There's something about a room full of trophy taxidermy that can really inspire the sportsman in me. Exceptional examples of the North American wildlife species we've come to revere always suck me in, whether it's a bighorn sheep, a mountain lion, or a massive moose. It's like I could sit and stare for hours.
That's how it felt when I got an exclusive look at the Boone and Crockett Club's trophy display for this summer's 31st Big Game Awards, a recognition event highlighting the record book-worthy hunting harvests of North American game species over the last three years.
The B&C Club gathered a group of official measurers, professional members, and media representatives to help share word of their work, and to bring attention to what's sure to be a popular public display of more than 100 trophy mounts in the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.
Before the display was opened to the general public (happening May 1, 2022), I got a sneak peek at the newest deer, elk, sheep, and other big game entries in the Boone and Crockett record book, as well as insight detailing the B&C Club's generations-long efforts to help conserve these animals, their habitat, and ethical, fair chase hunting.
The Message Boone and Crockett Club Wants to Get Across
Throughout my time spent with Boone and Crockett Club members, high-ranking employees, marketing folks, and official measurers, one big thing was made clear. Call it the takeaway, the main idea, or the big message they wanted to get across, but it was the story we were all quickly inspired to tell.
Even though your first thoughts of the organization will inevitably go to the tape measure and the record book, there's a lot more the Boone and Crockett Club does, historically and forwardly.
Aspirations of hunting a "Booner," the nickname given to a record-worthy big game sub-species, has permeated through the general North American hunting population, reducing the Club to a one-sided statistician for comparing your deer's score to your hunting buddy's. It's true, the measuring system that's become universal in the big game hunting community is widely used, but its initial purpose was much deeper than that.
As it turns out, the B&C Club has done some serious moving and shaking when it comes to landmark policy measures that have led to more and better regulation on wild things and wild places in North America.
The Club has legacies in the initiation of the Lacey Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Wildlife Restoration Act (known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), and the Federal Duck Stamp Act.
There's also the National Collection of Heads and Horns (now conveniently housed in an adjoining room at the Wonders of Wildlife), which was a direct response to the "era of extermination" witnessed by sportsmen and women upset about the quickly-decreasing populations of native North American animals. Because of the lack of general awareness and knowledge, the collection was meant to encourage public support for conservation efforts.
Getting back to the Boone and Crockett measuring process, it's important to realize that the initial intent, and today's current objectives, don't have much to do with bragging rights among individual hunters. Instead, it's the fair chase ethos, specifically the "the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit" of wild animals in wild places, and how it represents the efforts made to establish and improve natural resources.
Here's their official position statement on having a record book in the first place:
B&C believes that records books represent the history of successful conservation and game management policies that have been supported by hunter-conservationists for more than a century. As such, records books celebrate these programs by recognizing the big game animals taken as a result of science-based game management and successful, fair chase sportsmen and sportswomen who have contributed to this management.
By no uncertain terms, it's a measuring device for conservation, not hunting ability, land access, or resource expenses.
31st Big Game Awards
While those main messages represented the bulk of the takeaways, there was a lot more to learn during my time spent with B&C.
I picked up on their extensive Conservation Education Programs, and started feeling outright jealous of the kids who get to attend the 6,500-acre Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch (You can check out the live video feed from the ranch's Rocky Mountain front location here). I was dumbfounded by their work done in researching the poaching deterrents of North America, and impressed by their work to push for commonality and consistency.
Most importantly, I was moved by the number and size of the 31st Big Game Award mounts, which truly is a testament to quality management practices, ethical fair chase, and the legacy of wildlife conservation measures set forth by the Boone and Crockett Club. It's sensational to see that steps in the right direction were (and still are) being made.
Each record book-worthy animal, diligently measured by the officials trained to do their tasks with dignity and respect, represents a success story. Each hunter who harvested the various trophies is an advocate, a steward, and a respectable member of the outdoor community. They deserve recognition, not just because they killed a deer with a big rack, but because of what the Boone and Crockett Club set out to do in the first place. The success stories of these hunters are the proof it's working.
Anyone can join in on the festivities, most easily with a trip through the Wonders of Wildlife from now until the actual awards ceremony on July 23.
As for the official awards event, there's a welcoming reception, an official measurer's meeting (open to everyone), a benefit auction, and several meals and receptions that require tickets. You can get full information here.
Even more importantly, we should all consider becoming a member of the Boone and Crockett Club. It's a positive, impactful organization doing many of the right things in the right ways. Odds are you learned something new about the Club by reading this, and it's just the tip of the iceberg. Fifteen minutes of browsing the Club's website, and you're sucked into more than one meaningful cause. Heck, you can buy a bag of coffee beans and feel like you're contributing.
Hunters who likely associate the Boone and Crockett Club with nothing but the idea of "trophy hunting" need to, for one, reexamine their perceived definition of what a trophy really is. They also could benefit from taking a longer, more in depth look at the accumulative track record of B&C, and their influence on hunting as a whole. Their imprints are everywhere if you look in the right places.
It's not easy to devote resources and support to non-profits, and it's even harder to decide where your funds should go. I'm not trying to tell anyone how to donate their money, but I'll at least share what I learned, and hope it makes a difference in the forward-thinking values of wildlife conservation.