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Trophy hunting is a controversial topic. Some people see it as a barbaric practice that should be outlawed, while others argue that it’s a sustainable way to manage wildlife populations. So where is trophy hunting legal, and what species are hunted the most? Read on to find out.
Several countries permit trophy hunting, and provided you observe all requirements, apply for a license, and pay all associated fees, you can hunt in the U.S, Canada, the U.K, some countries in South America, numerous European countries, some parts of Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.
This post is all you need to know about where you can go trophy hunting, whether you’d like to try out your skills in pursuit of prized prey or are just curious about the topic.
Trophy Hunting: A Brief History
In the 19th century, selected wild species were hunted for a portion of their body. The prize components were then auctioned off to trophy collectors or sold in open market stalls. Many more hunters chose to keep them for display in their homes and offices.
However, due to widespread unregulated hunting, most trophy game populations dwindled, leading some to become extinct. This unprecedented decrease in wild animal populations threw the ecosystem off balance. The morality of trophy hunting raised controversy. As a result, hunting regulation laws were enacted in numerous parts of the world.
Nowadays, hunters with a passion for collecting animal trophies can legally participate in this sport. I say ‘legally’ because it’s not allowed everywhere, and you have to apply for a permit or license.
So, Where is Trophy Hunting Legal?
Trophy hunting is highly prevalent in both the U.S and Canada.
The U.S has the largest number of trophy hunters in the world. It is also one of the biggest importers of trophies. Commonly-hunted wildlife in the U.S includes coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, wolves, foxes, and bears. However, state laws vary.
Bear – Only black bears may be hunted. Grizzlies are protected as an endangered species, thus out of bounds to hunters.
Currently, bear hunting is only allowed in Alaska and the main season is in fall, with another in spring. In 2021, Montana proposed a lift of the protection act to hunt grizzly bears, but this is yet to be approved.
Wolves – Federal protections were recently lifted for wolf hunting in over 48 states.
Mountain lion – cougar or mountain lion hunting is mainly done for fur. This game is hunted for sport everywhere except in California. Bag limits vary by state.
Trophy hunting is also deep-rooted in Canadian culture. The diverse wildlife, landscape, and somewhat lax regulations see thousands of hunters participate in trophy hunting seasons. You can hunt various wildlife ranging from moose, whitetail deer, black bears, ice fishing, and even polar bears in certain regions.
In Europe, you can hunt in France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The U.K also allows it but has recently banned imports of the same.
Africa is a hotspot for wildlife, but the topic of trophy hunting is hotly contested. Some countries like Kenya and Malawi have outright laws that ban hunting of any kind within their borders. Others allow conditional trophy hunting: they only allow certain animals to be hunted for sport. The list includes:
- Botswana. They recently lifted the 2014 ban to hunt elephants.
- South Africa. You can only go after the Big Five.
- Namibia. Same rules as S. Africa.
On the flip side, some countries permit hunting prized wildlife, such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Tanzania, Liberia, Morocco, Mozambique, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Trinidad, among others, permit trophy hunting.
Asia and Beyond
Sport hunting is found in Mongolia, Turkey, Pakistan, Kamchatka, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan. New Zealand and Australia also have lax laws.
Benefits of Trophy Hunting
Also known as recreational or sport hunting, this practice stokes debates that border along ethical lines raising questions on the morality of hunting.
Admittedly, research on trophy hunting shows that it can provide significant benefits. Trophy hunting’s tangible benefits encourage communities to view wildlife-related activities as economic assets. Benefits associated with the practice include:
- Promotes local economies through the provision of jobs and fees.
- Promotes conservation hunting.
- Regulates animal populations.
- Helps control poaching.
- Supports the field of taxidermy.
- Funds conservation incentives and projects
If this form of recreational hunting has such unique advantages for the environment and local communities, why are there efforts working against it?
The Ethical Dilemma of Trophy Hunting
Remember Cecil the Lion? The 12-year old resident of a park in Zimbabwe was a well-known tourist attraction and participant in a long-term study run by the University of Oxford. Unfortunately, he was killed in 2015 by an American dentist, an avid trophy hunter. This sparked massive uproar all over the world. International media threw the ethical stance of trophy hunting in Zimbabwe into the limelight.
Cecil’s son, Xanda, met the same fate alongside several young cubs two years later. In 2019, Sidhule (a male lion said to be as impressive as Cecil) was baited and killed in the same park. So when his apex male buddy Mopane was killed by a bowhunter in August 2021, many were left questioning the licensed hunts of lions in the area. Global media outrage has termed it ‘money-driven cruelty.’
Reasons often listed by lobby groups against trophy hunting include:
- It has minimum conservation benefits. For instance, the death of an alpha male leaves their pride and territory up for grabs. When a new lion moves in, he kills the predecessor’s offspring so he can establish his bloodline.
- It targets species that are already vulnerable. Most prized animals are endangered, such as the Big Five (leopards, elephants, lions, buffalo, and rhinos). Does hunting them enhance the survival of such species?
- Encourages cruelty against animals. Most of the lions I mentioned above were shot with arrows. Death was slow and excruciating.
- The economic benefits are questionable. Most local communities rarely benefit from revenue generated from the practice. Very little (if any) money is used to fund development projects in education or welfare.
- Encourages other cruel activities like the killing of captive-bred wild animals in canned hunting.
The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in hunting for sport, there are numerous opportunities worldwide. The list above should give you an idea of where trophy hunting is legal. Use travel agencies offering hunting packages to help you obtain permission in host states or countries. More importantly, ensure you have written consent to hunt, pay all necessary fees, and follow all rules. All in all, remember to kill humanely and stay away from endangered species.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.