The unofficial “predator hunt season” ended March 3, with a huge male coyote taking the top prize at Centre County’s Liberty Township Sportsmen Coyote Hunt. Michael Wagner’s 52-pound, 3-ounce, male, Luzerne County coyote netted him $816. Wagner, from Huntington Mills, got his coyote on March 3. Gary Couteret’s 40-pound, 4-ounce Clearfield County “yote” won the heaviest female contest which was worth $408.

“What a difference a year makes,” commented Liberty Township Coyote Hunt chairman Butch Hanley. “Last year we had 120 registered hunters and only one coyote was brought in. This year we had 206 hunters and we weighed 38 coyotes — both records for us.

“We got the word out by putting posters up in a 100-mile radius and advertising in Pennsylvania Outdoor News,” Hanley added. “Next year we plan to do even more.”

The 2019 Mosquito Creek Coyote Hunt also broke records, but their top dog didn’t compare to Michael Wagner’s.

Weigh-in officials and judges needed to work overtime to process the huge number of coyotes that were entered at Mosquito Creek. A total of 4,812 hunters registered for the club’s mid-February coyote hunt, which is the largest hunt of its type in the country. Those hunters brought in a record 225 coyotes from 44 different counties. At least three additional coyotes were disqualified for various rule violations. The club’s previous record was set in 2017, when hunters entered 210 coyotes.

“This was the most dogs ever turned in to our hunt,” event chairman Ron Sartori commented. “The full moon, coupled with most of the state having snow cover, probably helped the hunters.”

When the last coyote was weighed, Erie hunter Clay Webster’s 48.5-pound “yote” took the top prize of $9,624 for the heaviest entry. Webster was hunting in Erie County with a group of 20 hunters on the morning of Feb. 17, the final day of the hunt, when he shot the top dog.

“It all happened quickly,” Webster said. “We jumped two coyotes at once, and I was able to get in position to make an 80-yard shot with my .204 Ruger as the coyote was running through the woods ahead of our dogs.”

One shot did the job.

“When I saw it up close, I knew that it was big, but we didn’t know how it might place,” Webster related. This was the sixth year for Webster to enter the Mosquito Creek contest — he had harvested coyotes during the hunt before, but never placed. Although he was happy to win the top prize, by prior agreement with the hunters in his group, the majority of the prize money goes to paying for food and veterinary bills for the dogs they use to hunt with.

Both second and third place coyotes were shot locally in Clearfield County on February 15, by hunters using 12-gauge shotguns while also hunting with dogs. Dayton Ward finished in second place with his 46.75-pound coyote that earned him $5,774. Matt Shimel took third, receiving $3,849 with his 46.65-pound male coyote.

Jeremy Brisbee passed up Everett Reitz’s 42.85-pound Jefferson County female “dog” when he shot a heavier female coyote in Erie County on Feb. 16. His prize was $9,624. Mosquito Creek’s total purse was $48,120, with an $86 payout for each coyote entered.

Pennsylvania’s second largest hunt was hosted by District 9 of the Pennsylvania Trappers Association in Tunkhannock, Wyoming County, on Jan. 25-27. The 665 registered hunters participating in this eight-county hunt brought in 39 coyotes — six less than last year. A 43.95-pound male shot in Pike County took the top prize of $2000.

Hunt organizer Bill Kalinauskis attributed the lower than usual harvest to poor weather conditions. “There was a lot of ice that made it difficult to run dogs or even walk in the woods,” Kalinauskis stated.

Another big winner was Jack Sorber of Little Meadows, who won the Endless Mountain Coon Hunters Predator Hunt. Sorber’s 50.7-pound Susquehanna County coyote won the grand prize of $2000, plus the daily high and earned him a total of $2250. Robert Cragle took second with a 46.85-pound Luzerne County “dog.” Tim Arthur took the top female coyote prize with another Susquehanna County coyote that weighed 36.9 pounds.

The Lake Edinboro Sportsman’s Club is relatively new to the coyote hunt circuit. Their second annual Tri-State Coyote Hunt saw an increase to 174 registered hunters, and they harvested a hunt-record 49 coyotes. This is an extremely high hunter to harvest ratio. Matt Barbor of Jefferson, Ohio, took home $1000 for his 42.86-pound male coyote.

Sullivan County hunt organizer Dan Morrison reported that their hunt continues to grow. This year registered hunters brought in 26 coyotes from 13 different counties.

“It was a real successful hunt with 223 hunters, up from 194 last year,” Morrison said. “Robert Cragle took the top prize of $2,000 with a 46.9-pound male coyote that he harvested in Luzerne County.”

The St. Mary’s Sportsmen’s Club reported that 178 hunters entered 27 coyotes in their February hunt. Harvey Erickson’s 45-pound coyote was the heaviest coyote entered. Although the St. Marys hunt weighs coyotes, they pay an equal amount for each coyote entered. This year, that amounted to $53.

Ray Fiscus of Cowansville took all of the top three coyote prizes at the Distant Area Volunteer Fire Department Coyote and Fox Hunt, in Armstrong County. Taking first place in the heaviest coyote and heaviest female coyote was a 37.2-pound coyote. Fiscus’ 27.4-pound female coyote was the second heaviest entered.

The Laurel Highlands predator hunt drew 118 hunters for their February 15-17 event. Charleroi hunter Scott Dillon’s 38.8-pound dog was the heaviest coyote entered and earned $460. Todd Flack, of Acme, took second and netted $276 with his 38-pound coyote. The Laurel Highlands contest allows trapping and hunt organizer Adam Fabian noted that both of these participants took their winning coyotes by trapping.

Mary Hosmer reported that the Rolfe Beagle Club Coyote and Fox Hunt continues to grow. This year, both of the contest’s top coyote prizes went to Rich Hoffman of St. Marys — now nicknamed “Big Dog” Hoffman. Hoffman’s 45-pound male took the prize for top male, and his 37-pounder took the top prize for heaviest female coyote. Hoffman earned $231 for his top dogs.

“We have gained a few hunters each year since we started our hunt in 2017,” Hosmer noted. “As more hunters learn about our lower entry fee and register, our prizes will grow, too.”

Mark Nale is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com.

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