VARMINTS
91 minutes, 1998, Hi8

“Recent Words”
DePauw Magazine, Winter 2001

Hawes-Davis is at the top of his craft in these independently produced documentaries dealing with two of the prickliest animal rights issues in the West. In VARMINTS, his first feature-length film, Hawes-Davis chronicles the relentless efforts to obliterate from the Great Plains the lovable prairie dog, a cause celebre for animal rights activists and object of hatred for ranchers. Through interviews of a wide range of people, from ranchers to preservationists, he covers the spectrum of issues involved in the great debate: Is the prairie dog the scourge of agriculture and cattle ranchers, or a linchpin of a healthy ecosystem in the West? Because the film is punctuated with footage showing members of the Varmint Militia - a group that hunts prairie dogs for sport - blowing away the helpless critters from a distance with high-powered rifles, one can’t help but root for the underdog. Hawes-Davis takes on another animal rights issue bristling with controversy in his most recent documentary, KILLING COYOTE. Here too, the debate is whether the coyote is a wild creature worthy of protection, or should it be eliminated as a threat to the ranchers’ livelihood. The filmmaker again presents a wide variety of film footage and interviews people on both sides of the controversy. Similar to the Varmint Militia, Hawes-Davis depicts a group of hunters who gather annually in Wyoming for the sole purpose of luring coyotes into the open in order to shoot them for the thrill of the kill. Hawes-Davis is an independent filmmaker based in Missoula, Montana.