TUNKHANNOCK – Less than seven percent of all the hunters registered for the three-day Northeast Regional Coyote Hunt, which concluded on Sunday, were successful.
And that's pretty good.
The event, which is in its 13th year, attracted a record 841 hunters who harvested 58 coyotes – another high. Coyotes could be taken with dogs, calls or tracking them in the snow. Hunters paid a $25 registration fee and a $100 prize was awarded for each coyote taken during the three-day hunt. A $250 prize was handed out for the heaviest coyote taken each day, and a $2,000 grand prize was awarded on Sunday for the heaviest coyote overall. The event is organized by District 9 of the Pennsylvania Trapper's Association and the weigh-in was held at the Triton Hose Company.
Bill Kalinauskis, director for District 9, said the hunt continues to grow every year and the record numbers were no surprise.
We had excellent hunting conditions this year and there was snow in some areas, which helped, he said. This has become such an established event and we're the second-biggest coyote hunt in the state.
The event has topped 800 hunters five times. Last year 817 hunters bagged 53 coyotes.
Dan White, of Muncy Valley, participated in the hunt with his father, William, and they turned in two coyotes and missed two more while hunting in Lackawanna County. Dan White said even though this year's harvest was a record, the odds are still in the coyotes' favor.
Out of 841 hunters, you had 58 coyotes, so you're chances still aren't very good, he said. But this is growing every year and I think it's because of the prize money. That's a draw.
So to is the chance to get outdoors and hunt in the latter stages of winter.
That's what brought out Shane Malicky of Pleasant Mount. He used two dogs to bag a 36-pound coyote on Sunday and brought it to the weigh-in eight minutes before the 2 p.m. deadline. Malicky hunted in Wayne County and said his dogs chased seven or eight coyotes.
I've been in this hunt for the last eight years. I do it because it gives you something to do over the winter after the other hunting seasons are over, he said. I do three or four coyote hunts each year.
The heaviest coyote taken during the three-day hunt weighed 46.95 pounds from Susquehanna County, which also produced the most coyotes – 16. Seven coyotes were taken in Luzerne County.
While the turnout for the hunt was a record, the high participation rate in the sport overall is making for challenging conditions, said Percy MacMillan of Noxen.
He bagged a 43-pound coyote using a bird distress call on Sunday.
There's so many people calling coyotes now that they are getting call-shy, MacMillan said. They don't come in like they used to.
Funds generated by the hunt are used by District 9 for educational programs and for donations to wildlife research projects, Kalinauskis said.
Aside from attracting hunters, the event is also a draw for several colleges and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The groups were on hand to take samples from the coyotes to conduct disease research, aging and to build a genetic database.
Kyle Van Why, a wildlife disease biologist with the USDA, said much of their research would be difficult if it wasn't for coyote hunts.
This is the fifth year I've been here and this hunt is ideal for us because all these guys are bringing in coyotes from a wide ranging area to one central location, Van Why said. Everything comes to us.
Kalinauskis said the number of hunters participating would likely be higher if the Super Bowl weren't held on the same weekend. But he didn't mind because if it grew much more the hunt would be too big to handle.
Still, the numbers for next year's hunt could be just as strong because many hunters said they will be back.
I hunt coyotes year round and it's my hobby, MacMillan said. I look forward to this hunt every year.
1. Susquehanna – 16
2. Wayne – 13
3. Wyoming – 8
4. Luzerne – 7
5. Bradford – 5
6. Lackawanna – 5
7. Sullivan - 4