More than 100 bystanders watched as hunters with coyotes lined up well out into the parking lot adjacent to the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s check station on the afternoon of Feb. 19. The processing crew worked an hour overtime to finish weighing and ranking the 210 coyotes.
The Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Association had a record-breaking hunt — it was a good year for many other hunts, too.
Mosquito Creek organizers saw the second highest number of hunters enter — 4,634 — up more than 500 from last year’s total. Those 4,634 hunters also harvested the highest number of coyotes ever, the largest organized coyote hunt in the United States.
“You never know how the numbers will work out,” Mosquito Creek hunt organizer Ron Sartori said. “In late December, our registrations were running behind, but by early February, we were 1,100 ahead of last year.”
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Sartori credits the club’s large prizes for attracting the high numbers of hunters. “We had by far our largest purse ever — $46,232 — and hunters like the chance of winning part of that.”
And the prizes were huge. Jason Brown, of Tunkhannock, took first place with his Susquehanna County 46.15-pound coyote. According to Brown, he had never placed before at Mosquito Creek, and this was the first coyote that he shot in two years. He took home $9,268.
“This was our first chase of the day and it lasted about 45 minutes,” Brown said. “The coyote was running about 150 yards ahead of the dogs when I made a 35-yard shot with my 12-gauge.”
A happy Robert Blood, from Conneautville, took second place — $5,560 — with a 45.1-pound coyote.
“We found the track crossing the road early Friday morning. The dogs ran it into a thick slashing,” Blood said. “I’ve been entering this contest for over 10 years and never seem to get a big one. Well, this year is different.”
Scott Barber, of Jefferson, Ohio, and Casey Passilla tied for third with 44.95-pound coyotes, splitting the $3,707 prize. However, Passilla, a 20-year-old machinist from Meadville, made out much better because his coyote also topped the heaviest female category and earned him an additional $9,160. Passilla’s large coyote was taken in Crawford County on the last day of the hunt.
Coyotes entered in the Mosquito Creek hunt came from 41 different counties — up three counties from last year. Erie County led the pack with 46, Crawford County produced 19 Warren County had 13. Centre County produced 11 coyotes and a number of Centre County hunters were successful. This included Devin Rapasky and Nathan Guenot, of Moshannon, John Kowalazyk of Marsh Creek Valley, Jacob Cramer of Clarence, as well as John Nastase and Trevor Morgan, of Snow Shoe. Dustin Houtz, of Julian, and Joe Zaffuto, of Centre Hall, also scored with coyotes. Harrold Freeman from Centre Hall had the heaviest Centre County coyote — 42.25-pound male.
The Cresson Community Sportsmen Association’s Feb. 10-12 coyote and fox hunt had a large turnout of hunters, also breaking several hunt records.
“We had 452 hunters — our most ever — and 56 coyotes were turned in, which is also our highest number ever,” hunt chairman John Watt commented.
Erie County hunter Gary Pizzuto won $1,000 with his 48.5-pound coyote — the heaviest entered in the Cresson hunt in its history. Robert Brown, of Tunkhannock, took second with a 45.7-pound coyote, and Eddie Little’s 45.5-pound Cambria County coyote finished third. Cresson holds the third largest hunt in the state.
Bill Robinson reported that the Sinnemahoning Sportsmen had 50 more hunters enter as compared to last year. The 353 hunters brought in 11 coyotes and 16 foxes. Richard Hoffman earned $2,118 for his 43-pound, 5-ounce Elk County coyote. Nathan Guenot, of Moshannon, had the heaviest female. His 35-pound, 15-ounce Centre County coyote scored $1,565 for Guenot.
Both hunter and coyote numbers were down slightly in the District 9 Trappers Association hunt — the second largest in the state. According to hunt chairman Bill Kalinauskis, 715 hunters brought in 49 coyotes. Arthur Ellis, of Springville, took the top prize of $2,000 with his 47.55-pound Susquehanna County coyote.
Charlie Michalowski’s 44.08-pound male Wyoming County coyote won the Endless Mountain Coonhunters 12th annual hunt, and he took home $2,000. Second place went to Chris Cramer with a male coyote weighing 43.85 pounds, harvested in Susquehanna County. Both coyotes were shot on the first day of the three-day event, Jan. 20. Larry Cassidy won $362 for the heaviest female coyote, which tipped the scales at 42.6 pounds.
Weather varied greatly during the late January through early March hunts. Hunters endured everything from high winds and extreme cold to heavy rain and temperatures during two weekends that were almost too hot to hunt. Snow was lacking for many of the contests. The weather always has an effect on these hunts — most hunters prefer at least some snow, while high winds can negatively affect hunters using calls.
Dan Morrison reported that 149 hunters took 23 coyotes during the Sullivan County Feb. 24-26 hunt. Muncy hunter John Barto won $2,000 with a 49.1-pound Sullivan County coyote.
According to hunt chairman Chad Strennen, a nasty wind and hot weather contributed to 136 hunters bringing in only 15 coyotes to the Ellsworth Sportsmen Hunt. Randy Sherman had the heaviest coyote — 46.12 pounds — and won $585. Dustin Andreis took home $595 for his 36-pound female coyote. Both coyotes came from Washington County. Two successful hunters also won $1,000 each in a drawing.
The Huntington Mills United Sportsmen reported having a successful event — its 12th annual coyote hunt was held Jan. 20-22. Twelve coyotes were turned in by 108 hunters who participated. Ray Fritz, of Kunkletown, won $1,000 with a 42.64-pound coyote. Bill Higgins, of Shickshinny, took second place and $500 with a 40.76-pound coyote.
The St. Marys Size Doesn’t Matter Hunt had 128 hunters enter 25 coyotes. The 88 hunters in the Woodcock Valley hunt brought in 29 foxes and five coyotes. Randy Guyer, of New Enterprise, had the heaviest coyote a 33.33-pounder.
The Liberty Township Coyote Hunt, Centre County’s only organized predator contest, ends today. Pennsylvania’s scheduled organized hunts end on March 12, with the conclusion of the Corydon Township 18th annual hunt.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com