Calling the shots
He peers down from the blind at a whitetail deer 100 yards ahead, focusing on his breathing to steady his crosshairs.
Things aren’t as simple as they were this morning.
He’s not aiming at a sheet of paper at the end of a range. There’s no orange sticker to show him where to place his shot. There is no room for error.
Because this time, his target is alive.
Heart pounding and knees shaking, he tries to remember what his uncle had told him that morning.
Tucker, hit the center!
Blinking through sweat, he zeroes in on the buck and remembers all his training.
Then, he pulls the trigger.
For the then first grader, it was more than just his first kill.
After learning the basics of hunting at a young age from his grandpa and uncle, this was sophomore Tucker Ribman’s initiation into the family’s longtime practice of hunting.
“The best part of killing that deer was finally being a part of the long-lasting family tradition and having an experience that I could share with the rest of my family,” Ribman said. “I was very excited. I really wanted to tell my parents and grandparents about it right after.”
Ten years later, Ribman is now anxiously waiting for January when he will be presented with the Colin Caruthers Young Hunter Award, an honor presented by the Dallas Safari Club each year to a hunter for their hunting accomplishments, conservation efforts and involvement in their various communities.
For hunting, Ribman has traveled across the globe in search of exotic and dangerous wildlife in countries in Africa and parts of Alaska.
“He kind of blew the competition away because he is very fortunate to have hunted very dangerous animals,” Wilson Stout, Chairman of the Colin Caruthers Young Hunter Award said. “When the application was brought upon myself and the committee, we were blown away by his accomplishments.”
Although Ribman finds that his travels and hunting experience fascinates many, he often encounters people who are skeptical to it all.
“The ones that raise an eyebrow at the subject are often the ones who know the least about hunting,” Ribman said. “I think the challenging thing to wrap your mind around is that hunting for conservation is a counterintuitive concept for most people. When you hunt, there are multiple aspects of how hunting can help for conservation.”
Ribman says state laws make sure that hunters are only targeting old, large and non-breeding animals that often harm the wildlife in the area.
Along with this, the state also carefully monitors animal populations to ensure that hunting will not negatively impact the environment.
In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the sale of hunting licenses, contributing nearly $200 million each year, is the primary source of funding for most wildlife conservation efforts.
Ribman’s uncle, Trevor Ahlberg ’86, says it is not only the hunting that has impacted Ribman, but also his efforts towards animal conservation.
“Besides being a great hunter and having all of the wonderful experiences that he’s been able to have at this young age,” Ahlberg said, “he’s spent a lot of time studying and understanding what role the hunter plays in the North American model of conservation.”
Ribman has done significant conservation projects in the past, including spending his summer at his ranch breeding whitetail deer to improve genetics and helping a foundation re-forest Ethiopia for the endangered mountain nyala.
“I enjoy hunting,” Ribman said. “So as hunters, we need to put effort into the conservation to protect the animals and help them thrive. That way we can continue hunting.”
When Ribman’s award is presented in January, he will stand in front of nearly 2,000 people at the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention.
“I’m really blessed to be receiving this award,” Ribman said. “It means so much to my family and me, and it’s definitely an honor that the award isn’t just for hunting achievements. The other aspects that are included in the award are what make it so special.”