Taking Trophies

“You’re the last one there…you feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes and basically, a person in that situation is God! You then possess them and they shall forever be a part of you. And the grounds where you killed them become sacred to you and you will always be drawn back to them.”

The words of a hunter triumphantly reliving his conquest?

Well, if by hunter you mean a person who stalks and kills an innocent, unarmed victim, then yes.

The quote is from serial killer Ted Bundy, as he sat on death row and mused over his murders to the authors of The Only Living Witness. It seems that, whether the perpetrator is engaged in a sport hunt or a serial kill, the mentality is roughly the same.

Try as I might, it’s a mindset I really can’t relate to. But this quote helped answer a question I’ve been pondering since I came across a freshly shed elk antler on a hike in the forest behind my place. It was thrilling to find a tangible sign of such a proud and noble soul, willingly discarded to make way for this year’s even larger adornment. I’ve experienced a similar feeling of exhilaration many times before when capturing images of wildlife with my camera. The key component for me is the knowledge that the animal is still roaming free.


I hung the keepsake over my doorway. It serves as a reminder that the bull elk made it through another season alive. Conversely, when a hunter proudly displays a “rack” of antlers, they are the result of a killan animal’s life was taken so they could claim their trophy.

So why can’t hunters be satisfied with finding a naturally shed horn?

Clearly, they are after more than just a souvenir or symbol of a beautiful living creature. There’s something sinister about their motive—something akin to what drives a trophy-taking serial killer.

For the likes of Ted Bundy, a memento such as a pair of panties or a Polaroid photo helps them to recall the heightened state of arousal they felt while slaying their prey. As with the serial killer, the ultimate goal of a hunter is to play God over a helpless victim and to possess not just their image or their antler, but their very being.


12 thoughts on “Taking Trophies

    • Thanks Paul, By the way, I added the following quote from you to the final version of my book: “Behind all the chit-chat of conservation and tradition is the plain simple fact that trophy hunters like to kill living things.”
      The book comes out in June–I’ll be sending you a copy then. Thanks again for your great Foreword!

  1. SImple …… yet to the point. It’s disgusting what these hunters do to “our” wildlife. It seems that the only thing that matters to hunters, lobbyist’s & politicians is money & how they can get more & also how they can kill more species. Case in point just take a look @ the wolf. The earth & everything on it took many, many years of development & we as humans have decimated it in just a few hundred years.

    • You’re exactly right! And to back up your last line, here’s something I just wrote for my latest entry, Another Guest at the Birdfeeder: For millions of years bears wore the crown of “king of the forest,” but ever since hominids got a taste for meat and started wielding sharpened sticks—followed by fire, bows and arrows, and rifles—the genus Homo has been on point to claw its way to the top. Modern humans have long since quashed the competition; we should appreciate that bears, for the most part, don’t carry a grudge.

      • Yes, great point. Or should I say “points” Animals are undeniably unconditional. I just wish that humans (some) would learn from the creatures on this 1 & only Mother Earth of ours. As a friend of mine has said – “it IS a sickness with those people (hunters) with what they do to “our” wildlife.” What an accurate statement!

  2. Sick scum of the earth that can find pleasure in killing beautiful animals, sick and sad until their own death! They have nothing better to do than Kill for pleasure, ( he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword) !!

  3. Many serial killers are all about god-like power, but they are strange and crippled gods who can only destroy and not create. But sometimes looking into the eyes of the dying can be life-changing for the living as when Aldo Leopold saw the “green light” fading in the eyes of the wolf he shot. That vision gave him an epiphany that made him question the role of predators in nature and helped change his old behavior toward them.

    It’s hard for me to understand how people can be responsible for the fear and suffering and death they cause by hunting and never feel horror or remorse. It’s been suggested that empathy may actually have a genetic basis, which makes me wonder if that could at least partly explain some people’s total lack of compassion and the strange and crippled psyche of hunters.

    However, every once in a while, there is a sign of progress, which I was reminded of in your mention of the antlers. Someone here had been going into the woods and picking up antlers that the animals had shed. He acquired a number of them, put them in his vehicle, and came back to town. The antlers were visible to passers-by, who began slowing down, honking their horns, and giving the man the thumbs down. They thought he had killed the elk. That reaction is a little surprising in this part of the country but gives one hope.

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