Gene Darby needs to build a new table for his latest trophy. And, no it's not for another taxidermied mount of an exotic big game animal, even though he has plenty of those.
His latest trophy is the Malek Golden Award, an honor given to hunters for taking all 14 species of South Pacific big game under free range and fair chase.
Darby received the several foot tall, shiny globe trophy with bronze animals at the Dallas Safari Club's convention earlier this month. He has plans to build a table for it so it can be displayed amongst the big game that helped him achieve it.
"I'm running out of room, you know," said 71-year-old Darby.
Walking into his Kenai home in the VIP subdivision is like happening upon a private natural history museum. Animals fill the corners and the walls. A moose watches over the living room while a mountain cat perches near the big-screen TV.
Nearly one whole corner is dedicated to the South Pacific game he hunted for the Malek Golden award, with some more trophies on the way. To win the award he shot all of the following species: tahr, chamois, banteng, hog deer, Chital deer, Sambar deer, Sika deer, Red deer, Whitetail deer, Rusa deer, Fallow deer, water buffalo, goat and feral boar.
"You're looking at just an animal on the wall," Darby said, but "the whole hunt goes through my mind every time I look at them."
Like for the banteng, a cow-looking animal with big horns, which Darby hunted in the jungle.
"It was so hot I was dying," he said.
And he got his New Zealand whitetail deer on the last day of the hunt just hours before his plane departed. That deer turned out to be a record for its size and Darby is headed down to Reno in February to receive a Safari Club International award for it.
"I've been very lucky in the South Pacific," Darby said.
It took him nine years and five different trips to Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia to take all the species he needed for the award, an impressive feat because it has taken others nearly that long to shoot just one of the animals. But Darby is modest about it all.
"It's more of a challenge that I thought it was," he said. "But I think the challenge of it was what pushed me through."
"I missed plenty I'll guarantee you that," Darby added.
And just because he's a trophy hunter does not mean that he squanders the meat, he said.
"I firmly believe in not wasting the meat," he said. "I'd love to eat the meat myself but sometimes it's so hard to get it back."
Darby, a retired cable splicer with the IBEW, is an Army veteran. He grew up in Kansas and lived in Colorado and Washington before moving to Kenai some 15 years ago.
For him, hunting is a lifestyle that he likes to surround himself with, just like the mounts on his walls.
"I love being in a hunting camp. Always have all my life," he said. "There's good people. You're surrounded with good people."
Next on his hunting agenda is a trip to Argentina to go after 11 animals in a 10-day period.
"I feel very fortunate just being a working man and doing what I got to do," Darby said.
According to the Malek Award website, the Malek Golden Award is a special honor under the J.J. Malek South Pacific Grand Slam Award, which was created in 1984 by Joe Malek as a way to promote hunting in the region as well as game conservation and management.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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