Coyote hunt protest

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About two dozen protestors stood outside a Los Lunas strip mall Saturday demanding that a controversial coyote hunt set for next weekend be canceled.

Members and supporters of the Coalition to Stop Gunhawk Firearms Coyote Killing, a local group opposed to the hunt, stood in chilly, windy weather for two hours holding up signs calling for the cancellation of the two-day hunt, scheduled for Nov. 17 and 18.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Iraq War veteran Esteban Marquez, 37, of Los Lunas, carries his AR-14 and his own sign in support of “Freedom to Hunt” and the owner of Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, who is sponsoring a state-wide coyote hunt this weekend. Protesters demonstrated in front of the business Saturday in hopes to bring attention to their cause.

According to Guy Dicharry, who is with the group, the peaceful protest and demonstration in front of the Los Lunas gun store sponsoring the event was intended to bring attention to what he referred to as a “bounty contest.”

Gunhawk Firearms owner Mark Chavez decided to step in and sponsor the contest after Calibers Shooters Sports Center in Albuquerque canceled its two-day coyote hunt after fielding angry calls and emails from around the country.

The planned hunt will consist of multiple, two-person teams that will spread out across the state hunting coyotes. The team with the most carcasses gets its choice of either a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun worth $1,600, or two .223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.

Chavez said even though he and his family have received numerous threats, including death threats, the hunt will go on.

Chavez said Saturday that, while he supports the demonstrators’ right to protest, he doesn’t agree with them, saying hunters have an equal right to go out and kill the coyotes.

“Everybody has their freedom, they can protest if they like,” Chavez said. “And we’re going to continue with the contest one way or another, whether they protest or not.

“We’ve been hunting coyotes in this state for many, many years, and a lot of these protesters don’t understand the land mass in this state and the amount of coyotes there are.”

Chavez believes those protesting and opposing the hunt have a hidden agenda — to take down the hunting and gun industries.

“They are welcome to protest, but I don’t think they’re going to get anywhere,” Chavez said. “This state has a lot of hunters and a lot of people who understand the law.”

In New Mexico, coyotes are an unprotected species and hunts for them are unregulated by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Dicharry and other protestors say they realize Chavez won’t cancel the hunt, but they are determined to voice their concerns and opposition to it.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Guy Dicharry, left, of Los Lunas, and Scott Brown, of Albuquerque, were two of about 20 protestors who demonstrated against the planned state-wide coyote hunt scheduled for this weekend.

“We know we can’t stop them,” Dicharry said, “but we hope to bring attention to this unethical hunt. They (Gunhawk) are truly the only ones who can stop it, and they just refuse to.

“We just have to get out and show that this is a problem. There’s a lot of better ways to promote a local business than sponsoring a killing contest.”

Dicharry claims Gunhawk Firearms is just trying to generate publicity, and that the whole nature of this type of contest is detrimental to the village and the state. He admits he hasn’t personally spoken to Chavez or any other Gunhawk employees, but says he, and many others, have posted messages on the business’ Facebook page opposing the hunt.

“They were not threatening, we just said we think it’s a really bad idea for our town,” Dicharry said.

He says no one from the Coalition to Stop Gunhawk Firearms Coyote Killing has threatened Chavez, and actually denounces anyone who would.

“That is not a way to achieve our goal, that is not helping us at all. We’re not anti-gun, we’re not anti-predator control,” Dicharry said. “We oppose using a killing contest statewide as a publicity stunt for a local business — and that’s what we oppose.”

Standing in the midst of the protestors with an AR-14 slung over one shoulder while holding his own sign reading, “Freedom to Hunt,” Esteban Marquez, a 37-year-old Iraq war veteran and longtime Gunhawk Firearms customer, said he decided to show up in support of his friend and his own rights as a hunter.

“Mark is a very good person,” Marquez said of Chavez. “He treats people with respect, and I’m out here not only for him, but in support of all the hunters.”

Chavez said 42 teams have already signed up for the event, but because of the threats he’s received, the participants will return the coyote carcasses to an undisclosed location next weekend.

Dicharry’s wife, Lisa, said she has collected about 1,500 signatures on a local petition that she plans to send to the New Mexico Department of Tourism, the Valencia County Commission, the Los Lunas Village Council, the governor’s office, the Department of Public Safety, New Mexico Fish and Wildlife and Washington, D.C.

She said another petition has garnered more than 28,000 signatures.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.