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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Pennsylvania Triple Trophy

by Steve Sorensen (Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, July 6, 2013.)

In 1966, the Pennsylvania Game Commission created the “Triple Trophy Award” to recognize hunters who harvest an antlered deer, a bear, and a wild turkey in the same license year. The PGC presented a certificate and a patch to those who accomplished the challenging feat. 

The playing field is level. A hunter who can 
afford the Grand Slam of Wild Sheep would 
have no advantage over an everyday hunter.

The idea had its roots in the concept of “grand slams” in the hunting world and borrowed its name from the rare baseball event where scoring comes in in fours. In hunting, the grand slam is achieved using a firearm or bow instead of a Louisville Slugger. And it can’t be done with one swing of the bat in a single plate appearance.

The Grand Slam of Wild Sheep became the first grand slam of the hunting world  in 1955, and is widely considered the most prestigious. It includes all four wild sheep species found in North America – the Dall’s, the Stone’s, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn, and the Desert Bighorn. Because it takes lots of time and lots of money, it’s out of reach for all but a few hunters.

Grand slams in the hunting world often have an elitist nature because you won’t find many ordinary working class guys with enough spare cash and vacation time to afford top-end guided hunts. So, to bring the “Grand Slam” concept to the level of the common man, grand slams were created for lots of species. For example, a Grand Slam of Wild Turkeys would include the Eastern, the Merriams, the Rio Grande, and the Osceola subspecies. A turkey slam is not necessarily expensive, but it does require lots of travel.

Some hunters came up with their own grand slam concepts. A “weapons slam” might mean a hunter takes a buck with four different weapons – a rifle, bow, handgun and muzzleloader.

I wouldn’t say a “slam” can be bought, because even a guided hunt is not a slam dunk. (Pardon the mixing of baseball and basketball metaphors.) None of them are an easy achievement.

The Pennsylvania Triple Trophy may not be the most difficult, but it certainly ranks up there. To be recognized for taking a Pennsylvania Triple Trophy, a hunter must harvest all three species in a single license year, July 1 to June 30. Making it even more challenging, the hunting season for black bears, the most difficult of the trio to get, is short.

But – the playing field is level. A hunter who can afford the Grand Slam of Wild Sheep would have no advantage over an everyday hunter. And since Pennsylvania doesn’t license hunting guides, you gotta do it on your own – sort of on the amateur level.

That’s what made the Pennsylvania Triple Trophy such a respected award. But, the program was dropped after only six years. Opinions differ about why the Pennsylvania Game Commission ended its formal recognition for the accomplishment in 1972. Some thought the award placed too much emphasis on a few species. Others felt that it created a temptation to cheat. So, the Game Commission ended the program. 

But hunters have never forgotten it, and accomplishing the trifecta is still a big deal. A few individuals and clubs have offered a pin or a patch to the handful of hunters who accomplish this feat each year but now, after 4 decades, the Game Commission has designed new patch for those who pull it off. It’s cleverly designed in three sections, each part featuring one of the three animals. (Each part of the patch can also be purchased separately.)

Pennsylvania hunters who harvest a 
whitetail buck, a black bear, and a turkey, 
all in the same license year, can purchase 
the new “Triple Trophy” patch from 
the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

So, if you’ve ever harvested the Pennsylvania big three, or you do in the future, it’s still a significant hunting accomplishment and once again you can get patch to commemorate your success.


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