TUNKHANNOCK — Three years ago, Emily Bold’s father, John, won Northeast Regional Coyote Hunt when he harvested the heaviest canine in the three-day hunt — a 45.5-pound male.
So last year, Emily bought her own hunting dogs, trained them year-round and entered this year’s hunt hoping to top her father’s mark.
She came close.
The Honesdale resident harvested a 41.35-pound coyote in Wayne County on Sunday, the last day of the hunt. While Bold’s canine didn’t win the $2,000 grand prize for the heaviest coyote taken overall, she was still thrilled with her hunt.
“I love it. It’s a fast-paced way to hunt and being in this hunt has become a tradition for us,” Bold said.
The hunt is now in its 19th year and is one of the largest coyote hunts in the state. This year, 685 hunters participated and 45 coyotes were weighed in at the Triton Hose Company. The average weight of the coyotes harvested was 36.54 pounds.
The hunt encompasses eight counties, including Bradford, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming, Lackawanna, Pike, Luzerne, and Sullivan. Hunters paid a $30 registration fee and a $100 prize was awarded for each coyote taken. A $250 prize was handed out for the heaviest coyote taken each day, and a $2,000 grand prize was awarded Sunday for the heaviest animal overall.
Last year, the hunt, which is organized by District 9 of the Pennsylvania Trappers Association, attracted 733 hunters and resulted in a harvest of 47 coyotes.
Bill Kalinauskis, director of District 9, said the event is the group’s only fundraiser of the year, and proceeds are used to fund a trapper training school and for donations to county envirothons for high school students in the area.
The hunt also helps to manage the local coyote population, he said.
“With fur prices down, trappers aren’t aggressively pursuing coyotes but the guys who hunt them with dogs are balancing it out,” Kalinauskis said. “Between trapping and the coyote hunt over the years, it’s really helped to control the population.”
The hunt also aids research efforts conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Nokota Harpster, a wildlife specialist with USDA Wildlife Services, spent all three days of the hunt collecting blood samples from the coyotes that were brought in. The samples will be analyzed for the presence of two diseases — tularemia and leptospirosis — that coyotes can contract by eating infected prey such as rodents.
Harpster said without coyote hunts, it would be extremely difficult to collect samples for research.
“There’s not a way to effectively trap coyotes and foxes in order to get the samples we need,” she said. “We go to all the coyote hunts around the state and it’s a big benefit for the research work we do.”
Harpster added that most of the coyotes brought in during the three-day hunt appeared healthy, and only two had severe cases of mange, which is lower than previous years.
One reason why this year’s harvest was on par with last year, despite having fewer hunters, was the weather. Most of the hunters participating used dogs to chase coyotes, and the mild temperatures coupled with a damp ground surface improved scent conditions.
The group that Bold hunted with had a total of 11 dogs, and some were trained to locate a fresh scent trail while others led the chase.
“It was really good today and took us only 10 minutes to start a run,” she said. “We focused on hemlock patches and swamps to find them.”
Ronnie Sands of Laceyville also used dogs to harvest a 38-pound coyote in Wyoming County on Sunday. It was one of two chases his Walker hounds had in the morning, and like Bold, Sands said the damp conditions helped.
“The rain softened the ground and the dogs stayed right on the scent for a 13-mile chase,” he said. “I’ve been in this hunt ever since it started and it’s a tradition for a lot of people. We look forward to it.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky