OPINION —  I’m growing soft.

Or perhaps recognizing that even with all of the shots I have taken over my decades of hunting, that I always have been soft.

Not to the inevitability of death and my part in the food chain as an actor that takes life, but rather in my avoidance of the most brutish ways in which life is casually taken by even the most benign of nature’s characters.

The mice love my pickups and tractors.

I used to leave out poisons but stopped when I saw the byproduct of those efforts.

The beloved and colorful sparrow hawks that nested for years on the ridge near my front door disappeared and I had to wonder if one of them didn’t pick up a contaminated mouse.

A stray cat slipped into my horse barn only to sicken and die days later.

I have no proof, but I chose not to continue with this line of attack.

Instead, I use live traps and peanut butter and short drives down the ridgeline, hoping that a half mile of distance will leave the mice in a more advantageous position.

That death at the claws of an owl or jaws of a snake would be more preferable to rotting at the bottom of my trash.

The wind was howling the other morning and I have lost my thick winter layer of fat earlier than usual.

The cold bit deep and I had no desire to spend any more time than needed out in the elements.

There were two mice in the live trap that I could see and more than enough bait to last them through the day until I came home again and could take them for a drive.

At least I thought so.

By the time I returned that evening, one had killed the other and was feasting on its corpse.

A grotesque act of cannibalism and possible fratricide that I had enabled.

I have grown accustomed to the killing of coyotes, hawks, owls, and lions, but I occasionally forget that all of the animals are coming out of winter with vitamin deficiencies that I don’t appreciate.

That often the young of other species are consumed to fill that void.

That animals have long memories and hold grudges and that even the kindest among them will put down his neighbor if given half the chance.

Deer and elk have been observed feeding on fish and the eggs and chicks of birds.

They are not carnivorous, but given the opportunity, they will consume the flesh of lesser animals to improve their own odds of survival.

A quick online search will show deer consuming the bones and flesh of roadkill and tracking down and eating young birds after flushing them from their nests.

I know that odd cravings overtake females who are carrying young, but Disney had led me to believe that deer were much more kindhearted than   men.

Today’s videographers seem to be everywhere in profusion and recording more of the natural world than we ever imagined and little of the new discoveries are settling.

The Disney chimps from my childhood wouldn’t hunt down and consume monkeys and the fawns of antelope, or maybe that behavior was edited out to improve ratings.

But nature doesn’t care about human entertainment and has evolved to reward the aggressive and the strong.

Through the years I have watched elk try to kill each other in battle and when the victor was weakened by a hunter’s arrow, the defeated animal rushed back in and gored his enemy as he died.

That particular scene has been repeated by deer, antelope, and turkeys.

Perhaps no other species more often than turkeys, the season that is currently open to hunters.

On numerous occasions when multiple gobblers would race in to win the breeding rights to a perceived receptive hen, the survivors would not leave after the shotgun blast.

Instead, they would race in to attack the body of their recently departed competitor.

They would spur the corpse as long as there was still a flutter left in the remains and tear at the snood hanging from its nose, attempting to remove the scarlet ribbon at a trophy from the body.

Deer and antelope are the same. The need for vengeance and retribution is strong and at times trumps the desire to live another day.

They sometimes choose to face the slings and arrows of would-be hunters just to count coup on a fallen enemy.

We humans are not so removed from our wild days ourselves and I miss my lost naivety.

The Speirs family has owned and operated Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service since 1996.

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