Undercover investigation lays bare extreme cruelty in Indiana and Texas wildlife killing contests. Foxes, bobcats, coyotes among animals blasted with assault rifles
By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
It is a bloody scene at the Texas weigh-in of the “De Leon Pharmacy and Sporting Goods’ Varmint Hunt #1” on a cold January morning this year. Participants in this wildlife killing contest are unloading the bodies of bobcats, grey foxes, coyotes and raccoons from their trucks, which are expensively outfitted for the killing with raised decks, comfortable chairs and gun mounts. Sixty or so animals have been slaughtered over the contest’s 21-hour period, using assault rifles and other powerful weapons.
Our undercover investigator is on site, documenting the goings-on. The animals have gun shot wounds in their heads and bodies, with their organs spilling out and faces partially destroyed.
One participant stands over a row of animals he killed. He casually nudges a coyote with his foot, telling our investigator: “I shot this one up here in the throat from high up and it blew out the whole bottom of his chest.” The weapon he used, he says, was a high-end, custom-built rifle that uses .22 Creedmoor cartridges. “They’re like a .22-250 on steroids” and “not very fur-friendly,” he notes. “In these contests, it’s not about—like, you know, I wouldn’t use something like that if you wanna save the fur.”
A team of three men, calling themselves “Dead-On,” are the winners, having killed five coyotes, two bobcats, a raccoon and a fox. Contest organizers hand out more than $3,000 in cash prizes.
Earlier, on Dec. 6, our investigator documents similar cruelties at another wildlife killing contest in Warren County, Indiana. At the Williamsport Fire Department, where the winners are determined, participants pile up dead animals, some already stiff, to be judged for prizes. They discuss the barbaric ways in which they killed the animals and they punch holes into their legs so they can hang them upside down and weigh them.
Like the Texas contest, this one in Indiana allowed the use of high-tech equipment to kill animals, including electronic devices to lure them into the open by mimicking the cries of dependent young. The adult animals who approach are quickly mowed down. The guns used are so powerful, they obliterate the animals’ fur.
“I enjoy it,” says one participant, about the killing. He says he is a regular coyote hunter and uses an AR-15 rifle with night vision to shoot animals. He and his team killed 128 coyotes last season, he brags.
The apparent winners of this contest are four men who dub themselves the “Midwest Predators.” They wear matching team jackets. Together they have killed about 16 of the approximately 60 coyotes slaughtered during the two-day event.
Read the full Texas and Indiana investigation reports
Cruelty such as this is hard for most of us to fathom. Unfortunately, it is very real and it is happening all around us, in nearly all of the 43 states where wildlife killing contests such as these are still allowed. They encourage the killing of wild animals like coyotes, bobcats, foxes and raccoons for fun and for cash prizes, and they are held at the most innocuous places, like fire departments, pharmacies, restaurants and even churches, completely unregulated by state wildlife agencies. Children are often present, and sometimes even encouraged to participate.
In most cases, the bodies of the animals killed have no use after they have been weighed and the prizes handed out. They are sometimes tossed into large dumpsters or left in the woods to rot in piles.
Over the past three years, the Humane Society of the United States has documented the carnage at wildlife killing contests from coast to coast—in Oregon, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and New York, and now in Indiana and Texas. Our goal is to wipe them out—and the senseless cruelty they endorse and encourage—for good.
The reason we turned the spotlight on Texas and Indiana this time is because wildlife killing contests are rampant in these states and in the rest of the nation’s heartland. Texas, in fact, likely has more wildlife killing contests than any other state in the country—around 50 every year. The contests target a broad range of species, including bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, badgers, jackrabbits, ringtails, opossums and even mountain lions and crows.
One such event, the nation’s biggest, is the West Texas Big Bobcat Contest, held in San Angelo every year between January and March. During its first leg this year in January, 644 teams competed for $148,000 in prize money. The winning two-man team that killed the biggest bobcat raked in $45,080, while another team collected $6,440 for killing 81 foxes in 23 hours.
At Indiana’s Coyote Showdown contest held in Greenfield in January 2021, roughly 45 teams killed 109 coyotes and 10 red foxes, according to social media posts.
Participants and those who seek to keep these contests alive falsely claim that they help prevent wildlife-livestock conflicts. There is no evidence to show that this is true and our own analysis of federal data has shown that numbers commonly offered to back such claims are grossly overestimated. Most Americans are, in fact, disgusted by wildlife killing contests, and want them to end.
Fortunately, as a result of the work we’ve done to expose the cruelty, seven states now ban wildlife killing contests, and many more are working on bills to end these events, including Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Oregon. This is important work aimed at ending the unnecessary suffering for thousands of animals every year who are victims of these contests, and we need your help. If you live in Texas or Indiana, please contact your state director to see how you can help end wildlife killing contests. We also urge you to call your Senators and Representative in Congress and ask them to pass a federal ban on these contests. Wildlife killing contests do nothing but promote a culture of insensitivity and cruelty against wild animals who play important roles in the ecosystems they inhabit. These animals definitely do not deserve to be blasted apart with assault weapons, and the sooner we end this cruelty, the better off our nation will be.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
This animal murder is bestial. These people and the politicians who allow that must be severely punished. My contempt for these people
Absurdo! Absurdo! Isso tem que parar! Inocentes morrendo apenas pelo prazer de matar…
Esta violencia tiene que acabar ya no lo podemos permitir no es posible que la gente sigamos a nuestros animalitos
Advocates are popping out of the woodwork.
Keep the faith that this organized brutality to wildlife will end.
I just sent a letter concerning those awful “killing contests” in Indiana and Texas and how appalling it was to see those poor coyotes and wolves and the abusive practice of killing them for being alive! There must be some laws to protect them from this savagery! I did mention I was sending a link about a book called, “Animals’ Rights . . ” and it’s in 1922 that it was published. Sorry I mixed up the year saying it was 1852. As I reading this, all the more for being against man’s injustice of his brutal, tormented killings that our animal kingdom does not deserve! Animals have every right to live and love their pups as they are meant to live. What right has man to take it away from them? The Indians only took what was necessary for them. Clothing to keep warm and food for survival. These other kind of men are full of vanity, selfishness, and greed all of which leave nothing but a path of emptiness. They are wrongly stealing from Mother Nature and in the cruelest way! This barbaric practice must end! Here is the link to the book I mentioned above. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/64498/64498-h/64498-h.htm
Thank you for all you do for our animal world!
And these people seem very proud to kill these animals. And they call themselves human? Totally humiliating and embarassing.
Hunting is wrong, it is evil to seek out life on earth for your thrill killing. Hunting is a nice way to describe a sick sociopath. Your entire existence on earth is dedicated to causing suffering and death of others. . You cause unbearable pain on the folks who love #animals.
Awesome job, Humane Society!!! Let’s put a stop to the cruelty.
They are adorable creatures stop hunting them for pleasure..
These people who are involved in wildlife killing contest are crazy. Their crazy with greed. Texas and Indiana need to be the next states in the Country to ban wildlife killing contests forever!
Disgusting! What more can I say? This so sickning. At anyone can destroy more and more of nature and animals in nature.
There is no justification for this “sport” other than human selfishness. We should let nature take its course and not disrupt the natural cycle of life.
Stop this animal cruelty!
This is disgusting and cruel!! It teaches no compassion for animals and send a message that killing life for sport is something to be proud of!! What a are teaching your kids!!!!!!
This is so disturbing to me. I wish I could get these images out of my head .I can’t believe this is going on and humans are doing this and enjoying it. Breaks my heart.
I hope there will be end to all this senseless murdering of these beautiful creatures.
How can it be stopped. It is horrible. I understand killing a coyote if it is killing your livestock but for fun???
There’s something wrong with these peoples brains. There’s absolutely no compassion or respect for the living things we share this world with. This kind of this needs to be outlawed and these people put into therapy. This disgusts me. Poor, poor animals.
These people who find joy in killing animals are sick psychos! They should be caught and punished the way they hurt animals! Pass a law to stop this deranged behavior!
This is disgusting! Every animal on this planet serves a purpose. There are enough of them them are shot when being a problem.. but to seek them out and kill for nothing!! I’m appalled …this needs to stop!
Is there something we can all sign to end this massacre ?
Killing lives for sport is so cruel and inhumane. There is absolutely no justification in taking lives for fun. How would you feel if a human life is taken away just for fun? Please have a soul and spare animals from such brutality. Also – ask yourself .. does killing an unarmed animal by guns from distance make you feel powerful? Trust me it makes you look absolutely pathetic and a coward.
Tragic save OUR wildlife
Why is it all the supposedly ‘ethical’ hunters out there aren’t leading the charge against this sort of thing? This is their domain, and should be their responsibility, indeed their deep desire, to address. It’s almost like their claims of conscientiousness are a farce.
I agree totally with Elizabeth Smith. I can’t stand knowing this is going on. Hunting in this country and placing dead animals on display for praise and monetary rewards should be outlawed. Perhaps that is why Covid is still around killing people.
OMG…..I so hate people. God put them on this earth for a reason not for these scumbags to kill for money!!!!
Hold this monsters accountable for their crimes!
This cruelty needs to stop. The animals r not hunting anyone this is not sport it is murder! We need to take care of the world and it’s animals for future generations and teach our children to love and respect nature not destroy it!!!!!!
This is sociopathic
Out right murder this need BANNING EVERYWHERE
What do psychopaths do for fun and entertainment? They kill!! And in society, this psychopathic behavior has been normalized.
The fact that no laws exist to prevent this sick, barbaric behavior is a worse atrocity!
HUMANS: Earth’s most dangerous predator.
These brain dead morons, who kill animals simply for the “sport” of it, should be arrested and thrown in jail for years. But it is up to the states where this is happening to outlaw this barbaric activity. Until that happens, these ignorant, hillbilly punks will continue to kill animals for “fun”. Laws need to be passed making this illegal, and those laws need to be strictly enforced with, at the very least, heavy fines being levied.
Predator control good job
Absurdo, acabem com isso já. Um país como este fazendo isso