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Hunters to stalk crafty coyotes next weekend

February 27, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

FORT LOUDON, PA.

Wile E. Coyote, the bumbling cartoon character in perennial pursuit of Road Runner, is nothing like his crafty real-life cousin, hunter Derek Stoy said.

Coyotes, with their super-keen senses of hearing and smell, are hard to spot in the wild and harder yet to hunt, said Stoy, 27, of Fort Loudon.

"They're very tricky," Stoy said. "No other animal has a nose or ears like them. They're so smart, they'll circle around you."

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Stoy will join more than 100 hunters next weekend on a three-day coyote hunt sponsored by Keystone Country Store in Fort Loudon. It's the first of its kind in the area, said William Zeger, co-owner of the store.

The biggest coyote hunt in the country, according to hunting organizations, is held every year by the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Club in Frenchville in northern Pennsylvania. About 4,400 hunters took part in the hunt, which extended statewide, last weekend.

According to Paul Baronak, 65, a Mosquito Creek club member, the hunters shot 102 coyotes.

Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said there are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 coyotes in the state.

Coyotes are found throughout Pennsylvania, but are most common in the northern half. The total population in 1995 probably was between 15,000 and 20,000.

According to a game commission Web site, coyotes have adapted to a wide variety of habitats in Pennsylvania. The animals can be found in the heavily forested northeast and north-central regions of the state, and in dairy and cropland areas.

While more common in the northern part of the state, coyotes also live around the heavily populated areas of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Erie.

They prey on small mammals, particularly mice and rabbits, and are known to kill small deer and feed on deer carcasses. They also eat birds, insects and fruit. They will kill livestock, including small sheep and goats, chickens and other fowl. Pet owners are warned that coyotes also will take cats and small dogs.

With few exceptions, coyotes can be hunted year-round, even on Sunday, Feaser said. Spotlights can be used at night.

The predators are nocturnal. Most hunters go out all night, although evenings and early mornings are good times, too, Stoy said.

Hunting methods vary. Some hunters use dogs, while some gang up and drive them like they do deer. Stoy uses a call to try to lure them into gun range.

His call, a simple mouth device, mimics a coyote's howl and bark. It also can sound like a coyote, rabbit or small animal in distress.

"I try to coax them in," he said.

Technology also has invaded the sport. There are electronic callers on the market that use compact discs or cassette tapes. Hunters leave them in a strategic place, then hide within gun range to wait for the coyote to be lured in, he said.

Many hunters use smaller caliber rifles to shoot coyotes. A few use shotguns, "but you have to be a lot closer," Stoy said.

Coyote pelts can bring $30 to $40 from fur companies, he said. Some hunters mount their trophies.

Zeger said he doesn't expect to see many coyotes brought in to his sporting goods store at 180 Path Valley Road. If just one hunter bags one during the three-day hunt, it will a success, he said.

"I highly doubt there will be more than one," Zeger said. "They're not the easiest thing in the world to hunt."

Zeger said he kept the rules simple.

"I want people to have fun," he said.

Prizes will be awarded for the two largest coyotes brought in, and another prize will be awarded for the most coyotes killed.

The entrance fee is $5. Contestants must sign up by 8 p.m. Friday. All kills must be fresh and all coyotes must be killed with guns

The hunt begins Friday and runs through 2 p.m. next Sunday.

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