Welcome to Medal Hunting backcountry hunting and wildlife photography!!!
What exactly is “Medal Hunting”? Perhaps the best way to describe it is that “Medal Hunting” is everything that “Trophy Hunting” isn’t.
The term “Trophy Hunting” is what I see as the activity of engaging in a practice that has all of the appearance and pretense of hunting but when you get right down to it involves very little real hunting whatsoever. “Trophy Hunting” often comes down to nothing more than a rich dude cutting a large check to kill something that his rich buddies have neither the disposable income nor connections required to, well, “kill” (notice I didn’t use the word “hunt”)…Or, “Trophy Hunting” in my mind can also describe a lot of what is called “big game hunting" in some areas of the country which consists of sitting in a climate controlled blind constructed next to a series of feeders where the feeder arm at a given time every evening sprays commercial deer feed (Bought at the local Wal-Mart, crammed with artificially high amounts of various minerals resulting in artificially large antlers) that brings the deer running…
“Medal Hunting” is all about the discipline of hunting, and *not* about the size of the antlers that might (or might not) be sticking up out of the skull. For some, Medal Hunting means slugging it out on public land with everybody else instead of enjoying unpressured deer on a private hunting lease; for others, it might be hunting boots-on-the-ground, because one wants to actually be a part of the natural world, utilizing stealth and terrain to stalk the animal on its own terms instead of just climbing into whichever tree stand or ground blind the guide pointed you towards and hope that a “biggun’” walks by. It is about coming to the end of a blood trail you followed by headlamp and unfolding your knife to the sound of not-too-distant coyotes, knowing you’ll have to break the animal down in the backcountry by headlamp, campfire, and moonlight and pack it out on your back that night instead of relaxing with brandy and cigars while the hired help take care of the sweat-and-blood-stained details.
I have become to dread the way hunting has been portrayed in various media where all you see is someone smiling behind a dead animal, often with the antlers thrust forward in an attempt to use perspective trickery to make them dominate the frame and appear as large as possible. Like it or not, we all know that it is a fact of life that some (a lot?) of what is shown on “the internet” and/or TV and called “hunting” is really nothing more than shooting animals that have lived their lives behind a fence eating nothing but commercially-produced food. In some cases, the cost of the "hunt" is directly proportional to the size of the antlers on the deer (or Elk, or <insert exotic species here>) as very little hunting or any skill or determination is involved. For those activities, all that matters is that the “hunter” takes home a large set of antlers or rug and hangs it up on their office or den as a…”trophy”, which required every bit as much “hunting” ability to acquire as did the Rolex on their wrist or the Hummer in their garage…Compare that to the blood, sweat, and tears that go into killing a Whitetail fork horn…or spike…or button buck…or doe, with a bow and arrow on public land, hunting boots-on-the-ground and there simply isn’t a comparison between the two activities, and so we *needed* a separate term.
When I say “Medal Hunting”, think of the small “medals” that are awarded to wrestlers compared to the humongous trophies that are handed out to competitors in other sports. Heck, these days it seems like in almost every sport, *every* kid is going to go home with a HUGE “trophy” telling them how they’re the best, but it really doesn’t mean sh*t (and the kids know it!!!) because EVERY kid gets the exact same “trophy”…the “participation trophy” isn’t indicative of any skill, or achievement, nor did it require any character or sacrifice or effort to obtain. It doesn’t matter how ridiculously large they want to make them, if the “trophies” are an expectation then they cease to mean anything whatsoever. While I can’t say I wrestled, I have had a passing interest in grappling (BJJ mostly) and I always hated having to go against wrestlers not only due to their skill, but simply because they have a drive, competitive streak, determination and outright grit that you simply don’t find *anywhere* else.
The reason is simple - Even the typical/unremarkable high school wrestler, who never even makes it to the State Championship tournament (let alone the finals), has had to go through 4 years of physical conditioning, full-contact mano-a-mano practice sessions, repetitively grinding though the same drills over-and-over-and-over to instill perfection, the crushingly brutal process of cutting weight…..Getting through all of this develops a *something* that, like I said before, you simply don’t find anywhere else…yet, if you look at the size of the tokens for which they compete, their “medals” are perhaps the size of a silver dollar. Sure, they may differ in color but regardless of gold/silver/bronze the medals are rather unremarkable in appearance…but the sacrifice and suffering and outright pain that went into earning the medal will carry over into every other aspect of life itself.
That is why I call myself a Medal Hunter…The animals I (and guys I know like Baxter and Bluto and Pete and others…) kill may not be as large as some others, they may not have gigantic antlers (or any antlers at all!!!), but if one looks at what went into obtaining them, well, now we’re talking about lessons and character that can define a very person's existence and take on life.
Feel free to use the term and spread it around!!!