Our SCI Record Book has developed into an amazing reference for hunters, without question it’s the most complete worldwide reference on game animals of the world—not only how large they might get, but also where they are found and, if you keep digging, where the biggest ones are likely to be found. Such a system that processes thousands upon thousands of entries has to be well-organized, so it makes perfect sense to me to categorize into continents, then further by types of animals (cats, bears, deer, sheep, goats, etc.); and still further by separating out native from introduced, and estate from free range.
This does lead to some redundancy, as many animals are found both free range and estate, and of course there are some animals that naturally occur on multiple continents—and many that have been introduced here and there. Fallow deer and tahr, for instance, are now found and listed on all six hunting continents; axis deer and aoudad occur on at least five. Then there are some animals that virtually all hunters would consider “big game”—but that defy conventional measurement methods. I’m sure there are a number of these, but off the top of my head zebras, giraffes, and ostriches come to mind. For zebras and giraffes, might we count the stripes and spots? Or, on an ostrich, how about longest feather? Seriously, despite now 35 years of refinement, it remains difficult for even our record book to be perfect and all-pervasive.
Everybody loves a zebra rug, but I’m not advocating measuring them. However, a more serious question arises as to just how far down a record book of “trophy animals” should reach. A royal antelope, for instance is much smaller than a jackrabbit—but it has horns that can be measured and is very much considered a worthy trophy, while jackrabbits and even the huge European hares are considered “small game” (and, no, we shouldn’t consider measuring the ears!). But with animals that don’t have horns, just how far do you go? A quick search of that wonderful resource, our online record book, suggests to me that we drew the line somewhere at the mid-sized predators. In the interest of completeness, and also to raise awareness of some great and difficult animals, in cats we recognize lynxes, bobcats, civets and wild cats…but draw the line short of the very small genets. In canines, we seem to stop a little shorter, recognizing wolves but not coyotes, dingos, jackals or foxes.
Hey, you have to draw the line somewhere, and that’s perfectly fine with me—but it doesn’t mean that animals that, by reason of diminutive size or measurement-defying physiology, animals that are not listed should not be hunted where huntable surpluses exist. In fact, most of the animals mentioned so far should be of interest to hunters for one reason or another: Beautiful color or fur, challenging or unique hunting…and certainly as attractive accents to any trophy room. There are quite a few animals that fall into one or more of these categories that we have not mentioned: Badgers, beavers, porcupines, large rodents, members of the weasel family.
Two years ago I got a European beaver in Estonia. I didn’t get a moose, but I thought the beaver a great consolation prize. The darned things come into our front yard in Kansas and eat our trees…but there I can’t “hunt” them, only trap them! Just this past month, when we were in South Africa, we were tootling across a plain at midday when somebody spotted something “white” and out of place: A big porcupine. What such a nocturnal creature was doing out in the midday sun is hard to fathom, but Donna made a quick stalk, placed a shot very carefully, and had a fine specimen of the large African porcupine, something she’s wanted for a long time. Honestly, I was green with envy. I shot a really big one once while sitting over a bushpig bait. It took at least two minutes before the quills stopped raining down and rattling on the ground—and that’s all I have: A great big bag full of porcupine quills!
The weasel family is often trapped but rarely hunted. On that same hunt in Estonia, where martens are on license, I missed a big one in a chance daylight encounter. Now, put that together with the beaver that I did get, and that’s a fair trade for any silly old moose! The big rodents, well, that depends. Our record book recognizes capybara, as well they should—I have one lifesize, and it’s my favorite South American trophy. In both Ghana and Liberia I saw the big cane rats, which are on license…but, ugh, like an overgrown sewer rat with a big naked tail, no thanks. Ah, but then there are aguti and paca, the former sort of like a seriously oversized guinea pig; the latter even bigger with white stripes and spots much like a water chevrotain. I understood them to be South American animals, which they are, but when I was in Mexico’s Yucatan this year I was surprised to learn that both occur there as well. Since they aren’t in “the book,” how would I know? One of the guys in camp actually got a paca, and I saw several aguti and took one of them. Both are very cool animals! I do believe that record keeping has to draw lines somewhere, and ours has probably drawn good and sensible lines—but just because an animal isn’t in the records doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting.– Craig Boddington