Let’s ban outdated hunts like Showdown

After reading the article “A Unique Approach: Gun store hosts coyote tournament,” (Feb. 8, A4) I had to check that I had not picked up a copy of a newspaper from the mid to late 1800s. The assumptions made in the article are outdated and wrong. Before I made such a bold statement, I checked various sources.

I checked with a couple of sources that are clearly pro-hunting sites and that presumably also know what they are talking about. One source was an article by a fellow named John Martino in a publication called Wild Indiana.

This 2015 article by Martino was titled “The Dirty Secret of Indiana’s Deer Herd.” Martino makes the claim that the declining deer population in Indiana is due to two related factors.

One is the large increase in antlerless deer permits. The second is that too many hunters are taking deer up to the limit. He makes the point that permission to do something does not constitute a reason to do so. He further states hunters have a responsibility to adjust bag limits based on local conditions, not what the state gives a person permission to do.

Another article from 2015 appeared in the Quality Deer Management Association publication. In it the authors state the top five reasons for herd reductions are hemorrhagic disease, severe winter weather, intentional herd reduction, falling fawn survival and habitat loss. Nowhere does this article, or any article I consulted, state that coyote predation is a top cause of herd reduction.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, coyotes prey mostly on small mammals. They will take small pets and weak livestock. According to its website, there are fewer than 15 coyotes per square mile in Hancock County.

A longitudinal study of coyotes in Cook County, Illinois — of which the city of Chicago is a large part — notes that coyotes play an important role in controlling rodent, deer and Canada goose populations there. The coyotes’ typical prey are rodents and rabbits. This study also notes coyotes removed through lethal control methods are quickly replaced. In other words, the coyotes removed by the Coyote Showdown hunt will quickly be replaced during the next one or two breeding seasons.

So what did the people involved in the Coyote Showdown hope to accomplish? I suspect a large part of the effort was an opportunity for people to legally kill an animal that plays a small role in the loss of the deer population for nothing more than sport. According to studies of the role of coyotes in our environment, the hunters did little to improve the deer herd. I also believe Highsmith Guns likely gained from the sale of ammunition.

So what can people do to control nuisance coyotes? Keep pet food and other food indoors. Keep small pets indoors unless supervised. Report coyotes who are regularly killing pets and livestock — and kill not only the adults, but also the offspring who will likely continue the habits of the adults.

How do we support healthy deer populations? Despite what the state says can be taken, take only what can be sustained. Responsible, knowledgeable hunters know what these numbers are. Improve habitat throughout the state by reducing sod deserts and by planting what will sustain deer. Encourage responsible hunters to do what they do best: hunt responsibly, and take only those deer that will not cause unnecessary reductions in deer herds.

And finally, ban hunts such as the Coyote Showdown as the vestige of days gone by that they are. It is time to come into the 21st century.

Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. You may share your comments at jem75@sbcglobal.net.