NEW ROSS — Local outdoorsmen will have the opportunity to get out into the wild this weekend as the New Ross Conservation Club hosts its annual coyote hunt.
Participants can hunt on their own land or any land on which they have permission to hunt. Calling hunt, electronic or mouth calls and fair chase are all permissible. All Indiana hunting laws will apply.
According to information at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ website, coyotes are native to Indiana. Before the state was settled, the animals were found mainly in prairie regions, but as forests have been cleared for farming and industry coyotes have expanded their distribution and are now found all over the Hoosier State.
“This is really just to help with thinning out some of the predators,” said New Ross Conservation Club President Mike Corwin.
Although coyotes aren’t much of a problem locally as far as killing livestock, Corwin said they do cause other problems.
“They’re taking out a lot of the quail and pheasant,” he said. “They also kill people’s cats and dogs.”
Coyotes closely resemble German Shepherds in size and body appearance. They carry their tails below the levels of their backs. Their upper bodies are gray or buff and their muzzles are reddish brown or gray. Their lower bodies are white, cream-colored or reddish-yellow.
Coyotes have bushy tails, long, slender noses, pointed ears and longer legs than most domesticated canines. The average weight of an Indiana coyote is 30 pounds, and males are usually larger than females.
One reason coyotes have been able to survive in areas like Indiana is that they are able to easily adapt to varied diets. Their main diet usually consists of small mammals — mice, rabbits, songbirds and game birds. They also eat wild fruits.
The IDNR website said the majority of coyotes do not prey on livestock.
“Usually one or two coyotes in an area find livestock a favored source of food,” the site said. “Often times, only the weak or very young animals are taken. Good husbandry on the part of the sheep or cattle raisers can substantially reduce livestock loss to coyotes.”
Coyotes were considered rare in Indiana until the early 1970s. IDNR officials recommend hunting and trapping to control coyote populations.
Last year, participants in the New Ross hunt bagged 57 coyotes. The animals were donated to an individual who took them to a fur buyer.
“It’s mostly a sport hunt and a fundraiser for the club,” Corwin said. “The pelts really aren’t worth that much, but it gives the guys who like to hunt a chance to go out there and do something different.”
Check-in and weigh-in for the hunt will take place at the New Ross Conservation Club, located at 9161 S. C.R. 900E. A special tagging procedure will be announced. Participants can sign up from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday and teams of two to four people can begin hunting at 5 p.m. Friday. No group hunting or doubling up of teams will be allowed.
Weigh-in will be at 4 p.m. Sunday. Any hunters who do not have their animals at the club by that time will be disqualified. Firearms must be left in vehicles when hunters are registering or weighing in. Violation of this rule will result in automatic disqualification.
Cost for the hunt is $25 per person, $5 of which will go into a big dog pot. Winners of the hunt will be the hunters who take the most coyotes. Cash prizes will be awarded for first and second places; weight of the coyotes will be used to determine winners in the event of a tie.
Last year’s hunt garnered the first place winner a prize of $670.
“It’s pretty good money,” Corwin said. “First prize is almost like an extra paycheck for somebody.”
Early sign-up are allowed and can be made by calling 366-5301 or stopping by the New Ross Conservation Club.