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Big Game Trophy Hunters Defend Their Passion

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Of the nearly 570,000 licensed hunters in Minnesota, fewer than two-tenths of 1 percent will pursue Africa's exotic game.

Tom Lane is among the very few.

"It's not only the hunting," he said. "It's the culture of the people."

Trophy hunting has long been Lane's passion. His Minneapolis barbershop is filled with a wide variety of taxidermy mounts, many of them from Africa.

Since his first safari back in 1995, Lane has been to Africa on hunts five times.

He said whatever was harvested in those hunts did not go to waste. The entire animal, including the entrails, is taken and consumed by local residents. But there is also the monetary impact of trophy-seeking hunters.

"They get all the meat, plus half the trophy fee," Lane said. "That is an incentive to take care of their game."

In 20 years of African hunts, Lane said he never experienced problems with unethical outfitters or professional hunting guides. That's because the stakes for errors are simply too high, and wildlife quotas on the different game species are very strict.

Lane didn't want to comment on the controversial killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, but he said, "All the hunters I know are very ethical. They go by the rules. That's just the way it is. If you can't do that, get out of the game."

He's not the only trophy hunter who feels that way.

"We all like going out in the woods and we all like spending time in nature," Dieter Von Der Marwitz said. "If we don't play by the rules, then there will be nothing to enjoy."

Von Der Marwitz is a native of South Africa who now calls Minnesota home. As someone who has hunted African big game, Dieter fears reaction to the Cecil story is leaping ahead of reality.

He adds that it also ignores the positive impacts -- from conservation funds to an economic boost -- that hunting has on his homeland.

"I don't think we should be jumping to conclusions right now," Von Der Marwitz said. "Let's just wait until these facts come out and see what really happened."

The outrage over Cecil's killing has attracted the interest of politicians and celebrities alike. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it is gathering facts about the suspected poaching case and will assist Zimbabwe game authorities in their ongoing investigation.

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