State College, Pa. — At least 20 organized predator hunts are scheduled for this winter.
Beginning with the first-ever Germania Hose Company Coyote Hunt on Jan. 17, and ending in late winter with the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association’s seventh hunt on March 9, there are one or more hunts held every weekend. The peak month is February with 16 hunts on tap.
The District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers Association and Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Club, the two largest hunts in the state, are keeping their rules and prize structures much the same for 2014. Other hunts continue to make changes in an attempt to attract more hunters or to avoid the controversy that weighing coyotes can cause.
“We are moving away from weighing coyotes and just having a Lucky Dog hunt this year – where prizes will be awarded by a drawing,” said Lin Gamble, who organizes the Tubmill Trout Club hunt.
“There has just been so much grief about people possibly cheating that I don’t want to deal with the hassles anymore.”
The club will be measuring the internal body temperature of coyotes this year, much like what is done at the Trappers Association coyote hunt.
Also new for the Tubmill hunt, “So hunters don’t have to drive across the state to Westmoreland County, we are also offering [by appointment] additional check stations in Pike and Berks counties,” Gamble said.
The Cresson Community Sportsman’s Association is still offering more than $5,000 in guaranteed prizes, but the group has changed its prize structure. The group is adding smallest male and female coyote categories at $250 each, as well as drawings for unsuccessful hunters [“ghost dogs”] and other random categories – “lucky dogs” and “show dogs” – all totaling $2,200.
The Liberty Township Sportsmen group is partially moving away from weights.
“This year one half of the prize pot will be given as equal shares to all hunters bringing in coyotes,” said Dwight Kline. “Our flea market was a very successful addition to last year’s hunt, so we will continue that this year, and we are adding a spaghetti dinner on Friday evening, March 7.”
Some groups start a hunt because they are looking for a quick fundraiser, while others find success in just having fun. With “fun” as its major focus, the Sullivan County Coyote Hunt has continued to grow.
“We had 85 registered hunters in 2009, and 148 last year,” said Dan Morrison, an organizer with the Sullivan County hunt. “We like to have fun and give hunters something to do during the winter. If we make a little money, that’s fine, too.”
Club President Ron Sartori happily reported that all of the major prize winners in last year’s hunt passed the polygraph test and that things are shaping up for another banner year for the Mosquito Creek hunt.
“We are about 400 hunter registrations ahead of where we were at this time last year,” Sartori said. “While this isn’t always an indicator of the final total, we sure take it as a positive sign.”
“Last year’s winning coyote weighed 51.2 pounds, and it was one of only four or five that broke the 50-pound mark during the 22 years of our contest,” noted Sartori. “Our average weights also seem to be getting heavier.”
Gene Dodge, who organizes the United Sportsman Camp 271 hunt in Luzerne County, also commented on coyote size.
”Last year's coyotes were by far the largest in terms of their weight and the total numbers turned in by successful hunters,” he said. Clay Morris took the camp’s top 2013 prize of $1,000 with a 47.3-pound Columbia County coyote.
It takes a lot of work to host a successful coyote hunt, and it seems that several hunts fall by the wayside each year.
The Indian Mountain Rod & Gun Club and the Promised Land Sportsman’s Association coyote hunts will not be held in 2014.
The status of several other hunts is questionable, and they are not included here.