Barry Bonds is excited. "Really excited!" he exclaims. "It’s awesome … really gets your blood pumpin’!"
Ah, he must mean how it felt blasting those record-breaking 762 homeruns during his quarter-century as a Major League Baseball superstar. No, his baseball career behind him, Barry is finding his excitement elsewhere these days. He keeps the adrenalin flowing by shooting and killing animals for fun and profit as a spokesman for Christensen Arms, a Utah company specializing in high-powered hunting rifles.
You can see Barry at work in a new seven-minute online video, shot for his employer in the woods of Saskatchewan. He seems to be enjoying himself immensely, laughing, shouting gleefully, seemingly breathless with excitement, as dramatic background music pulses loudly.
Barry’s uniformed head to foot in camouflage gear and armed with one of Christensen Arms’ very best products – "a tremendous rifle …a no-kick baby, a beautiful gun…If you ever get a chance to get one, get one."
He’s accompanied by a Christensen Arms’ employee, who explains as they head for a camouflaged deer blind reminiscent of a World War II pillbox, that "we’ll just look over a lot of bucks, and if you see one you like, just drop the hammer."
They peer through the slit across the front of the blind, and sure enough, here come three beautiful whitetail deer, making their way slowly, gracefully and unsuspectingly just yards from the blind. Bonds quickly spots one he likes. It’s standing still, apart from the others, antlers held high, an easy target. Barry sticks his rifle barrel through the slit, takes careful aim and fires. One shot and the animal falls dead.
Barry Bonds shouts with joy: "What in the hell! Holy cow! What an incredible hunt!"
Next we see the mighty hunter sitting on the ground, smiling broadly, as he holds up the slain buck’s head by the antlers. "I’m really proud of it," he exclaims. A beautiful living, breathing animal has become, in death, what Barry proclaims as his "beautiful trophy."
Bonds is among some 20 million Americans who enjoy stalking and killing their four-legged and winged fellow creatures for sport, although he is different from most hunters in getting paid for doing it. The hunters are not the "sportsmen" they claim to be. They are animal killers.
Once, a long time ago, we had to hunt and kill in order to survive, but this is the 21st century. Yes, we still kill animals for food, but that’s not the same as killing them for amusement.
In today’s circumstances, making sport of inflicting pain, suffering and death on other animals who are less able to defend themselves is cruel and unnecessary – in a word, barbaric. As animal rights activist Jemie Kemsey noted, hunters are saying "it is acceptable to commit an act of violence and take innocent life simply for the fun of it."
Tom Stienstra, one of the country’s leading outdoors writers, sees nothing wrong with that, however. For to hunt, he declared. is to learn "the skills of woodsmanship" — to experience "the raw essence of life and death, to strip away the layers of civilization." He’s certainly right about that. There’s nothing civilized about hunting.
But, say some hunter apologists, we’re actually helping the poor animals by "thinning the herds" and thus keeping them from starvation. But though there’s no doubt that some animal populations are too large for their well-being, there are civilized ways to ease their plight, such as relocating them.
Hunters also like to point out their support for moves by environmentalists to preserve open space. But they do so because open space is where the hunters’ prey lives. Without open space, they’d have nothing to shoot at, nothing to kill.
Barry Bonds would be wise to heed the words of another former baseball slugger, Mo Vaughn, late of the Red Sox, Mets, and Angels:
"I just don’t want to kill anything anymore. Give the animals a gun, then maybe I’d hunt."
Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based writer. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.