Big Game Records in Perspective
Measuring and scoring big game trophies has been an important part of our hunting culture for nearly a century. The Boone and Crockett Club cannot take credit for the early beginning of keeping and admiring game trophies. Such practices date back to the dawn of man, and has evolved through the ages. The dwellings of the earliest humans were decorated with memories of the hunt in celebration of prosperous hunts and to recognize individual achievement and bravery. Castles in early Europe were decorated with the heads and hides of estate game as a display of man’s dominion over animals, and as representatives of the landowner’s holdings, and his status in the community. Sadly, with the real threat that we may lose many species of game in North America to extinction, trophies were kept, as a reminder of may be no longer. Today, trophies have a different purpose. This purpose can be credited to the Boone and Crockett Club.
At right, prize winning trophies submitted for the Club’s first Big Game Competition (1947-1948) held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
When Theodore Roosevelt and his friends formed the Club in 1887, wildlife and their habitats were teetering on the edge of total disaster. Manifest Destiny, market hunting, unregulated over harvesting for food and sport, as well as irresponsible land use and a lack of wildlife sciences all contributed to the extinction of some species in North America and threatened others, especial big game animals.
The Club was founded as the first private organization of its kind to address these matters on a national scale. In addition to the Club’s actions to enact laws, establish hunting seasons, bag limits and game laws, and eliminate market hunting, the Club turned to sportsmen themselves for help in launching the conservation movement.
One of these actions was the establishment of a big game scoring and records keeping program. This initiative had three purposes. First, when no such data existed, biological and location information was needed as a baseline if big game populations were to have a chance at recovery. Secondly, sportsmen of that era were needed to work with conservation efforts instead of against them. Through a trophy recognition system that encouraged the selective harvest of mature male specimens that had already genetically contributed to overall herd health, natural recruitment was given the chance. And lastly, Roosevelt and others knew that there needed to be order – a set of ethical guidelines for sportsmen to follow that would distance true sportsmen from the incorrect association of sport hunting with market hunting. The name given by the Club to such a code was, “Fair Chase.” Trophies eligible for the records book must have been taken under the rules of fair chase as defined by the Club.
Above are pages from the Club’s first records book, Records of North American Big Game, which was published in 1932.
What began, as an idea in 1906 has become spoken language among today’s sportsmen. Boone and Crockett score is used to communicate animals, seen, taken, and missed. B&C records are now a measurement of successful conservation and game management efforts. With wildlife populations now flourishing in most areas, B&C records books are also a celebration of this conservation success, and a recognition system for those fair chase sportsmen who have participated in this system.