How Hunting Trophies Work

Types of Hunting Trophies

While anyone can throw a deer head on the wall and call it a trophy, in hunting trophy is more appropriately used for big game or exotic animals. These types of trophies are as varied as the animal kingdom itself.

In North America, big game trophy animals include:

Organizations in Africa offer hunting safaris for:

  • Impala
  • Gemsbuck
  • Nyala
  • Zebra
  • Warthog
  • Wildebeest
  • Hartebeest [source: African Trophy]

They can also provide safaris for the "African Big Five." These highly coveted trophies include lion, buffalo, rhinoceros, leopard and elephant [source: African Sky].

Whatever your feelings about hunting, there can be no doubt that for the hunter, it's a very intense, visceral experience. After the thrill of the hunt is over, it seems only natural that the hunter would want to keep some physical memento to capture the memories of the experience. Mere photographs may not be enough.

Some trophies include the lush pelts of animals such as sheep and bear, tanned hides, and elephant tusks (although the ivory trade is still banned in some countries under international law) [source: CITES]. The predominant concept of the hunting trophy, however, involves taxidermy. Preparation of a head, head and shoulder mount, antler rack or full mannequin involves skinning, drying, bleaching, cleaning, dressing and creating a mold or model [source: Missoula Valley School of Taxidermy].

Taxidermy is considered an art. The placement of features such as glass eyes, the hiding of seams, and cosmetic repairs to cover up defects, such as bullet holes or blemishes, all contribute to the lifelike quality of a well-mounted trophy.

How do hunters end up with their trophies? Read on to learn about collecting these giant creatures.