Senseless seasons on animals doesn’t justify hunting

Brad Ayers

I confess. I once had an addiction. In an earlier life, I was a hunter and trapper of wildlife. Later, in the service, I extended it to humankind.

I’ve been in self-inspired recovery since being hunted, nearly trapped and shot at myself and witnessing first-hand too much bloodshed, agony and death.

I’ve concluded at my advanced age that life is too precious no matter what its form.  I have no right to choose when life ends for any living creature no matter the reason or justification short of self-preservation. I believe we will have to answer, if there’s a Great Beyond, for deaths that we bear responsibility, human or animal.

I now live in semi-wilderness not far from the St. Croix River. I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s on the North Hill in Stillwater in a familial culture where hunting and trapping was an annual tradition. One learned the trade early on, imbued with the belief that one had to learn to hunt and kill as a sacred right of masculine passage. Returning home with the slain was proof of your skill, and a trophy kill a badge of personal honor and achievement.

I stopped hunting and trapping long ago. For years, I was ambivalent about speaking out because I accepted the cultural and psychological influences motivating those who grew up considering unnecessary killing a sport.  I’ve come to recognize how superficial, shallow, fleeting and self-destructive is this violent indulgence.

I’ve come 180 degrees. For me, it is the senseless open seasons on wolves, bears, and in Wisconsin, even mourning doves.

The hunting of deer, upland birds and waterfowl once seemed justified to put food on the family table.  Today, the cost of a box of ammunition exceeds the price of meat at the grocery store. In my area, one could easily survive indefinitely on fresh road kill.

Statistically, wolves and bears present no significant threat to people, domestic animals or human habitat if reasonable precautions are taken to discourage their incursions into our domain. The idea of hunting mourning doves is obscenely ludicrous.

What I’ve witnessed in the 12 years at the small Northwoods lake where I live is a dramatic decline of lower -end food chain wildlife, birds and the creatures that sustain the natural infrastructure — dam building, weed control and water quality, erosion mitigation, fish reproduction, small mammal and amphibian shoreline character. This comes from trapping, over hunting and mindless pollution. We now see accounts of dogs killed by increasingly sophisticated traps planted in the woods. This is insane.

Given my evolved feelings about hunting and trapping over the past year or so, I’ve informally tried to get a handle on the demographics, at least in my area, of those actively involved hunting and trapping sportsmen and women. My demographic sampling spanned the regional socio-cultural spectrum for economic status, education, employment and professional background. Minorities represented less than five percent of active hunters and trappers. This is a predominantly homegrown cultural activity that transcends stereotyping.

I found that most sportsmen and women were gun/NRA advocates, dismissive of the theory of climate change and its environmental impact, were ignorant of infrastructure/quality of life concerns, were mostly conservative in their politics and religious views and advocates of right-to-life and other evangelistic social issues. Few have served in the military especially in combat situations.

Where does the right to life idea begin and end and to whom and what does it apply? I’m moved to ask how right-to-life conviction is left at the doorstep when considering the sanctity of life in any other natural conception?

Maybe I’m on the wrong track and should be thankful and relieved when the fall is here, the harvest moon rises in the sky, frost is on the pumpkin and stalwarts with their dogs wearing radio tracking devices, cell phones, high powered weaponry and sniper and skirmish lines to defend the rest of us who apparently live in constant fear of invasion by bears, wolves and mourning doves.

Absent a clear and present danger, there is no compelling need or justification for this killing when other humane wildlife management remedies are available to deal with non-human species of almost any kind. The ego burst for bringing a trophy into the local tavern or getting a photo in the regional paper is not one of them.

For eons, Mother Earth, The Great Spirit  or whoever is in charge, has adjudicated the balance of nature and it’s continued to thrive without human interference. It will continue to do so unless we allow the naked ape to upset the balance. Listen to our Native American brethren.

Bradley E. Ayers is a regular contributor on these pages.  He is a 77-year-old St. Croix Valley native now living in northwestern Wisconsin, and a former Army Ranger special operations officer and a veteran of CIA and DEA service.


  • Kurt Klitzke

    Mr Ayers thoughtful and well written commentary was very moving and above all civil. I hope others will consider the impact we have on all that nature is. No mater which side of the issue someone may be on, there are powerful things to be considered in this prophetic piece. I hope many read and and reflect on the content.

  • MelvinTScupper

    Our native brethren kill more wild animals than anyone else per capita. They eat the meat, we eat the meat. I am listening to them, I just have to follow a lot more regulations than them, and also pay the state to do so.

    • robyn

      That is because they have Treaty Laws that must be honored, so don’t bring the Native people into this the point is sports hunting not hunting for food.

  • Sherrill

    Thank you for having the courage to speak out about the unnecessary killing of animals. I have never understood how someone can get a thrill out of killing anyone, any animal. Your article is very good and very much appreciated.

  • Louise Kane

    Thank you Mr. Ayers, for speaking out. A truthful voice and a caring soul.

  • Beret Amundson

    Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent article.

  • Teresa Esposito


  • Tina Beier

    Mr. Ayers, I commend you for “seeing the light”. I only wish to God that other’s would follow in your footsteps. It tears me up to see what those animals are doing to our beloved wildlife! It literally makes me sick thinking of how our wolves are suffering their cruel and inhumane deaths. I support any and all organizations that are fighting to get this open hunting of our wildlife stopped immediately!! Just a thought, y are the government officials that support these killings, not putting their foot down to control the number of births to unwed mothers that keep breeding while all of us hard-working Americans pay for it. Our wildlife takes care of their own. Yet, they say kill because there are too many. Same difference. They need to wake up and smell their stinkin coffee! And get their heads out of their butts!! Thank you so much for your honesty, and please keep educating people about this grusome ‘sport’. Good luck and God bless you!

  • eileen murphy

    Mr. Ayers’ statement that we will all be held accountable is something I strongly believe in. Man or animal we were all created to fulfill a mission and I am sure it is not to kill others for the sake of killing or greed. We are losing our earth due to the willfulness of man. Animals could be here forever and would leave the earth as they found it.

  • Heidi Ulrich

    Appreciate your thoughts on the senseless brutality and unthinkable cruelty of trapping; also killing top tier predators. Wildlife did not evolve to handle the new high tech destruction…:(

  • william huard

    How are you going to reason with a bloodthirsty degenerate? When you confront these “sportsmen” (all laugh here) they call you a “liberal tree hugger” as if that is an insult…..I recommend a captive spay and neuter redneck program- otherwise our species is doomed…..

    • CWalsh

      “captive spay and neuter redneck program” – an excellent idea. And that would actually help offset the human overpopulation issues that we will all be facing in the future.

    • Joan

      Agreed, William.
      Guess I’d rather be a “tree hugger” who does no harm than a “greed hugger” who needlessly and senselessly extracts from mother nature and wantonly slaughters our wildlife. When I see their photos holding a “trophy” wolf, coyote, bear, etc., they just appear so…so….ASSININE!
      Mr. Ayers, your essay is commendable. Thank you, sir, for having the insight and courage (you certainly have the credentials!!) to speak out for wildlife and I know there are many of us who support your philosophy – AND our numbers are growing!

  • Jerry Colbruno

    I very much enjoyed the article. I also was a hunter but have come to the same thinking of Mr. Ayers. I have always been very much against “trophy” hunting but did think it was ok if a person killed to put meat on the table, which we know these days, is seldom the case. Most hunting is now called “sport” and i really don’t see much “sportsmanship” where men are trapping, shooting out of airplanes and using other methods to kill animals they don’t intend to eat. This wolf “massacre” disturbs me very much and i want to see it stopped before they kill them all. This is senseless murder and i believe with all my heart that the ones doing it will be held accountable.Call it karma or whatever, it will happen.

    • Joan

      Yes, Jerry. I often wonder what they’ll have to say when they meet their Maker and are held accountable for the senseless taking of lives. Bet they won’t be smiling then!

  • Carmine Profant

    Right on, Mr. Ayers, your words give me hope that others who grew up in the hunting and trapping culture can evolve and become more compassionate and connected human beings.

  • Nancy Chilton

    Thank you, Mr. Ayers. Your words resonate with simple truth, sincerity and compassion. Purity of heart manifests in our actions. Many blessings to you.

  • Patricia Randolph

    Please join us at Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic – VOTE OUR WILDLIFE to organize to claim a first time democracy in governing wildlife for its own sake and honoring and loving our wild brethren. I have been writing the Madravenspeak living wildlife column for the Capital Times online newspaper for the past two years. You can find 50 columns archived there by putting Madravenspeak into or on our web site. I have done a lot of research on wolves and our beloved bears and mourning doves, deer, and beavers – against trapping. The column comes out every other Sunday online.

    We must organize politically to have the power of an informed majority. We are going to the legislature January 10 if any of you are interested in joining us to request legislation to replace killing license funding of the DNR with general public funding tied to fair representation in our policy deciding what happens to our commonwealth, including wildlife. Why should a trapper be able to pay $4 and kill as many animals as he or she wants, and 90% of us have no way to pay $4 and save as many animals as we want ALIVE? It is structured for special interest control.

    You can contact me at 608-981-2287. I have all my contact information on my column or at the web site.

    We can change this quickly if we network, take a stand and organize politically. If you look at the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation web site, and click on the affiliate page, you will see that wildlife destroyers know how to organize. Because they bring the legislature an organized voting bloc ( and legislators are usually elected on very small margins ) – even the most “progressive” legislators will give them all of our public lands to kill out and all of our wildlife. They are allied with the NRA and the Farm Bureau for trophy killing. So all we need to do is organize as quickly as possible and attend the annual election of representatives to elect representation for ourselves. Next election is Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in every county in Wisconsin. It is the 80th “public” election that has been privatized by the hunting/trapping/hounding enthusiasts – but it is OUR election. We need two people to run for election in every county in the state that night. Last year they voted to kill sand hill cranes. This year, even though they kill coyotes 24/7 year-round, they want to put a bounty on coyotes, and start a killing season on seagulls and tundra swans.

    Please join us at Free pro-wolf bumper sticker for membership at any level. We must organize and have opened this space to do so. Please work to network it! Thanks! (I write the column, pro-bono, to help).

  • Cheri Howe

    Thank you …my friends in D.C. found your story,your words carry power,unlike many of our women”s voices…still.We have been screaming these truths …and yours are printed.After volunteering with Wildlife Rehab Center in Forest Lake,sending money to Ely’s Int’l Wolf Center ,Indiana”s Wolf Refuge …meetings,tears,anger,outrage,standing outside the Governors Mansion on Summit…I now live in Riverfalls, where trapping is allowed a mile out of town,and men are so very excited to get the dogs out to help kill the wolf,your words may reach just one…Thank you Sir!!!

  • John

    I do agree that Mr. Ayers has some points that should be pondered but the overall picture he paints is not truthful. Wildlife conservation is done with wildlife in mind, and is paid for by permits and licenses bought by hunters, trappers, and fisherman. Granted, some of the new gagets and sporting tools used today seem to put the word “fair chase” to shame, but regulations can change that. He also misses the economic advantage brought to many small towns during hunting seasons and the jobs provided throughout the process of hunting, fishing, and trapping. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with hunting, trapping or fishing when done correctly by law abiding people.

  • Paul

    John is right on. A majority of Americans — most of them non-hunters — support regulated hunting. Anti-hunters are in the minority, and I feel for their inability to engage in reasonable discussion on the many positives of hunting and trapping.

    Closed-minded individuals like Patricia spew hate for law-abiding hunters, most who are simply following an innate desire to hunt and gather free-ranging, renewable and organic meat while stimulating the economy and enjoying healthy recreation. Those who hunt and trap for the hides enjoy custom-made caps, jackets and other clothing, or sell the hides to supplement their family’s income. Hunting and trapping of predators like raccoon, fox and coyote allows wildlife like ducks, pheasants and many other ground-nesting birds a far better chance to successfully nest while reducing disease outbreaks.

    Wildlife conservation is indeed paid for by hunters and other firearm owners. Every state conservation department in the U. S. receives millions of dollars annually for programs that benefit game and non-game wildlife alike, and hunters and non-hunters alike. Even non-hunters can see the benefits of increased access to quality public lands and restoration of wetlands. The money comes via a formula based on the number of paid hunting license holders in each state and comes from excise taxes on sporting equipment used by hunters and target shooters.

    Brad, thank you for your service to our country. Some of my hunting partners have also served active duty, and too have witnessed things they’d rather forget. However, all of them see the multitude of benefits that comes from their passion for hunting deer, wild turkeys, waterfowl and other wildlife. None of the creatures they pursue are endangered, and there are no “humane” alternatives to controlling abundant wildlife populations and certainly no others that provide such a positive economic impact in an otherwise depressed economy.

    My wife and children also hunt and savor the fruits of the hunt — fresh air and exercise, camaraderie, adrenaline rush and sights, sounds and smells of the autumn, winter and spring woodlands. On those occasions when it all comes together and we’re blessed with the opportunity, and choose to take a shot, we savor the wild game in favorite recipes and share with others less fortunate. We thank our creator, and the animal that lived its life in the wild comes full circle, and becomes a part of us.

    Hunters and trappers aren’t endangering wildlife. Those who choose to believe the hype of the Patricia Randolph’s of this world simply don’t understand, and let their love of animals get in the way of reasonable discussion. I would argue that as a hunter, I love the wildlife I pursue as much or more than any non-hunter. I often photograph and videotape without firing a shot, and spend countless hours watching with high-powered optics outside of season or with 24/7 cameras that provide day and night photos and video of wildlife without intruding. However, when it comes to admiring the beauty of a rooster pheasant or wild turkey’s feathers, for example, you can’t fully understand it unless you’re running your fingers through them, or have your children make an incredible work of art out of them. And you certainly can’t understand how much it means to be able to eat wild game and fish, and share with others. How healthy it is, how spiritual it is and how fulfilling it is to be an active participant in wildlife management.

    Brad, I pray that you reach out to the true creator — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and find the truth that will set you free. God gave mankind dominion over the animals of the earth back in Genesis. As for the Native Americans you speak of, I know many who are avid hunters, and some who are poachers. You can’t lump any single group into a one-size-fits-all mold, just as you can’t paint all hunters “bad” or “good” or all anti-hunters as “rabid” — though many of the ones who comment online message boards or write letters to the editor in print are. Comments like, “Save a deer, shoot a hunter” show just how far out of touch with reality they are.

  • isobel springett

    After visiting Colorado and Wyoming on a photography trip, I was saddened and disgusted by the number of dead animals on roadsides and on the plains. Everything was terrified of us, especially the wild horses. You could see bullet holes everywhere. On signs, on carcasses, on trees… I will never go back and am very glad to be a Canadian I can tell you. We’re not perfect, but you guys are insane. You will be a third world country in a few years.

  • Paul

    Isobel, I’ve hunted out west for decades and have yet to see bullet holes on any signs or trees. The carcasses of dead animals you saw on roadsides and on the plains were likely roadkill victims, a sure waste of an otherwise tasty and renewable resource. Hunters don’t shoot big or small game out West to let it lay there. It is some of the finest eating anywhere. I’ve hunted and fished Canada, in four provinces. There is some terrific hunting there and plenty of hunters. You just don’t see them as much due to the remote countryside and much smaller population.