Hunting for Trophies: Online Hunting Photographs Reveal Achievement Satisfaction with Large and Dangerous Prey

Document Type


Publication Date



Despite its manifold implications, insight into what satisfactions hunters derive from trophy hunting has not been thoroughly investigated. We used a novel method to assess how common satisfaction might be from harvesting animals under different achievement contexts. We scored smile types—signals of emotion and satisfaction—in 2,791 online hunting photographs. We show that the odds of true “pleasure” smiles are greater when hunters pose: (a) with versus without prey, (b) with large versus small prey and, (c) with carnivores versus herbivores (among older men). We emerge with a generalizable achievement-oriented hypothesis to propose that the prospect of displaying large and/or dangerous prey at least in part underlies the behavior of many contemporary hunters. Given that achievement was also likely important among ancestral hunter-gatherers and remains so in contemporary cultural and commercial marketing contexts, management might benefit by increased attention to achievement satisfaction among hunters.