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Coyote hunting event in western ND sets sporting standard

A coyote walks along a road in the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, N.D., in this file photo. Forum News Service

DICKINSON, N.D.—Once again, the Coyote Classic is coming to Dickinson, marking the 16th year of the two-day coyote hunting tournament, which will award cash and prizes to the team who can bag the most coyotes.

"There's a lot of strategy (involved), that's why people like to do it," said Terri Thiel, executive director of the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's a challenge. There's a lot of walking, and it's cold, cold, cold."

The Coyote Classic challenges two-person teams to hunt as many coyotes as they can in a two-day period, with cash prizes and plaques awarded to the team with the highest two-day total. The Classic, from Jan. 11-13, is divided into two divisions: the pro and the amateur, which offer different winning conditions so sportsmen of all skill levels can participate.

For Jamie Olson, organizer of the Classic, this tournament has become a way of raising the standard of conduct for the average sportsman.

"(Before I started the Classic) it was kind of a free-for-all. Guys were just sent out the door, and nobody paid much attention to how the animals were killed," Olson said in a phone interview. "I run mine as a culling contest. It's daylight hours, you have to be away from the vehicle, you're not chasing down in vehicles or snowmobiles."

Olson spends much of the rest of the year working in population control for animals such as coyotes, and he said that although many ranchers are grateful for the hunters who thin out the coyote population, these tournaments don't really affect the overall coyote numbers very much.

"The number of coyotes we take during one of these tournaments ... has a very minimal impact on livestock and/or the overall population of coyotes," Olson said. "Yes, it does have a slight impact ... and in some areas, it may have some benefit for the deer population. It may save a calf or two ... but overall, we don't take enough coyotes during these events (to have that big an impact)."

Olson said the appeal of the event, beyond the thrill of the hunt, comes from the potential value of a coyote's fur, which can fetch a decent price for its value as lining on jackets, as well as the prizes available for the contest winners. Last year, more than $20,000 in cash and prizes were awarded during the event, and during the past 16 years, Olson reckons they've paid out about $600,000.

"I've hunted with ... a lot of the teams we have. They've been coming to our events a long time. They're hunting friends. We let each other know about our deer hunts, about our elk hunts ... maybe we're doing some trapping," Olson said. "It's just a really great group."

There's still time to register and participate in the classic, and those who wish to learn more or sign up can do so at www.coyotehunter.net or email info@coyotehunter.net for more information. The registration fee is $200 per team.

The tournament provides a small bump to Dickinson's economy in the off-season, Thiel said.

"It's one of our off-season (events) and anything to bring in (traffic) in the off-season is good for us."

Thiel, who owns cattle herself, said coyotes pose a genuine danger to her livestock, particularly calves, and that they are possessed of a vicious nature.

"Coyotes are opportunists, and they won't just kill to eat," Thiel said. "They'll go in and just gut a lamb, go back to the next one, gut it, eat the guts ... and that lamb can be left living ... (coyotes) are so prolific that there needs to be control on 'em."

Olson said if their populations are left unchecked—and adult coyotes have no natural predators—the results can be bad for both prey and the coyotes themselves, who are at higher risk of disease and parasites when there are too many of them.

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