A Trophy is in the Eye of the Beholder
February 10, 2017

A Trophy is in the Eye of the Beholder

In my 9 years of experience of running the Non-Profit Organization Hunting with Soldiers (www.huntingwithsoldiers.org), I have learned a valuable lesson. The meaning of a trophy is different to many people. For some a trophy may be a 150 plus class big buck. Others it may be a small 6 point cull. And then for many others, the trophy is not the kill at all, but merely getting into the outdoors and enjoying Mother Nature.

Years ago I thought that a trophy was a huge 10 point or higher 150 plus class deer. Then I started the Hunting with Soldiers Organization and after many years my attitude has changed.

I have hunted with men and women who have been to combat, who have witnessed what many will never see in their worst nightmares. Many of these men and women have come home with mental scars that are often as bad or worse than any physical scar. When they come home, not only do they suffer from the effects of what they have witnessed, but their family does as well. Some come home with not only mental scars but much too often, physical in the form of severe head trauma, the loss of limbs, etc. These men and women come home and feel they have lost their sense of purpose. We often hear that Prisoners who have been locked away from society for many years, and are released, do not know how to live in society. This is known as Institutionalized. Our Men and Women, who have been to combat know this feeling all too well themselves. Even though they may have been in Combat for only 6 to 12 months, that whole time their Brothers and Sisters lives depended on them. Several have lost some of those Brothers and Sisters. They feel responsible and often have the guilt of why them and not me (Survivors Guilt). When these Men and Women return home, and back to society, they feel they no longer fit in. They are left to integrate into a society that does not understand them and their feelings.

Getting these Men and Women into the Outdoors and into the deer stand, and also bringing in others who have witnessed combat, allows them to not only hunt but to visit and discuss their feelings with each other without the fear of retribution that they may feel when talking to a psychiatrist, who most often is recording or writing down their conversation.  This is a way of healing.

Maurice Asleep

Getting in the deer stand and seeing that big 150 plus class buck and being able to harvest it, to some of these Men and Women is a Trophy they can remember for their lifetime. For others they may see a 4 or 6 point and harvest it and be just as happy as the one who harvested the 150 plus class buck. Then there are others who will harvest a doe and that is their Trophy, knowing they have meat that they can take home to their family. And then there are some that just being in the stand, maybe not seeing anything or passing on some deer they do not feel right about harvesting, is a trophy in itself.

Will Escobedo & Mark Baldwin

The biggest trophy is what happens after the hunt with these Men and Women. We refer to it as the domino effect. Most often these Men and Women return back to their home after the hunt with a totally different attitude. Often their tempers calm, their nightmares ease, their sense of worth returns. This is where the domino effect kicks in. The Family is no longer on pins and needles around them, their spouse is happier, their children are happier. That right there is a trophy.

I am the type that believes when playing sports there are winners and there are losers. There should be no participation trophies. But when I am out hunting with these Men and Women and seeing them receive their mental or physical Trophies, I receive a participation trophy every time. This is not a physical trophy but a feeling I receive in my heart that will never go away. That is my best trophy. So as you have read, a Trophy is in the Eye of the Beholder.


Gordon Melton


Hunting with Soldiers






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