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Fri, April 19

The end is near for coyote hunting contests

Coyotes are the most numerous predator in the state and in 26 game management units, hunters can even hunt them 24 hours a day. (Photo special to the Miner)

Coyotes are the most numerous predator in the state and in 26 game management units, hunters can even hunt them 24 hours a day. (Photo special to the Miner)

If what I’ve heard is correct, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission will open for comment Friday a proposed rule that will all but end coyote calling contests where entry fees are charged and prizes, whether money or other items, are given away.

I have been hearing a lot of chatter about this proposed rule since the commission instructed the department to start crafting a rule at a meeting in Yuma several months ago.

And yet, until this proposed rule is made public on Friday, many will not have seen the actual verbiage of the rule. However, based on information from different sources, it appears the rule will call for a ban on coyote calling contests in Arizona.

As I understand it, the rule won’t prohibit sportsmen from hunting coyotes, which is something they can currently do year-round.

So why does this rule cause me and others a lot of concern?

I believe this rule is part of the “creeping incrementalism” by the anti-hunting community who as we all know wants to stop all hunting.

Let me tell you about the coyote situation in Arizona right now. Coyotes are the most numerous predator in the state and in 26 game management units, hunters can even hunt them 24 hours a day.

There are no daily bag limits or possession limits for hunters who pursue this carnivore, which has been identified as the number one predator of antelope and deer fawns in Arizona.

And how can we overlook the fact that each year the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducts aerial gunning of up to three game management units of coyotes at a very high cost? And who pays for this action that is designed to remove coyotes during fawning season? Sportsmen’s dollars are no doubt used.

So why is the department and commission going to go down the road to try and limit legally licensed sportsmen who get together and collectively hunt coyotes in organized events?

The answer seems to be to appease a well-funded anti-hunting group called Project Coyote. Understand, these folks are not just against predator hunting contests. Their goal is to stop all sport hunting, and the department and commission know this. Yet they continue to throw small groups of sportsmen “under the bus” for the sake of appeasement.

One has to look at the history of what past commissions have done when faced with challenges from anti-hunting groups.

Remember when trapping was outlawed in Arizona? There weren’t a lot of sportsmen out there who were trapping predators and utilizing their furs, so when the antis demanded that leghold traps be barred from public lands, the commission did away with it.

What was really sad was that most Arizona sportsmen didn’t trap, so they didn’t make a big fuss when that ban was proposed and ultimately adopted.

Then a couple of years ago the antis were preparing to get mountain lion hunting on the ballot. The commission, in a move that angered many lion guides and houndsmen, implemented new rules and restrictions on this small segment of the sport-hunting community. And when it looked like the mountain lion hunting issue might just get on the ballot, who did the department turn to defend hunting of the big cats in Arizona? Yep, it was the Arizona sportsmen who stepped up and help spread the word about the outright lies and misinformation that the antis were spewing.

And now, with this proposed rule, another small segment of the hunting public is going to be restricted. These are those lawful, licensed hunters who participate in organized coyote hunts.

The department is supposed to operate on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. On Page 9 of the 2018-2019 Arizona Hunting Regulations booklet, it states, “Science is the basis for wildlife policy. The limited use of wildlife as a renewable natural resource is based on sound science.”

There is an estimated one coyote for every square mile of land within our borders. Arizona is just under 114,000 square miles, so that means we have an estimated coyote population of almost 114,000 animals. Doesn’t seem like they are in a threatened or endangered category, does it?

Is there a biological or scientific reason to manage coyote calling contests? If there is, many of us sure don’t see it. Nope, to me it is purely a political decision. It’s an implementation of a rule based upon a small group of anti-hunters who want to impart their will on lawful sportsmen. Call it social pressure, if you will.

There may be some road blocks though before this can become law.

One of the issues the rule has to overcome is, will it have an economic impact?

I hope the Seligman Chamber of Commerce shows up to testify on the matter.

Back when I was part of a team from the Mohave Sportsman Club that put on the annual Antelope Eaters hunt, which was a hunt designed to remove coyotes from prime antelope fawning areas in Northern Arizona, we were told that this hunt was the most lucrative event Seligman had every year.

There were no motel rooms to be found, the restaurants were always full of hungry hunters, and the gas stations pumped thousands of gallons of fuel into sportsmen’s vehicles.

The Mohave Sportsman Club also stands to take a hit if this rule is implemented.

I don’t know what it is now, but when I was the MSC’s Government Liaison and on the Board of Directors, Antelope Eaters always showed a profit for the club. The money raised was supposed to pay the expenses incurred by the government liaison to attend meetings throughout the state on behalf of MSC. If this event is no longer allowed, it may have an obvious economic impact for that local organization.

I know there are a number of other organized coyote hunting events in the state, so they will also be impacted.

At Antelope Eaters, Arizona Game and Fish Department had representatives there at the check-in site in Seligman taking samples of coyotes that were taken in the Pica Valley area by sportsmen. These samples were needed by department biologists as part of the Black-footed ferret reintroduction project that was ongoing at the time. By providing these coyotes, it saved the department a lot of money collecting sample coyotes.

Another troublesome fact for me is that the large “critter groups” in Arizona have not weighed in on this issue.

Wouldn’t you think the antelope and deer organizations would be up in arms over this proposal?

And where is MSC on this issue? I haven’t heard from anyone as to what position that organization, which will be impacted by the rule, is going to be?

After Friday, you, the Arizona sportsman, will have the opportunity to weigh in on this proposed rule as it is written.

I encourage you to take the time to let the commission know your feelings. Are you content to watch as the privileges you now have are slowly taken away?

I don’t participate in predator calling contests anymore, and I know many out there also don’t participate in these events. But do you think the antis will be content with this appeasement effort by the commission?

If you do, your head is in the sand. They’ll be back for more. Maybe they’ll try to outlaw bow hunting or some other form of recreation that you participate in. Personally, I think they’ll be back after lion hunting again, but that is just my opinion.

Don’t let Arizona become like our neighboring state California, where wildlife management is based on the will of the liberal left and not on sound science.

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