GOODMAN, Wis. - As populations of coyotes increase in northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, predator hunts are becoming more popular.
The Goodman-Armstrong Creek Lions Club's second annual coyote/predator hunt will be held from Feb. 26 to March 7, and is expected to draw hunters from Michigan as well as Wisconsin.
Some 67 hunters participated in the inaugural coyote hunt last year, but no predators were taken. This year, Lions Club members Pete Osterberg and John Gorgol are in charge of the hunt and have made some adjustments.
Alan Hager of Limestone bagged this 35-pound coyote recently and hopes to harvest more predators before spring. (Photo courtesy of Alan Hagar)
Osterberg said last year was the first year of the predator hunt and there was confusion. He said the difference this year will be instead of the hunt being held two days at the end of January, it will be held for nine days from the end of February to the start of March.
"The wind was blowing last year, so there were no predators caught," Osterberg said. "Hunters couldn't get critters to move."
Event organizers said the hunt for coyote is later this year because of timing and conflicting events. The fox season in Wisconsin ended Feb. 15, so this year the annual hunt will be for coyote.
After a 5 p.m. dinner and rules meeting Feb. 26, at the Goodman Community Center, hunters may begin at 7 p.m.and hunt until Sunday, March 7.
All prey must be checked in at the Goodman Sportsmen's Clubhouse by 2 p.m. March 7.
Again this year, Michigan hunters are invited to participate in the hunt. The rules will be the same for both Michigan and Wisconsin hunters in order to make the hunt equal.
"We want it to be a fun thing and would like to see parents bring children interested in hunting," Osterberg said.
Club members said it is legal to transport kill across the Michigan-Wisconsin state line to check them in at the clubhouse.
Prize money will be awarded as follows: $800 for first place; $400 for second; $200 for third; and $100 for the largest coyote.
Monica Joseph, wildlife technician for the Crystal Falls DNR, said predator hunts are fairly common now.
She said they are gaining in popularity because the perceived notion is coyotes are hurting deer populations and predator hunting is a recreational activity.
"Coyote numbers are up and have been for several years. In Iron and Dickinson County, we've seen higher coyote numbers and one of the reasons for that is they are opportunistic feeders," Joseph said.
"They will eat fruit and vegetables, corn at a deer bait or anything put at a deer or bear bait and small animals. They can change their eating habits," she said. "Because of that, food is not limiting them. Predator hunts are taking place and will remove some coyotes."
Dave Halfmann, wildlife biologist for the Wisconsin DNR out of Wausaukee, added coyote populations are up this year compared to last year, according to reports from Wisconsin deer hunters.
"We had a lot of reports during deer season of hunters seeing coyotes," he said.
Jeremy Holtz, wildlife biologist at the Florence and Forest County DNR Offices, said although they do not survey coyotes or keep an official count, just observations, people have reported seeing more coyotes in the last few years.
"The last couple years the take has been very minimal. It's not a reflection of coyotes; hunters are not finding remote areas to hunt," Holtz said.
There is no limit on the number of coyotes that hunters can take during the hunting and trapping season.
Michigan's coyote season runs from July 15 to April 15 and is closed during deer season. Dogs can be used in Michigan and game species can be used as bait if it is the kill season for that species.
Non-residents of Michigan cannot take coyotes in state. A resident can take a coyote on their private property if the animal is doing damage or about to do damage.
Wisconsin has a continuous open hunting season for coyote, but it is closed in the northern Wisconsin wolf management zone during the regular gun deer, December antlerless only, and muzzleloader seasons.
"We don't want someone shooting a wolf thinking it was a coyote," said Holtz.
Wisconsin coyote hunters cannot use bait, but can use dogs. Holtz added they can use a call, eye-catching device or decoy, but cannot use animal parts, as in Michigan.
But for this contest, neither Michigan or Wisconsin hunters can use dogs or bait. Contest rules include no traps, no snares, no dogs, no road kill and no baiting.
Cost per hunter for the coyote/predator hunt, is $35 for each hunter. In addition, a fee of $10 per person should be added for the mandatory dinner and rules meeting.
Florence Game Warden Kelly Crotty will interpret any hunting laws and technicalities as it pertains to hunting coyotes. A Michigan DNR representative will also be present at the dinner meeting to explain Michigan hunting rules and laws.
"We had a lot of fun during the hunt and many hunters said they would like to do it again, so that is the reason we are doing it," Gorgol said.
This year's dinner is being provided by George Buck and his Buck-A-Roo Barbeque Band. There will be a pork loin, a tribute to the wild boar and turkey, influenced by the wild turkey as a game bird.
There may also be venison. Dressing, beans and potatoes and a variety of side dishes and dessert will be included.
To participate in the hunt, contact Pete Osterberg at (715) 336-2685 or John Gorgol at (715) 336-2830 or email JGORGOL@centurytel.net.