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Sponsor Of Hunt Hears Earful

Call it a hunt, a cull, a kill. Call it whatever you want, just know it’s going to happen.

That’s what a Los Lunas business owner says about the controversial coyote hunt contest his store is sponsoring on Nov. 17-18.

Mark Chavez, owner of Gunhawk Firearms, isn’t backing down.

“This is an opportunity for the people of New Mexico to know there are still people like us – people who love to hunt,” he said.

The concept of the coyote hunt is simple: Two-person teams will spread out across the state. The team with the most carcasses will get either a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two .223-caliber AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

The contest didn’t originate with Chavez. Last month, Calibers Shooters Sports Center in Albuquerque cancelled its two-day hunt after receiving angry calls and emails from around the country, so Chavez decided to step in and sponsor an event.

Almost immediately, the phone calls, emails and angry posts started on the business’ Facebook page.

“We’ve been called ‘murderers,’ been told basically we should be lined up and shot,” Chavez said.

Online petitions calling for the hunt to be stopped are gathering electronic signatures from around the world, on www.causes.com and www.thepetitionsite.com.

A lifelong hunter, Chavez wondered what the effect of the hunt would be on the state’s coyote population.

“When you go out and hunt coyotes, they change their behavior and reproduce more,” Chavez said. “If anyone believes that this hunt is going to eliminate coyotes, well … this will barely scratch the surface.”

Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore protection for WildEarth Guardians based in Santa Fe, agreed.

“Wherever there is a vacancy in the ecosystem, they will fill it,” Keefover said.

However, that doesn’t mean she and the organization are on board with the contest. “The whole premise is just wrong,” Keefover said. “This is just a blood sport, completely disgusting.”

Keefover said if the motivation for the hunt is to help ranchers prevent livestock loss, native carnivores such as coyotes, are “way down on the list” of causes of cattle and calf deaths. According to a federal report, 94.5 percent of cattle and calf losses nationwide in 2010 were due to non-predator causes, including respiratory and digestive problems.

Seeing several pros and cons to the hunt, Bosque Farms resident Judy Babcock says she would rather see the contest cancelled. Babcock, a gun owner and angler, said she has no problem with hunters who “eat what they kill. But to do this ‘for fun’ just goes against all ethics.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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