Monday, March 10, 2014
By KEN ALLEN
The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine (SAM) hosts a coyote hunting and trapping workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at SAM's headquarters on 205 Church Hill Road off Route 3 in Augusta. For info, please call 623-4589 or checkwww.sportsmansallianceofMaine.org
SAM officials have asked participants to preregister, and admission is $15 – pay at the door. The event includes expert instructors and hands-on experience covering trapping basics, bait and shoot, calibers, ballistics, coyote sets, calling, optics, gadgets, fur handling, coyote-chasing dogs, shooting shacks, coyote-turkey relationship, night hunting and ethics, including advice on how to use land belonging to others.
Government officials and outdoors leaders who organize and run these events feel they are helping balance the coyote-deer ratio to benefit white-tailed deer, the state's most popular game animal.
As the saying goes, give a family fish and they'll eat a day. Teach them how to fish and they'll eat for a lifetime, or until the resource collapses. Teach someone how to hunt and trap coyotes better, and eventually we may need seasons and bag limits in Maine.
That may seem silly, but I remember bounties on black bears in Maine. I also remember the growing popularity of bear baiting and dogs creating such a prosperous guiding industry that some worried about the bear herd collapsing. The bounty disappeared.
The increased interest in bear hunting caused plenty of hunters and guides to learn the fine points in the sport. Such excitement over the species forced wildlife managers to create regulations that led to an incredibly healthy herd, one of the hunting success stories in the last 35 years.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) ended the spring bear hunt and stopped the mid-summer hunt, decreased late summer and fall to three months, instituted three split seasons and kept the 1-bear bag limit.
Recently, IFW allowed hunters to shoot one bear annually and trap a second one, a liberal addition. Intense management made a huge difference, and the bruin herd continues to grow to kill two bears.
Two bear laws made a difference – shortening hunting over man-placed bait to one month and stopping hunting in spring though mid-summer. One incident in the 1990s put a proverbial bee in my bonnet. A Maine outdoors leader said bureaucrats must make more of an effort to reduce our coyote herd significantly to save deer, which left me with a sardonic thought. We have instituted extremely liberal laws for killing coyotes.
Hunters can hunt them any day but Sundays and even shoot them after dark from Dec. 16 to Aug. 31. It doesn't end there, either. Hunters can use artificial light, predator calls, bait and dogs, and if those don't work, can trap them, even on Sunday.
Hunters can do just about anything but use poison, trip wires hooked to firearms or explosives, and fully automatic weapons. Hunters have plenty of options to get coyotes in gun range, but they still prevail.
Maine's government officials have allowed several laws to help hunters and trappers thin our coyote populations. We've done just about everything but run a constant schedule of seminars or workshops to teach hunters the finer points of hunting or trapping coyotes.
In 2012, relying on the public to help solve what lots of folks perceive as a problem strikes many as such a novel idea, particularly to groups with political leanings that look to the government for every solution.
Here's one last point: Nearly two decades ago, IFW released a report by Gerald Lavigne, a respected deer biologist, in which he wrote, "Long-term suppression of coyote populations over large areas is not biologically achievable."
Environmental groups tried to use this quote to kill coyote snaring practices. In short, what's the sense of killing one species to favor another? Many people consider such a management tool unethical.
But the naysayers apparently missed a sentence on the following page of the report, where Lavigne wrote, "It may, however, be feasible to intensively remove enough coyotes from small areas to temporarily reduce (coyote) impact on deer."
Lavigne was targeting IFW's snaring program in winter deer yards. It was possible to reduce coyotes in small areas to protect woodlands where deer concentrate in winter.
Hunters interested in becoming successful at coyote hunting and endure the challenge of battling wits with a wily animal should head to the SAM building at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at: