I can still remember the first trophy that I ever got. I was five years old and just finished my first t-ball season. I don’t know if we earned the trophy or if everyone got one. I don’t even remember any of the games or the scores, but I remember that tiny trophy. One would think that as we get older trophies wouldn’t matter any longer. For me, that’s just not the case.
After getting that first trophy out of the way, I was hooked. I wanted more. The competitor in me was born with that simple piece of plastic on a marble base. I liked the way it looked and I liked the approval that I got from my father. It was a sense of accomplishment. After t-ball, you had to win the league to get a trophy, so that’s what we did. We won the “coach pitch” league and, alas, another trophy. Winning became an addiction. We moved to Jacksonville, Florida when I was 8 and one of the first things we did was sign up for baseball. I made the 10 year old All-Star team as a nine year old and we played in numerous tournaments around the city. If I didn’t come home with some sort of hardware it upset me and drove my obsession even further. By the time we moved back to Mississippi following the death of my grandfather, I had a pretty nice collection of trophies, but they weren’t enough. I began running in local 5k and 10k races. With each race that I won came another trophy. I remember the first time they gave me a ribbon instead of the shiny trophy. What a major letdown! As I get older the obsession to obtain trophies is still there, just a little different.
I’m still chasing trophies to this day. In 2017, our baseball team at William Carey came as close to a national championship as it’s been since 1969. Guess what they give you? That’s right, a trophy. Even in my mid-30’s I’m still chasing a piece of plastic. Maybe I’m just attracted to shiny things. Baseball trophies aren’t the only kind of trophies that I chase these days, though. For me, each buck that I’m able to kill provides me with a trophy. Don’t get me wrong, I hunt mostly for the meat, but I sure do like to hang a skull or shoulder mount on the wall. It’s that sense of accomplishment and the story that comes with it. As a kid you displayed all of your trophies on a shelf, or dresser, for all of your friends to see. This proved that you were some kind of super athlete. As a hunter you display your trophy deer, fish, or turkey somewhere along the walls of your house. This is supposed to prove that I’m one of the elite hunters in the area. It doesn’t, but I like to think that.
Just like each baseball or running trophy I got as a kid, each deer mount, alligator skull, or fish in our home has a story. My wife laments each time I bring home a deer head to mount, and to be fair, my closet is running out of space. She doesn’t quite understand the importance of hanging them on my wall. I haven’t convinced her yet to let me hang them throughout the house, so for now my trophies are relegated to the closet and the office. I’m slowly working on her, though. Every morning when I’m getting dressed, I can look up at these mounts and think of how they arrived here. Almost each mount has a story that involves a friend and a different piece of land. Each mount gives me a sense of satisfaction, while at the same time, driving my obsession to get a better one. There’s a pattern in my closet, which we’ve renamed the skull room. The older skulls sport horns that are much smaller than the newer ones. Over the years I’ve learned to pass up what was once a trophy in favor of waiting on something better.
That brings me to my next point; what is a trophy for me, might not be for you. What is a trophy for you, might not be for me. What constitutes a trophy buck? Some will say anything over 130” is a trophy deer, yet I know people that have hunted their entire life without seeing anything that large. To me, a trophy buck is anything that really gets your heart pumping. If the buck you shoot gets you excited, then that’s all that matters. I get so bored and tired of hearing about what a deer scores. Who frigging cares? It’s dead and it made someone happy. Not to mention, half of the hunters in this state have no idea of how to actually score a deer the correct way. Say it with me, “it does not matter what it scores!” When my little league team won our league championship when I was ten years old, nobody outside of Laurel, Mississippi cared, but I did. That’s how you should approach your wild game trophies.
I don’t do many shoulder mounts these days, mostly due to the unbelievable expense of taxidermy work, but I make sure to at least do a European mount of any buck that I kill. It’s pretty easy to do and really cool to hang up in your house….eh closet. So go out and bag a buck before the season is over, and hang your trophy proudly. It will serve as a great memory of a successful hunt, and probably irritate your spouse, which makes it even sweeter.