Coyote calling contests have exploded in the last decade. While traveling across the country this fall I couldn’t help but notice the posters and listings notifying coyote hunters about upcoming contests across the midsection of the country. They were posted in diners, convenience stores, sporting goods stores and other known hangouts of the hunting community. So what could possibly be good, bad or ugly about hunting coyotes? Well, it depends on perception.
Without doubt there are several good qualities about coyote calling contests. First, it helps promote the sport of predator hunting and draws interest to a hunting pursuit that for all too long has had a secondhand placement in hunting. Along with this interest is a chance to recruit new hunters into the sport, including youth hunters looking for an economical way to enjoy hunting without paying for a guided hunt. A final good quality is the fact that contests help manage coyotes that are increasingly being documented as having an impact on wild game populations. If you doubt that fact take a look at some of the studies being published by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA www.qdma.com).
So what could possibly be bad about coyote calling contests? Of course with competition comes the human urge to cheat. I don’t see that as a calling contest bad point, but more of an ethical failure that shines in a few hunters. I do see an education trait that may be attributed to calling contests. Calling contests are competitions where hunters race from spot to spot hoping to call in uneducated coyotes in the shortest span of time. They need to shoot as many as possible before the end of competition. In haste they oftentimes limit sets to 15 minutes or shorter. Unfortunately they may be leaving a set just as mature or late arrivals show to a setup and unintentionally educate coyotes in the process. Ask any professional animal damage control officer about the difficulty of killing an educated coyote and you can see why this could be a bad result.
That last one wasn’t really so bad, but is there an ugly side to calling contests? If anything I believe the word “contest” or “competition” is the ugly side. We as hunters understand that managing predators is a requirement in today’s modern world of overall wildlife management. Too many predators can throw the balance of nature into chaos and vice versa. Again, check out the QDMA information on the coyote impact on whitetail fawns along the East Coast. Unfortunately the non-hunting public just sees the word “contest” and may not educate themselves further into the benefit of a contest. Even though the majority of the public supports hunting, they may not understand why a sport, tradition or pastime suddenly has become a contest. Remember, perception is reality so to keep that perception in our favor I believe contest promoters need to put effort into publicity about contests. In addition to advertising prizes and festivities they should also take time to explain how coyotes impact wildlife, pets and even public safety. Newspapers, radio and even seminars can get this point across easily.
Coyote calling contests have become a winter ritual, but to keep them favorable in the public eye don’t forget to promote the benefits of a fun predator weekend.