to shoot Tarzan. The antlers will go on the wall.

Fortunately, no matter what it scores, because of the circumstances, it will never be recorded in the annals of Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett.

We can all wonder what kind of bragging rights come with shooting such a big buck.

Under the circumstances, probably not very many.

And thanks, but we can all do without seeing the video.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at jcross@mankatofree