A 10th-grader at Clearfield Area High School took home the largest payout for a single coyote ever awarded in Pennsylvania. Seth Bumbarger, 15, of Woodland, garnered the top prize at the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen Club Coyote Hunt, held statewide Feb. 19-21. The prize — $16,592 — was so high because Seth had the heaviest coyote overall, and he earned an additional $8,202 because his coyote was also the heaviest female coyote.
“We drove around looking for coyote tracks in the early morning and put the dogs on a set of tracks at around 8 o’clock,” Seth explained as we talked outside of the Mosquito Creek clubhouse. “Then we had to pull the dogs off when they got too close to a road. At 9:45, we were walking the dogs through the woods and came upon another set of fresh tracks and we let two dogs loose.”
“The coyote jumped from a bunch of old terracotta pipes and I was the first to see it, but I didn’t get a shot,” he said. “My dad [John Bumbarger] got three shots, but missed. The dogs pushed the coyote across the railroad track and down a bank. I was ready.”
One shot from his Savage .243 dropped the large coyote at about 65 yards.
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Seth is the youngest hunter to ever win the Mosquito Creek contest. Moreover, since male coyotes are usually the heaviest, it is the first time in the history of the hunt that the heaviest female — at 46.5 pounds — was also the heaviest coyote overall. It was Seth’s first time to enter the Mosquito Creek hunt.
Seth, like all of Mosquito Creek’s major prize winners, must take and pass a polygraph test. Seth passed the test and plans to save his share of the prize money to purchase a pickup truck when he turns 16.
The Mosquito Creek hunt was not without a little drama. David Wilhour, of Sunbury, initially had the heaviest coyote, a 47.4-pounder allegedly shot in Northumberland County on Feb. 20 — the second day of the hunt. Wilhour left contest headquarters without taking the polygraph test, as required by club rules, and therefore forfeited the $8,306 pot. This moved Seth from second to first place. When contacted, Wilhour stated that he would not answer any questions regarding the polygraph and hung up the phone.
Several Centre County hunters and 11 Centre County coyotes were part of all the excitement. Logan Guenot, of Moshannon, took third place with a heavy coyote that he shot at 9 on the final morning of the hunt. Like Seth, Guenot was bumped up one place with Wilhour’s forfeiture. Guenot, who also passed his polygraph test, earned $3,414 for his 44.55-pound male coyote.
“The polygraph test was easy when you have nothing to hide,” Guenot said.
Guenot, his brother Nathan and friend Ron Glace hunted all three days of the contest by staging drives with 13 other hunters.
“Friday was really cold and we didn’t even see a track, but we had lots of action on Saturday,” Guenot said. “My older brother Nathan shot a female coyote, and Ron got a male.”
On Sunday, the group put on drives on old strip-mined land near Karthaus. They first drove the top of the pine-covered ridge — putting out no coyotes. The second drive was along the side hills.
“I was sitting out on a point on a spoil bank, looking over an open area about 50 to 60 yards wide,” Guenot described. “I was watching five does that came out into the open. Then they went out the other side. Just then, I saw the back of a coyote coming over the rise and I took three shots at about 70 yards — dropping the coyote.”
According to Guenot, his Mossberg shotgun has an ultra-full choke that, coupled with a Dead Coyote load, reaches out to 100 yards.
Josh Nastase, of Snow Shoe, is another Centre County hunter who was successful in the Mosquito Creek hunt. However, his story is quite different.
“It was actually my first time to hunt coyotes, so I’d have to say that there was a bit of luck involved,” Nastase commented. “I was using my grandfather’s rifle, a Ruger, chambered for .243, that hadn’t been fired in 20 years. And, for the occasion, I had just purchased a new electronic caller in January.
“I was hunting with Matt Shope on a farm near Milesburg, and it was a perfect night — warm and with a full moon. Matt saw a coyote approaching our position, but then it disappeared,” Nastase said. “A little while later, we heard the ice in a swamp cracking, and there was the coyote at 150 yards, zigzagging through the picked corn field.”
Nastase wanted his friend to shoot. However, because Shope could not see the coyote, Nastase dropped it with one bullet at about 100 yards. So, just 38 minutes into his first coyote hunt, Nastase shot a 40.45-pound coyote that placed well at Mosquito Creek.
Potters Mills hunter Dave Woodring also scored while hunting with his son Corby, a Penns Valley senior, and nephew Nathan Cleaver, of Howard.
“We started hunting near Yarnell at about 3:30 p.m., and had no luck the first two set-ups,” Woodring said. “We were watching a field during our third set-up when a coyote came through the scruffy standing corn at the edge of the picked field. I could see him with the red light on my scope.”
Woodring’s .22 Hornet dropped the predator at about 70 yards. The 35 1/2 pound coyote earned Woodring about $91.
The District 9 PA Trappers Association Northeast Regional Hunt, Jan. 29-31, drew 771 participants, who entered 27 coyotes — down from 48 coyotes last year. John Krazan, of Scott Township, was the big winner — earning $2,500 for his three coyotes. His heaviest coyote weighed 46.6 pounds and took the top prize. The hunt, centered in Tunkhannock, is the second largest hunt in the state.
A total of 361 people entered the Feb. 5-7 Cresson Community Sportsmen hunt. Aaron Heck, of Tioga, netted $1,000 for his 43.6-pound Tioga County coyote.
Ronald Laubscher, of Bellefonte, scored $228 in the Feb. 5-7 Shavers Creek hunt with his 37.9-pound coyote. Only three coyotes were turned in by 61 hunters in this year’s Shaver’s Creek hunt.
Sunday is the final day for The Liberty Township Sportsmen Coyote Hunt — the only hunt located in Centre County.
The 2016 Mosquito Creek event saw 4153 registered hunters bring in 186 coyotes from 38 Pennsylvania counties. The club handed out a record purse of over $41,400 — no other hunt comes close to this.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is chairman of the board for the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at MarkAngler @aol.com.