The Trophy Deer Industry’s Effects on Hunting, Part One

Monster Mule Deer BuckAfter hunting for almost four decades and doing my time as a hunting guide and taxidermist over the years, one of the biggest disappointments I have encountered, and still experience, is the sad state of trophy deer hunting. It is true that some of the largest bucks in history are being killed today, but those big boys are mainly reserved for well-funded hunters and lucky lottery tag winners. In my opinion, the high cost of putting a trophy muley or whitetail on the wall is way out of proportion and I blame the trophy deer hunting industry boom of the 1980’s and 1990’s for the current trophy price tags that are out-of-reach to most hunters.

I have friends and contacts in the hunting industry all throughout the country and many have shared this same sentiment. I believe the rising cost of all deer hunts originated with the hunting video craze of the late ‘80’s and throughout the ‘90’s. When viewers and consumers started seeing trophy bucks being so highly coveted in videos and advertisements and being so celebrated, the value of a trophy buck began to rise. In fact, an entire industry of higher hunting prices was being born.

Of course, there are good things that come from every major movement and the deer hunting industry did spawn a revolution of quickly-evolving, high quality hunting products. Treestands became lighter and their selection improved; archery equipment and optics started being highly appreciated and changed accordingly, and camouflage became state of the art with Treebark leading the way, only to later succumb to the successes of Realtree and Mossy Oak soon after.  Also, technology was beginning to improve all hunter’s time afield. Low quality film cameras and bulky video cameras became a thing of the past when microchips gave birth to digital cameras arrived and smaller, hand-held video cameras.

However, the negative aspect of the trophy deer industry also began to show. With the ever rising popularity of possessing a trophy mule deer or whitetail buck, successful hunting products needed spokespeople for PR and advertising purposes. This is when Chuck Adams, Jim Zumbo, MR James, Noel Feather, Brad Harris and others began to rise as the cream of the endorsement crop.

These men soon became celebrities within the hunting community and their names were spoken in every hunting camp and around ever hunting campfire in North America. And as this new trophy deer industry spread in every direction like a wildfire, the list of budding celebrity endorsers began to grow and a place on this list became coveted as well. Many attempted to break through to this exclusive club of being a household hunting name. And with these attempts, some of the greed began to show itself. 

For questions or comments, Chad Dolbeare can be contacted at