Nasty weather or not, for Jamie Morgan of Snow Shoe, the 2014 Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Club Coyote Hunt ended quickly, and as it turned out, quite happily.
His 38-pound coyote won the heaviest female prize of $7,938.
On Feb. 21, the first day of the hunt, Morgan was hunting with a small group of friends in Snow Shoe Township, in northern Centre County.
“We were using five watchers and three drivers — attempting to move coyotes. I was one of the drivers,” Morgan explained. “It was about 9:30, Friday morning, when I saw this coyote trying to sneak past me back through the drivers, and I was able to shoot it with my 12-gauge.”
A very happy Morgan added, “We’ve missed shots before, but this is our only coyote in 15 years of entering the Mosquito Creek hunt.”
Morgan’s coyote was the first of 102 entries turned in by 4,077 hunters. According to Mosquito Creek club president Ron Sartori, the number of coyotes entered was slightly down from the 129 brought in last year, and the 120 in 2012. However, these figures are much lower than their high of 177, which occurred in both 2008 and 2011. The number of hunters entering increased — the highest since 2006 — but not as high as Sartori thought that it would be.
“Our registrations were running way ahead of the past several years, but there is always a certain percentage who wait until the last minute to see what the weather might be like before they enter,” Sartori said. “Many of those hunters just didn’t enter this year because of all of the snow.”
The Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Association gave away a record purse of $40,553 this year, but organizers there and at several other early-winter hunts across the state blamed the frigid and snowy weather for reducing the number of coyotes harvested.
Hunters participating in the District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers Association Northeast Regional Coyote Hunt (Jan. 31-Feb. 2), the second largest hunt in the state, registered 35 coyotes this year, compared to 53 last year. District 9 President Bill Kalinauskis attributed the lower harvest to the dry, cold conditions throughout much of the northeastern counties — making it difficult for dogs to pick up the scent.
The Cresson Community Sportsman’s Association Fox and Coyote Hunt (Feb. 14-16) only checked 18 coyotes this year, while participants brought 37 in a year ago. Foxes were drastically down, too.
“Deep snow can make it a tough hunt and our numbers show that,” Cresson hunt organizer Tom McConnell commented.
“This year, we had more hunters registered than ever, but fewer coyotes,” noted Gene Dodge, United Sportsman Camp 271 hunt chairperson. Their hunt occurred January 24-26, and recorded just 12 coyotes, eight less than the 2013 total.
Garret Smith reported that the Saint Clair Tremont Club fox and coyote hunt, held February 7-9, tallied four coyotes — half as many as last year.
“The conditions might have been better up north, but in our area (Cambria County), the snow was crunchy and very noisy,” Smith said.
Numbers were not down in all contests. Some of the smaller hunts had a similar number or even more coyotes than in past years. Organizers at the St. Marys’ hunt (Feb. 21-23) reported that 138 hunters turned in 11 coyotes, about the same as last year. Hunters registering for the Clarion County Rod and Gun Club coyote hunt (Feb. 14-16) brought in eight coyotes — two more than last year. Deb Riley reported that hunters entering the Woodcock Valley Sportsmen’s Club contest (Jan. 31-Feb. 2) registered five coyotes and 10 foxes.
“This was the first time in three years that hunters were successful at bagging coyotes in the Woodcock Valley hunt,” noted club representative Riley.
Galen Baney, spokesperson for the Shaver’s Creek hunt, noted that 73 registered hunters brought in eight coyotes, the exact number as last year. Their fox total was only three — much lower than 2013’s total of 14 foxes.
“It was just plain nasty during our hunt,” Baney said. “There was close to two feet of snow on the ground, and it was snowing and blowing almost every day.”
Club trustee Ted Knoblauch reported that many hunters were complaining about the foul weather. Nonetheless, hunters in the Port Clinton Fish and Game Association’s 11th annual hunt (Feb. 15-23) tallied eight coyotes — three more than last year.
According to hunt organizer Ray Savel, the Sinnemahoning Sportsmen’s Association hunt was a big success, with 34 coyotes turned in by 345 registered hunters.
“Considering the bad weather, I didn’t think that we would even get 10 coyotes,” noted Savel. “It is important to add that 17 of those coyotes were taken in New York, which is included in our five-state hunt.”
Art Gatley shot a 51-pound coyote in Wayne county — the heaviest coyote turned in during any of the January or February hunts. Gatley won $2,000 — the top prize in the District 9 Trappers hunt. Robert Brown shot a 43.3-pound coyote in Wyoming County to take first place and $227 in the Shavers Creek hunt. The same coyote also won first place and $1,000 in the Cresson hunt.
Jacob Kephart’s 38.4-pound coyote won the top prize at Woodcock Valley. Kunkletown hunter Ray Fritz won $1,000 for the 42.6-pound coyote that he entered in the United Sportsman Camp contest.
All four of the big prizes at Mosquito Creek went to different winners than in previous years. Matt Brundage of Columbus entered a 43.8-pound coyote that he shot in Warren County — his home county — and won $8,154. Bloomsburg hunter Bill Moore took second — $4,892 — with a 43.1-pound coyote that he shot in Columbia County. Lynn Randall of Troy placed third to win $3,261 with his 42.9-pound Bradford County coyote. Morgan had the heaviest female coyote.
One only needs to look at the Mosquito Creek results, where winners are verified by a polygraph test, to realize that successful coyote hunting is a combination of luck and skill. Of 2013’s four big prize winners, only third place finisher Jill Soliwoda shot a coyote during this year’s hunt. She entered a 28.75-pound female.
There is still time to enter two local contests — both held March 7-9:
• Liberty Township Sportsmen’s Association 3rd Coyote Hunt, Blanchard, Centre County. Half of the registration money paid out for top three heaviest coyotes, with the other half divided equally per number of coyotes entered - plus separate heaviest female contest. Contact Dwight Kline at 574-5020 or go to www.libertysportsmen.com.
• Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association 7th Annual Coyote Hunt, Altoona, Blair County. No weighing — prize money evenly divided among all entered coyotes. Contact Tim Merritts at 946-9315 or www.blaircountygame.com for more info.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com.