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Mon, March 25

Bad weather doesn't keep coyote hunters away

Special to the Miner<BR>
These sportsmen and women were all ears as they waited to hear the numbers drawn for winning tickets at the Antelope Eaters check-in. Three firearms and hundreds of dollars in prizes were awarded by the Mohave Sportsman Club.

Special to the Miner<BR> These sportsmen and women were all ears as they waited to hear the numbers drawn for winning tickets at the Antelope Eaters check-in. Three firearms and hundreds of dollars in prizes were awarded by the Mohave Sportsman Club.

Despite inclement weather, more than 280 sportsmen and women turned out for the largest coyote suppression hunt in northern Arizona on Saturday and Sunday.

The event is called Antelope Eaters. It was started about 25 years ago by then Mohave Sportsman Club president Herb Stipe at a time when the Arizona Game and Fish Department was under pressure from anti-hunters who didn't want any kind of predator control in the state.

Stipe believed that antelope, in particular, were being hard hit by coyotes, which have been identified by biologists as the No. 1 predator of antelope fawns. He felt that the MSC, as the largest outdoor recreational club in northwest Arizona, should step up and do something about it.

Stipe came up with the idea of holding a two-day hunt in prime antelope fawning areas of northern Arizona that would cost Game and Fish and the citizens of the state nothing.

He felt that the expenses associated with the hunt should be paid by hunters.

And so was born the idea of a coyote hunt that would draw hunters from all of Arizona and beyond.

The hunt has grown in size and scope over the years to where it is today.

Teams of two or three hunters can hunt in any game management unit in northern Arizona where there are antelope.

Hunters paid a $25 fee to participate in this hunt.

At the end of each day of the hunt, hunters bring in coyotes. Those who were successful got a single ticket for each team member who participated as well as a ticket for each coyote brought in. Teams that are unsuccessful, and most are, also get a ticket for each team member to use in the draw.

Those tickets are used in a blind draw for $50 bills, paid out by the club. The sole purpose of the payout is to partially offset the costs associated with participating in the hunt. With gas well over $3 a gallon and diesel closing in on $4 a gallon, $50 really doesn't go that far. But every little bit helps.

Plus, hunters use every hotel/motel room in Seligman, where the hunt is headquartered.

Cafes and restaurants in Seligman have a booming business, courtesy of the hunters, and many offer specials to those who participate. I've seen banners outside of Lilo's Restaurant that said, "Welcome Coyote Hunters."

In the past, AE has been the top economic producer of any event held in the little railroad town, surpassing that of even the 66 celebration.

Game and Fish is almost always there to collect biological samples of coyotes taken within the black-footed ferret project site in nearby Aubrey Valley.

They were there again this year, according to Steve Bell, a member of the club's board of directors.

The MSC also holds a raffle and at least three rifles were given away, along with $600 in gift certificates and thousands of dollars in prizes that were donated by various groups and organizations, according to Bell.

According to MSC member Bob Shaw, who has been involved in this hunt for many years, this year there were 121 teams with 285 hunters.

Shaw said that 46 coyotes were brought in by hunters this year. It is interesting to note that coyotes are also predators of deer fawns, elk calves, turkey poults and javelina redds. They also are known to take newborn calves.

And while there is no shortage of coyotes in northern Arizona, the number of coyotes taken on the hunt is just a temporary slowdown of the state's most populous predator.

But members of the MSC aren't concerned about the long-term results of the hunt.

"If this hunt saves just one antelope or deer fawn, then in our opinion, it is well worth it," said Jim Jett, a past president of the MSC.

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