OPINION: There Are No Killing Contests in Sweetwater County; Only Calling Contests

OPINION: There Are No Killing Contests in Sweetwater County; Only Calling Contests

This opinion piece was written and submitted by Eric Adams of Rock Springs.

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This is a rebuttal to the “Please Stop Coyote Killing Contest” opinion written by Madhu Anderson.

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I know of no “coyote killing contests” in Sweetwater County. I haven’t heard of a “killing contest” for a long time; at least for coyotes. There are coyote calling contests where hunters compete in 2-3-man teams and call coyotes. A very small portion of the coyotes seen by the participating teams in any given day are harvested. Coyotes are very smart and are probably one of the wariest animals that live in Wyoming.  Coyote hunting demands far more patience, focus, and persistence than many other hunting activities.  

Typically, there are 15-30 teams that participate in these local events. Most participants would be hunting coyotes regardless of whether there was a contest that weekend or not.  Coyote calling contests have strict rules that are designed to ensure that the focus of the contest is about the skill it takes to call in coyotes. Most contests have nothing to do with the total amount of coyotes killed. Participants are not allowed to kill coyotes using aircraft, snowmobiles, traps, or snares (all legal activities for taking coyotes). Only hunting in daytime hours is permitted.

The definition of a contest, is to determine who is best at an activity, sport, or particular quality; in this case to determine who is the best coyote hunter(s) on the day of the contest. The guys and gals who win these contests have thousands of hours invested in learning how to be a successful coyote hunter. Coyote hunting does not glorify violence and most coyote hunters have far more respect for the animal and the habitat that they live in than the non-hunting public.

Typically, coyotes harvested at these calling contests are sold to a fur buyer and are not disposed of in the trash as Madhu claims. Most years’ coyotes bring $15-$50 per animal. This money is typically used to promote the event or give door prizes to contest participants. I’ve even seen where this money is donated to other pro habitat, pro hunting causes, and even scholarships. As with all hunting, and outdoor activity contest participants are less likely to be involved in violent acts. Studies show youth that hunt and fish are less likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol and do better in school than their non-hunting peers.  

Electronic callers are used to hunt coyotes but have minimal effect on the success of most hunters. Set-up, wind, weather, location and shooting ability have much more of an effect on success. The best coyote hunters also know how to use hand calls and their own voice to induce response from a coyote. It’s no different than hunters using duck or elk calls. The thought that an electronic caller gives you a supreme advantage over coyotes is factually inaccurate. On a good day most hunters set up and call 10-20 times and are lucky to have coyotes respond four of the 10-20 times they set up.

The statement that hunting coyotes is “condemned by most hunters” is just not true. I’ve been a passionate hunter for 40 years and have yet to hear any mainstream hunting group take an anti-electronic call or anti-predator hunting stance.

In Wyoming, they are classified as a predator non-game animal and there are almost no restrictions on hunting coyotes. This is because of their abundance and the negative effects they have on livestock and other wildlife. Aircraft, night hunting, snowmobiles, traps, poison and snares are commonly used by the U.S. Government and livestock operators to keep coyote numbers under control. In 2018, 5,600 coyotes were killed in Wyoming by the Department of Agriculture for protection of livestock and other wildlife.

For comparison, there are a ½ dozen coyote calling contests in Sweetwater County annually and approximately 100-150 coyotes are harvested at these calling contests. Coyote contests have no measurable effect on livestock/wildlife because the total number of coyotes removed from the landscape in contest hunting is minimal. Removing coyotes in general does have positive effects for livestock and certain wildlife. Madhu claims that there is no evidence that supports removing coyotes from a landscape helps livestock or wildlife.

You can do your own research, but for every study that shows there is no benefit to reducing coyote populations there is a study that contradicts this and shows a positive effect for livestock and wildlife.  There is indisputable evidence that coyote removal at certain times of the year has positive effects for both wildlife and livestock populations.

If the anti-hunting activists were truly concerned with the population health of the coyote, they would challenge the Department of Agriculture who kills hundreds of thousands of coyotes in the United States annually. The problem is the activists would lose (and have lost) because the mainstream science supports removal of these animals to protect livestock and other animal populations.

Madhu claims that “coyote killing contests” disrupt the family structure is not true. This Disneyesque statement is factually incorrect and would not be supported by any mainstream wildlife professional who knows anything about coyotes. Once again, coyotes killed in contests make up a fraction of a percentile of the coyotes killed annually. Contests are typically held in winter before puppies are born and after yearling coyotes have dispersed. Coyotes have their young in the spring. By early fall, young of the year slowly disperse into new territory. Most coyotes observed on a day of hunting (or viewing) are not with other coyotes. As coyotes reach maturity they do pair up with a mate. These coyotes go on to have puppies and the cycle continues. On a rare occasion you may see 3-4 coyotes traveling together but this would be an exception to the rule.

Coyote contest hunting has no impact on the overall coyote populations. Participants often travel from outside Wyoming, eat in Wyoming restaurants, stay at Wyoming hotels, and buy Wyoming gas. There is a net positive economic gain. Coyote hunting is a legitimate hunting sport. Participants of coyote contests are skilled hunters who spend thousands of hours perfecting their trade. The move to ban coyote contests has been nothing more than a publicity stunt. 

The anti-hunting activists spew untruths and misinformation to further drive a wedge between hunters and the non-hunting public. Coyote contests are currently the targeted low hanging fruit of the anti-hunting movement. I would be more than happy to take Madhu, SweetwaterNOW (or any of the non-hunting public) out for a day of coyote calling, they don’t even have to take a gun they can take a camera.  After a day of calling, most would see coyote hunting is not anything like Madhu and his anti-hunting cronies have portrayed and contest hunters are not violent, blood-thirsty killers.

In 2012, Wyoming citizens passed a ballot measure to preserve citizens’ rights to hunt and fish.  85 percent of the votes cast were in favor of this amendment. Although this does not specifically protect coyote calling contests, it demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of Wyoming citizens recognize hunting is part of Wyoming’s heritage. The calls to end any legal hunting activity in Wyoming should, and normally does fall on deaf ears. If you’re a non-hunter or even a sportsman that doesn’t like the idea of coyote killing contests, I understand.

Hopefully people realize there is a big difference between a “coyote killing contest” and a coyote calling contest and would do their own research before passing judgement on others. This also goes for trapping, lion hunting, bear baiting, and other outdoor activities that elicit emotional outrage from animal rights activists.