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

May11picIn the second part of the this trophy deer hunting series, the explosion of the trophy deer hunting industry introduced massive changes to the hunting community. It also facilitated some changes that would later lead to negative characteristics in the near future. One such feature was the artificial value placed upon trophy bucks.

Until the 1980’s, most whitetail hunters were happy with any 8 point buck, and a 10 pointer regardless of its score, was considered a bonus trophy. Soon, the words Pope & Young entered the everyday hunting lexicon and Boone & Crockett did too. For mule deer, the 30-inch standard was set as the standard of what a true muley trophy should be. Every western hunter was after a rack that was 30 inches wide. Racks those size are hard to come by.

In the 1980’s, guides and outfitters were not very numerous and the ones that did exist, were mostly multi-generational operations that had existed for decades. Soon, guides and outfitters were popping up everywhere and the back of every hunting magazine offered dozens and dozens of eye-catching advertisements.

Sure there were fly-by-night outfits that sprang up, but there were a lot of legitimate one as well. The one thing they almost all had in common though, were that the prices of guided hunts were somewhat affordable to almost every hunter. Maybe the average person could not just shell out the total amount for a hunt at any moment, but almost anyone could save for a couple years and go experience a dream hunt. That is not the case today, and this is the deepest cut of them all.

The hard truth of today is that instead of just some guided hunts being out of reach for the average hunter, most guided hunts are out of reach to most hunters. Guided archery elk hunts in Colorado cost from $1200.00-$3500.00 during the 1990’s, but you can’t touch one for those prices now. Whitetail hunts went for even cheaper back then.  Not anymore.

In 1990, I went on a semi-guided whitetail hunt in Hopkinsville, KY for the bold price of $600.00 (I did not see a buck the whole week). If you would have told me then what prices hunts would demand today, I would not have believed you. Little did anyone know, the cost of hunting trophy bucks would soon alter hunting history and turn trophy hunting success into an even more exclusive endeavor.  

For questions or comments, Chad Dolbeare can be contacted at