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Coyote Hunters Want Fun

SANTA FE, N.M. — If all goes as planned by organizer Mark Chavez, more than 100 hunters will spread out across New Mexico this weekend to kill coyotes.

Chavez, owner of Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, estimates about 150 coyotes will be killed.

That’s a fraction of a fraction of 1 percent of all the coyotes in New Mexico. Still, I guess you could argue that coyote-killing contests are, to some degree, about controlling a predator population, albeit not a very effective way to do that.

But coyote-killing contests are about something else, too: having “some fun.”

State Game Commissioner Robert Espinoza Sr., a Farmington businessman, wrote this back in 2009 when he was executive director and board president of New Mexico Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife:

“SFW has long been an advocate of predator control and what a great way to do so than to have some fun as well as a chance to win some great prizes as to participate in a local coyote calling contest.”

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Espinoza to the Game Commission in August 2011, replacing Jerry Maracchini, a former director of the Game and Fish Department. Espinoza’s term expires at the end of 2015.

The Game Commission is responsible for the “propagation, planting, protection, regulation and conversation” of game and fish in New Mexico, but it doesn’t regulate coyote killings because coyotes aren’t game as defined by state law.

I tried several times to reach Espinoza to talk about coyote killing but was unsuccessful. In his defense, you could argue that a lot of people who hunt and fish do it for fun to some degree.

Chavez, the Los Lunas gun shop owner, said he decided to hold this weekend’s coyote-killing contest after an Albuquerque gun shop called off one in the face of angry calls and emails.

Chavez prefers to call it a coyote-management contest. He says the pelts from the coyotes might be sold to fund a scholarship or donated to the homeless.

I’m sure critics would call that putting lipstick on a pig.

The winner of the coyote-killing contest will get either a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.

Protesters also have taken aim at Chavez, staging a demonstration at his shop and signing an online petition. More than 28,000 people from around the world reportedly have signed the petition.

Why this coyote-killing contest has attracted so much attention isn’t clear. It certainly isn’t the first coyote-killing contest and certainly won’t be the last.

The World Coyote Calling Championship was held in Belen at the Valencia County Fairgrounds in 2010 and 2011. I couldn’t find results for 2011, but hunters killed 273 coyotes in 2010. A father-son team won the event, with nine coyotes killed.

New Mexico Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife will hold its sixth annual coyote-killing contest next weekend, Nov. 24 and 25., at Aztec Machine & Repair in Bloomfield.

There will be cash prizes for most coyotes killed, as well as money for smallest and biggest coyotes. A light dinner will be provided to participants Nov. 25 after the killing is done.

Game Commissioner Espinoza is no longer executive director of the sportsmen group, but family members help put on the group’s coyote-killing contest.

Another coyote-killing contest is scheduled for Jan. 10-12 in Gallup. It’s hosted by Red and Jackie Cunningham, according to the website of the National Predator Hunters Association.

Coyote-killing contests need to be recognized for what they are: a way to have “some fun.” Just ask Game Commissioner Espinoza.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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