Thursday, May 18, 2006
7 News Investigations: Thrill of the Kill
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder...and so is disgust. This next story will either make you want to head to a hunting ranch or head to a window to scream. Hunting exotic animals in Florida is becoming extremely popular...and extremely controversial. What is it? Here is Patrick Fraser with the thrill of the kill.
WSVN--No-one can argue one thing; it's an incredible feeling...
To ride quietly thru the woods...and suddenly see a wild deer rush away.
"There he goes...a white tail. You see him there?"
Or race ahead...
"Go ahead, go Bobbie..Go, go, go."
To an open spot...
"Now watch...they'll cross right here is we are quiet."
To watch three wild boars shoot across the road.
John Kruszeski: "I like to get out here myself. Get away, go sit out in the stands, just kick back... and watch the animals...Relax."
But most people don't come here to sightsee. John Kruszeski's Suwannee River Ranch is a hunting preserve in North Floria where you can come to kill an exotic animal.
John Kruszeski: "That's a red deer... there European."
But you dont have to spend thousands to fly to Europe to hunt a red buck.
John Kruszeski: "Water buffalo in the branches.."
Or go to Asia to find a water buffalo.
John Kruszeski: "Water buffalo in the branches..."
There are sheep, black bucks...Animals from all over the world and the U.S.
Like the American buffalo and wild boar.
Each beautiful and for a fee.
Ranging from 500 to several thousand dollars, each a potential trophy.
Patrick Fraser: "The critics will say it's a canned hunt. These animals are just sitting there."
John Kruszeski: "Well that's what they say till they come and see."
John gave us a tour of his ranch...400 acres of thick brush and trees. The animals kept in by a fence that has 8,000 volts of electricity running through it.
Steve Avilla has killed several trophy animals at Suwannne River Ranch. He says it isn't easy.
Steve Avilla: "These animals have been hunted and seen hunters before. More-so that alot of the wild animals. So they are already to take right off on you."
That is indisputable. We just wanted pictures and despite hundreds of animals on the ranch spotting them took hours.
Steve Avilla: "There's a white...theres a white deer right there...see the fallow."
There are an estimated 20 hunting ranches in Florida.
Suwannee River is considered one of the best preserves in the state. Well regulated, the animals have plenty of room to hide, and are well cared for.
John Kruszeski: "Just the feed bill runs about 23 to 26 hundred dollars. The hay bill runs about $800-1000 a month."
Hunters are the animals biggest enemy; their second biggest killer, each other.
John Kruszeski: "They get to fighting one another...they kill one another that way."
This room is filled with expensive trophy animals.
But John never collected a dime, because just like in the wild, each animal died after getting into a fight with another animal. This buffalo got in the way of a red deers rack.
John Kruszeski: "Went in and it died instantly."
And sometimes the hunters become the hunted.
These water buffalo weigh 2,000 pounds.
Get near them, and get ready to run.
John Kruszeski: "Bobbie came in saved me or that one would have killed me. They're just too dangerous. I've had 'em come out here and hit the sides of the truck."
John makes his living as a general contractor. The ranch doesn't make money, it's just a hobby he loves. Particulary when he see parents bring their kids out here.
John Kruszeski: "And to see one of them come out here hunting, and to take their time and shooting their first animal, and see them...they just light up."
But if you want to really see someone light up, mention hunting ranch to a member of the Animal Rights Foundation.
Holly Bowman: "The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida is opposed to hunting in all forms. However, hunting an animal in an enclosed area is particularly unjustifable."
Holly Bowman says it doesn't matter that the animals are well fed, with room to roam and hide.
Holly Bowman: "At a canned hunt animals aren't killed to control population size. They are not killed in self defense -- they are killed merely for the sake of amusement, for a trophy."
But Steve says if a hunter wants a trophy it's much safter to hunt on a ranch than in the wild.
Steve Avilla: "By hunting on a preserve you know how many people are on it? You know, where they are. And you can hunt game that I can't afford to go hunt."
Safer cheaper and extremely popular.
Extremely popular and of course controversial.
"There is nothing to be proud of there -- it's just killing for the sake of amusement."
"There's some deer back there...get ready."
Patrick Fraser: "Sporting or sickening? Hunting or inhumane? Clearly people disagree -- and just as clearly, when it comes to the thrill of the kill, they will never agree. Patrick Fraser 7 news."