Here are all the predator challenges that await the state’s hunters this winter

Hunt officials weighing Matt Bender’s winning coyote at the 2018 Liberty Township hunt in Centre County. This winning coyote tipped the scales at 28.1 pounds and earned Bender $932.
Hunt officials weighing Matt Bender’s winning coyote at the 2018 Liberty Township hunt in Centre County. This winning coyote tipped the scales at 28.1 pounds and earned Bender $932. For the CDT

At least 30 predator hunts are scheduled to run throughout the winter — giving hunters another way to enjoy the outdoors after the regular small- and big-game hunting seasons have ended.

Hunts began a few days ago with Furbearer Fury, hosted by Kinsey’s Outdoors in Mount Joy, Lancaster County, and the Little Valley Sportsmen Hunt in Saxton, Huntingdon County. Events end in early March with Centre County’s Liberty Township Sportsmen Coyote Hunt.

Twelve hunts are planned for January, 17 in February and one in early March. The heaviest hunt weekend is Feb. 15-17, when six events are held — including the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s contest, which is the largest coyote hunt in the United States.

Last year, 4,836 registered Mosquito Creek hunters brought in 193 coyotes, with a 53-pound coyote breaking club records. The top-two prizes were more than $9,000 each, and the total hunt purse was more than $48,000. The second-largest Pennsylvania hunt — the District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers Association contest — attracted 685 hunters who harvested 45 coyotes, with a 48.65-pounder taking the top prize.

Both the Mosquito Creek- and the District 9 Pa. Trappers-winning coyotes were huge for any hunt — big “dogs” always generate excitement. Entrants at most hunts have yet to even approach the 50-pound threshold.

“We are hoping that the 46-pound coyote record for the club will fall this year,” said Chris Double, predator hunt manager for the Rolfe Beagle Club. “We know there are larger coyotes out there.”

The Rolfe Beagle Club added foxes and a largest female coyote to their hunt this year. The club is also holding a “ghost coyote” raffle for unsuccessful hunters. The Little Valley hunt added crows, and Paul’s Trading Post added foxes and bobcats to their contest. The RFS Predator Rundown in Punxsutawney added raccoons. The Ellsworth Sportsmen added a new separate coyote trapping category.

While the smaller hunts continue to tweak their contests in an attempt to make them more attractive, the larger long-running hunts such as Mosquito Creek and District 9 tend to continue with few changes.

“For 20 years, we have been running a good and successful coyote hunt,” said District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers director Bill Kalinaukis. “We would have to see a significant drop in entries before we would consider changing. Why mess with a good thing?”

The Trout Run Volunteer Fire Company in Lycoming County is new to organized predator hunts. Their first hunt will be held Feb. 15-17, and it includes foxes, coyotes and raccoons. In a new twist to help deter cheating, hunt organizer Tim Frey explained that each hunter or team of two hunters will be given a number just before the hunt begins. They will be required to snap a cell phone photo of the animal, one of the hunters and a piece of paper displaying their number at the kill site.

Last year, the Liberty Township hunt — centered in Blanchard, drew 120 hunters, but only one coyote. Matt Bender of Carrolltown won $932 for his 28.1-pound coyote. According to hunt spokesman Dwight Kline, that was the lowest-ever number of coyotes, and he is hoping for better results this March.

2019 Predator Hunts

Jan. 17-20 — Pennsylvania Fox Hunt - Mummasburg Sportsman’s Association, Gettysburg, Adams County. Entry fee includes hunt hat and refreshments on Jan. 20. Prizes $200, $100 and $50 for the three heaviest foxes of each species, plus prizes for largest and smallest each day. $200 for heaviest coyote. For more information, call Tim Kane at 717-778-5042 or Adam Hoffman at 717-253-5593, or visit www.facebook.com/MummasburgSportsman.

Jan. 18-20 Endless Mountain Coon Hunters 14th Annual Coyote & Fox Hunt, Springville, Susquehanna County. Hunt in 14 northeastern counties — $2,000 top prize for heaviest coyote, second prize Ruger Predator Rifle 6.5 Creedmoor, and $50 per coyote turned in. Other prizes include $200 for heaviest each day & separate largest female coyote. The fox contest is $10 extra. Contact Bob Brown at 570-836-5047, Jerry Croasdale at 570-942-6487, or www.endlessmountaincoonhunters.com for more info.

Jan. 18-20 United Sportsman Camp 271 17th Annual Coyote Hunt, Huntington Mills, Luzerne/Columbia counties. Hunt the entire state — $1,000 for the heaviest coyote, $500 for second place and $50 for each coyote entered. There is a separate smallest coyote pool, plus daily cash prizes. Gun raffle plus all-you-can-eat Sunday breakfast. Visit www.huntingtonmillssportsmen.com for more info.

Jan. 25-27 Jerome Sportsmen 11th Annual Adam Deist Memorial Hunt, Somerset County. Hunt or trap the entire state for coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Three places in each category by weight. Contact Paul Deist at 814-483-0084 or www.JeromeSportsmen.org for more information.

Jan. 25-27 Lake Edinboro Sportsmen’s League Tri-State Coyote Hunt, Cambridge Springs, Crawford County. Hunt Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York for coyotes. Minimum $1,000 prize for heaviest coyote. Heaviest female contest included. Hunting with dogs or by calling, only. Visit www.edinborosportsmen.org for application and more information.

Jan. 25-27 Paul’s Trading Post 5th Annual Coyote, Bobcat and Fox Contest, Kane, McKean County. Trap or hunt the entire state. Prizes paid for top-three heaviest coyotes, plus heaviest female and fox prizes. Bobcat requires extra entry fee. Free pedestal coyote mount from Dan Swanson Taxidermy to top winner. Contact Peggy or Paul King at 814-945-6504 for more info.

Jan. 25-27 District 9 PA Trappers Association Northeast Regional Coyote Hunt, Tunkhannock, Wyoming County. Hunt eight northeastern counties — $2,000 for heaviest coyote, bonus $250 prizes for heaviest coyote each day and $100 each coyote. Free weigh-in dinner for participants. For more information, call 570-885-9224, or email pricee0503@hotmail.com.

Jan. 25-27 Distant Area Volunteer Fire Department Coyote and Fox Hunt, Distant, Armstrong County. Hunt entire state. Separate registration for each species. Cash prizes for heaviest animals — with an extra $2 pot for heaviest females. Visit www.distantareavolunteerfiredepartment.net for more info.

Jan. 25-27 RFS 4th Annual Predator Rundown, Punxsutawney, Jefferson County. Hunt entire state for foxes, coyotes and raccoons. No trapping. 100 percent of entry fees paid out as prizes — extra entry for heaviest female contests. Top prizes were more than $1,000 each last year. Ham dinner sold on site. Contact Beverly Rugh at 814-938-7831, or visit www.facebook.com/RughFarmSupply for more information.

Jan. 26-27 6th Annual Bucks County Predator Hunt, Pipersville, Bucks County. Hunt the entire state in two-person teams for coyotes and foxes. Bonus pot for biggest skunk, raccoon and opossum. Google the hunt for more information.

Feb. 1-3 Woodcock Valley Sportsman’s Association 9th Annual Predator Hunt, James Creek, Huntingdon County. Hunt the entire state for foxes and coyotes — maximum three of each. Additional fees to enter biggest raccoon, opossum and bobcat. Contact Jairus Sheffield at 814-599-7141. Rules and application at http://wvsa.webs.com.

Feb. 1-3 Orbisonia Rockhill Sportsman’s Association Predator Hunt, Huntingdon County. Hunt the entire state for foxes, crows, coyotes and bobcats (with permit) — bobcat, coyote, red & grey fox prizes awarded by weight. Hunting with dogs not permitted. Contact Rob Smith at 814-447-3736.

Feb. 1-3 Three Springs Fire Company Predator Hunt, Huntingdon County. Hunt the entire state for foxes, crows, bobcats (with permit) and coyotes — bobcat, coyote, red & grey fox prizes awarded by weight. Hunting with dogs not permitted. Contact Joe Myers at 814-448-3085.

Feb. 1-9 Ellsworth Sportsmen’s Club 5th Annual Coyote Hunt, Scenery Hill, Washington County. Hunt nine states. Hunters allowed to enter one male and one female coyote — cash and prizes by drawing. Separate contest for trappers — prizes based on participation. Entry fee includes awards dinner on Feb. 10. Top prizes at least $1,000 each. Extra heaviest male and female coyote contests — prizes dependent on entries. Contact Chad Strennen at 724-825-2883, Mike Lehman at 724-255-4592, or visit www.esc15360.com for more information.

Feb. 8-10 Cresson Community Sportsman’s Association 13th Annual Coyote and Fox Hunt, Cambria County. Hunt the entire state — $5,000 minimum guaranteed prize money. Prizes for heaviest coyotes, smallest coyotes and 15 chance drawings, top prize $1,000. Extra cash prize drawings for foxes turned in Friday and Saturday. Contact www.cressonsportsmans.com for more information.

Feb. 8-10 Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County, New York, 12th Coyote Hunt, White Sulphur Springs. Hunting and trapping allowed. Top prize $2,000, $500 second, $250 third and a $200 daily prize. $100 for top female and youth hunters, plus $80 guaranteed for each coyote. Registration includes free banquet and gun raffle ticket. Pennsylvania hunters hunting in Lackawanna, Monroe, Pike, Wayne or Susquehanna counties welcome, also in New York. Contact Jack Danchak at 845-482-4987, or visit www.sportsmensfederation.com for more information.

Feb. 8-17 PA State Hunters Organization 14th Annual Central PA Coyote and Fox Hunt, Newport, Perry Co. Hunt the entire state — no weighing. Equal prize money for all entered coyotes and foxes. No fox hunting on Feb. 17. Find registration and hunt rules on Facebook: PA State Hunter’s Organization.

Feb. 9-16 Port Clinton Fish & Game Association 16th Annual Coyote & Fox Hunt, Schuylkill County. Hunt the entire state – up to 26 prize winners — maximum of one prize per hunter. Call Breg Boltz at 610-562-3220 or Jeff Guldin at 610-914-9975 for more information, or visit www.portclintonfishandgame.com.

Feb. 15-16 First Annual Trout Run Fire Hall Predator Roundup, Trout Run, Lycoming County. Hunt entire state for coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Each species has a separate entry fee. Payout 75 percent of all entries, with 25 percent benefiting the fire company. Andy’s Taxidermy is donating a free hide tanning to the heaviest coyote winner. Contact Tim Frey at 570-419-2666 or Kevin Leasure at 570-755-1787, or email PredatorRoundUp@gmail.com for more information.

Feb. 15-17 Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s 28th Annual Coyote Hunt, Frenchville, Clearfield County. Hunt entire state. Largest prizes — more than $48,000 paid out last year. $12 (includes heaviest female) plus $15 membership. Polygraph for winners after hunt on Feb. 17. Contact 814-263-4510 or www.mosqcreek.com for more info.

Feb. 15-17 Sinnemahoning Sportsmen’s Association 14th Fox & Coyote Hunt, Sinnemahoning, Cameron County. Hunt or trap entire state — 60 percent of prize money for heaviest coyote, the remainder divided equally. Fox and heaviest female coyote have separate fees and prize pots. No fox hunting Feb. 17, but trapping is allowed. Contact 814-546-2835, or check the club’s Facebook page for more information. ($12 + membership, + $5 heaviest female, + $5 fox entry)

Feb. 15-17 St. Marys Sportsmen’s Club 16th Annual Size Doesn’t Matter Coyote Hunt, Elk County. Hunt the entire state. Many door prizes. Contact 814-834-4375 or www.stmaryssportsmen.org for more info.

Feb. 15-17 Rolfe Beagle Club 3nd Annual Winter Coyote & Fox Hunt, Johnsonburg, Elk County. Hunt entire state. Equal payout for all coyotes and foxes entered, with the heaviest getting 10 percent more than the others. Includes “ghost raffle” for 50 percent of entry fees. Separate entry fees for species and heaviest female contests. Contact Chris Double at 814-964-2961 or Mary Hosmer at 814-512-2101, or email chris@threemilebeagles.com or wlhab@windstream.net for more info.

Feb. 15-17 Laurel Highlands Predator Hunt, Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County. Hunt or trap the entire state for coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Three places in each category by weight. Prize tickets given for each harvested animal. Entry fee $15 for one category, plus $5 each thereafter ($5 used for admin). Only Sunday weigh-ins from 1-6 p.m. Contact Adam Fabian at 724-455-5217 or 724-640-5217, or visit www.facebook.com./Laurel-Highlands-Squirrel-and-Coon-Hunters-Club for more info.

Feb. 22-24 Sullivan County 16th Annual Coyote Hunt, Laporte. Hunt the entire state. Proceeds benefit Laporte and Mildred fire companies. $2,000 guaranteed top prize, plus heaviest female each day, lightest coyote and $50 per coyote up to three. Free lunch for hunters and a free coyote calling/hunting seminar (for hunter and one guest) by Sheri Baity on Feb 24. Contact Daniel Morrison at 570-506-2911 or Sean Thibodeault at 570-637-1905, or visit their Facebook page for more info.

Feb 22-24 Colver Sportsmen’s Club Coyote Hunt, Ebensburg, Cambria County. Hunt entire state. Prizes: 50 percent of the pot for heaviest coyote and the remainder divided evenly among all coyotes entered. All successful hunters receive money. Contact 814-948-6081, or visit the club’s Facebook page.

Feb. 23–March 9 Charleroi Sportsmen Association Coyote Hunt, Washington County. Equal payout for all coyotes, plus jackpot drawings. Hunt entire state. Free party on the last day. New specific weigh-in times. Contact Pete Cupari at 724-640-6555 for more information.

March 1-3 Liberty Township Sportsmen’s Association 8th Annual 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. Flea market at club Sat. & Sun. Contact Dwight Kline at 814-574-5020, or go to www.libertysportsmen.com.

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