Group coyote hunts fill winter season
State College, Pa. — A full slate of predator hunts is on tap for this winter.
Beginning with the St. Clair Tremont Trap and Field Club hunt on Jan. 25, and ending in late winter with the Liberty Township Sportsmen’s Association hunt on March 10, there are two or more organized hunts every weekend. The peak weekend is Feb. 15-17, when six different hunts are held.
Organizers of the District 9 Trappers Association and the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Club, the two largest hunts in the state, are keeping things much the same for 2013, but other clubs are making changes in an attempt to attract more hunters.
“We decided to offer a $1,000 grand prize for the heaviest coyote this year,” said Dan Morrison, organizer of the Sullivan County hunt. “We also offer a $50 bounty per coyote – up to three per registered hunter. We only had 93 hunters last year, and I’d like to up that.”
Several other organizations are moving in the opposite direction – eliminating coyote weights and spreading out the prize money or having drawings among all successful hunters.
“I talked to some other clubs, and this year we decided to go to giving each successful hunter an equal portion of the prize money, rather than a big prize for the heaviest coyote,” said Pennsylvania State Hunters Organization treasurer Christine Tobias. “Our hunter numbers were down last year, and we are just trying to figure out what we are doing wrong.”
Charleroi Sportsmen hunt chairman Pete Cupari related that his club also moved away from weights. “I just got tired of the accusations and arguments over coyote weights,” he said.
“This year, every successful hunter will get an equal share of the prize money. We also have a jackpot drawing for everyone entered in the hunt – whether they are successful or not.”
While the Tubmill Trout Club made a move away from weights, it has not done so completely. A few years ago, the group sponsored two hunts – one by weight and in the second, “Lucky Dog Hunt,” a drawing was used to determine winners.
For last year’s only hunt, the club offered cash prizes for the 10 heaviest coyotes. In 2013, the club will award much of the prize money by way of a lottery, drawing six winners from the pool of successful hunters.
In addition, cash prizes will be paid out for the heaviest male and female coyotes.
“I hope that this will be a good combination to satisfy the callers and those running dogs,” said hunt organizer Lin Gamble. “Everyone who enters also gets five chances on three guns, and we have prizes donated by manufacturers. There is also a ‘bounty fund’ for those who don’t win any other prizes.”
Using a polygraph to reduce cheating by participants remains costly and controversial, Gamble noted. He decided to reject polygraph tests.
“We considered it last year, but decided that we are just not going to get into lie detector tests.”
However, according to club president Devon Tarner, the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Club will continue to use the tests. Last year, one hunter refused to take the test and forfeited a $3,188 prize.
“Registrations are running ahead of 2012, and we are hoping to break the 4,000-hunter mark this year,” Tarner said. “We polygraphed four hunters last year and all passed.
“We plan on doing at least five this year. The test makes our hunt more legitimate and helps to attract hunters.”
Another approach is the one offered by the Woodcock Valley Sportsmen’s Club spokesperson Rick Isett. “We never want to offer enough prize money to make it worth cheating,” he quipped.
One other hunt change is a trend to include foxes as a part of the earlier hunts. In 2013, the Shavers Creek Volunteer Fire Company will add foxes to its hunt – joining the company of the St. Clair Tremont, Orbisonia Rockhill, Woodcock Valley and Cresson hunts.