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Tess Talley caused public uproar when she posed for a photo with a rare, black giraffe she hunted and killed - but now she's explained why it's still her proudest moment and why every animal she 'harvests' is a trophy.
The day she hunted the giraffe, in South Africa, was an emotional rollercoaster for her - she explained she was so excited the night before, she barely slept. When she actually killed him, she was 'overwhelmed' with emotion.
On the big day, she searched for hours with a guide, eventually locating the giraffe she was after. They stepped over the bones of younger giraffes that had been killed by the old bull - the one they were looking for.
Tess said: "All of a sudden, I see the old bull making his way through the thick trees, and he has already spotted us. He was a little unsure of what exactly he was looking at, but that moment of confusion led me to be able to set up the shooting sticks, shoulder the rifle and get him in my scope.
"As he stood there looking at us and trying to decipher what we were, I was able to get my cross hairs on his neck, about a foot down from his head.
"With a steady squeeze of the trigger, I suddenly felt the recoil of the 30-06 rifle and immediately saw the giraffe collapse! I had done it, I had actually hit my mark and the bull was down.
"The sheer relief of seeing him collapse where he stood was amazing. The feeling of success after all the hard work of stalking, walking for miles and coming up empty handed that day were all worth it after the shot.
"The feeling of success was overwhelming. I began to shake and actually cried because I was so relieved that this hunt was not only successful, but it was a quick, clean, and ethical shot and the giraffe was killed immediately with no unnecessary suffering.
"I had my giraffe, and now the work of processing him began - after a few pictures of course."
Tess isn't exactly what you expect when you imagine an archetypal trophy hunter.
The 39-year-old Texan is blonde, petite and works as an accounts administrator. She's a dedicated wife, a loving stepmother, she has a Boxer dog called Gunner that she adores - and she just so happens to love hunting and killing animals, too. More than 20, so far.
Images of hunters proudly posing with their kills will always get peoples' backs up, but for Tess, it's more than a photo op. It's what she grew up with. To her, it's a way of life.
Speaking exclusively to LADbible, Tess said that although she does consider herself a hunter, she believes the term 'trophy hunter' is used out of context.
"To me, when I hunt, every animal I harvest is a trophy," she says. "So much is put into every hunt. Not all hunts end in success."
Tess got into the sport as a child. "I was raised around hunting, I have several hunters in my family, along with friends. Seeing the excitement and listening to stories growing up around hunting, I knew I wanted to experience the same thing.
"So, hunting and the outdoors has always been appealing to me."
"I have so much appreciation for each one of my hunts," she says. "Whether it be a whitetail doe or the giraffe. They are all equally respected and honored.
"But, if I had to choose just one, it would be my giraffe hunt.
"The prayers before the hunt were heard, the first shot was successful, the experience will never be forgotten. Emotions were high and my favourite part...the herd is actually growing! That's what I call positive results."
She added: "I will never regret any hunts that I've been blessed to be a part of! It's who I am and what I love to do. I will never apologise for it to those that disagree."
Touching on where most of her criticism stems from, Tess said: "Besides the obvious animal rights activists - over-reacting PETA - I get a lot from Germany and Italy.
"I wish someone from Italy would just share an amazing homemade spaghetti sauce recipe with me instead - it's delicious with wild game meat."
Tess is very open about some of the online abuse she gets from trolls. On her Instagram page, she shares screenshots which include death and rape threats, some of which are, shall we say, creative.
But she doesn't let it get to her, advising anyone who is the subject of trolling to stay strong.
"If you choose to hunt, knit, play a particular sport, or be someone that makes you stand out from others, go for it," she said. "Do not let negativity and bullying from others make you change who you are! Stand up for what you believe in, let your light shine!
"God made you to be exactly who you are and be proud of that! Just because someone chooses to live their life different from yours or if they choose to eat differently than you, that does not make you the bad person.
"Everyone can make their own decisions, eat off of their own plate, it's a blessing I call 'being an American'."
And for Tess, going hunting is much more than simply the result, she even has a range of jewellery made from the hides of the animals she's killed.
For $20, you can get a pair of Axis hide earrings - as modelled by Tess herself:
She also stocks elephant hide ones on her online store, and she makes sure that she makes use of all parts of the animals she kills.
No part of the animal goes to waste. Tess says: "Filling your freezer with fresh, hormone and antibiotic free meat is a great feeling."
And while many of them get a bad rep, Tess believes there's actually no such thing as a 'bad hunter'.
"All hunters are good," she said. "I refuse to say there is a bad hunter. Hunters do not have to use the same tactics or weapons as I do to be a good hunter. We are all on the same page, out in the field for the same reason, with our fingers crossed for the same results.
"Do we always get those positive outcomes? No. We do not. It's hunting, there is no guarantee that we will harvest an animal every trip. But every trip is well worth it and never a regret!
"Poachers and unethical 'killers' are not at all considered hunters in my book - or anybody else's book that I know of."
Tess is keen to point out that there is an element of conservation to hunting, in fact, she achieved a 'great accomplishment' while out hunting, so much so that it was published in the Texas Trophy Hunters Association magazine.
She explained: "I was whitetail hunting last season, in 2019. I had some amazing whitetails in the area. But this one particular buck came in, caught my eye, fought with others, it was the 'rut'.
"His genetics and antlers were messed up, before he passed that onto next seasons fawns, I culled him. I'm proud to say, as a member of TTHA, that I hope this story helps other members who read it realise it's not always about getting the biggest animal, the highest scoring deer or the prettiest animal that makes it a trophy, but rather the responsible hunters like me also do our best to help increase the quality and quantity of animals in our herd.
"And all animals are trophies in my book."
She also believes that hunters play a huge part in giving nature a helping hand, especially by funding conservation efforts around the world.
"We as hunters buying hunting license, buying guns or ammo, we are putting so much money into conservation. It does two main things.
"One, it acts as a funding source for state agencies that help save habitat.
"Secondly, it helps control prey species, deer and elk as an example, who might otherwise have population explosions due to reduced predator population. We also help fund the anti-poaching efforts."
But animal charities have differing thoughts on hunting as a conservation technique.
Speaking to LADbible, Dr Mark Jones, veterinarian and Head of Policy at the Born Free Foundation said: "Trophy hunting is predominantly the preserve of wealthy individuals from the developed world, who pay large fees and costs for the privilege of killing iconic wild animals for their own gratification, and presumably to impress their peers.
"Proponents, including some conservation organisations, claim that trophy hunting benefits wildlife conservation, by giving wild animals a monetary value thereby providing local people a reason to tolerate them, by removing surplus or problem animals, and by generating income which can support wildlife protection and conservation efforts.
"But the evidence for these claims simply doesn't stack up."
Dr Jones believes that while hunters like Tess pay high fees in order to go on hunts, the total amount generated is 'tiny' when compared to other forms of income, with much of the proceeds becoming profits for agencies and officials.
Born Free remain opposed to hunting in any form, particularly for sport.
Dr Jones added: "Trophy hunters typically covet the most impressive animals with particular traits such as the biggest, darkest manes or the longest tusks. Far from being surplus or problem animals, the targets are often key individuals within their societies and their death at the hands of the hunters can have wide ranging and devastating impacts on the stability of animal populations and the wider ecology.
"Trophy hunting is rarely if ever truly sustainable, with animal populations being manipulated and quotas set to maximise profits, recommended age-based and area-based limitations rarely being adhered to, and hunting levels often exceeding quotas."
But Tess remains defiant about her love of hunting, saying that she will never be put off the sport.
She said: "People react to what I do without actually wanting to be be educated or discuss hunting like adults, that come at me with rage or hate because they do not understand, they react with emotion to what they see.
"The best thing I can possibly do for them is to pray for their hate filled hearts and try to explain hunting. The hate doesn't get under my skin, I'm stronger than that, I'll take 75 hate messages a day with pleasure, because most of the time three people out of that 75 will actually understand hunting, learn something!
"They still may not hunt and that is perfectly fine! But if they learn a little bit about what hunters do, it's all worth it to me."
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/Tess Talley
Topics: lad files
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