When I was a kid growin' up on the farm in Connecticut during the Great Depression, my grandfather and uncles had a Thanksgiving tradition of going waterfowl hunting early that morning. I usually went along. When we had our limit of black ducks—the East Coast equivalent of the mallard—we'd come home, clean our ducks and help prepare them for my grandmother and her daughters (including my mom) to cook for our Thanksgiving meal.
We'd sit down to our delicious baked and stuffed waterfowl, along with home-grown veggies, fresh baked bread and homemade ice cream laced with home-grown canned raspberries, and at times, apple or pumpkin pies. For a real treat, my grandfather skimmed the cream off the fresh milk and grandma would top off the pie with fresh whipped cream, plus a cup or two of Puffy's special cider.
One day, after again ruining my school shoes tromping around after turtles and frogs, my dad warned me he'd never buy me a pair of shoes again if I ruined the new ones. It took about a week for me to do just that, and my dad kept his word.
When the need for new shoes arrived my grandfather suggested I get into the skunk trapping business, as striped skunk fur was enjoying a good price on the fur market.
The striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, was a common visitor to our farm and tended to get into all kinds of trouble, eating baby chicks and eggs, digging up veggies and causing a horrifying stench when the barn cat or dogs pushed them too far.
Grandpa, whom we lovingly called "Puffy" because of the stinky pipe he puffed on endlessly—taught me how to trap, skin and prepare skunk hides to sell. One year it worked better than we'd planned and not only did I have the cash for a new pair of shoes, but also enough money to buy a brand new bicycle for my paper route, more shoes, model airplanes and my favorite magazine, Air Trails, which sold for a nickel in 1939 and can be found today for $6.
I've shared these old memories to show I'm not against fur-trapping and hunting when it comes to keeping one's self in clothing and food. However, killing wildlife for family fun is something our society doesn't need.
One day in 1952, Oregon State Police Game Officer Avon Mayfield called and asked me to climb a tree out near today's Fryrear Transfer Station to retrieve two dead baby golden eagles in their nest. They had both been shot by someone standing on the rim near the nest.
Then a couple of years back I was checking a golden eagle nest with two nestling golden eagles in it. When I looked at it through my scope I could see they were both dead. When I climbed to the nest I saw they had both been shot—as it turned out right from the place I had been looking at them with my scope. I can go on and on with similar stories.
Unfortunately, the killing of wildlife sometimes takes on a direction outside the limits of the "sportsman's ethic," causing a lot of ecological damages. A small anti-wolf group in Idaho that wanted to make a game of killing wolves on our public lands is on par with the operators of the Hampton store and cafe years back, who wanted to start a rattlesnake killing contest. The rattlesnake contest never happened, and the family wolf hunt was turned down by the BLM in Idaho.
Wildlife killing contests ignore science and perpetuate false stereotypes about important species— such as wolves and coyotes—that play essential roles in healthy, vibrant ecosystems. There were once nationwide hawk-killing contests that someone dreamed up for fun and games, which, thankfully, have also come to an end.
Bringing wolves back to Yellowstone has proved that the presence of predators among elk herds works in the Balance of Nature. Meanwhile, the indiscriminate killing of coyotes that's expanded their range all the way to Maine, Chicago and downtown Los Angeles is further evidence that killing, "for the fun of it" is really against the nature of Nature.