39 coyotes killed in bounty hunt


A controversial coyote hunt sponsored by a local business came to an end Sunday afternoon.

The statewide hunt, sponsored by Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, took a total of 39 coyotes and was mostly without incident, reported Rick Gross, an employee of Gunhawk.

The owner of the local gun store decided to sponsor and continue the hunt after Calibers in Albuquerque backed out of a similar event last month due to public outcry.

Because coyotes are not a protected or monitored species in New Mexico, hunters don't need licenses to kill them and there is no established season.

Animal activists and opponents to the contest said the event was simply a way for the gun store to promote itself. One change to the hunt protesters were able to effect was a reminder from State Land Commissioner Ray Powell that contest hunts for profit on state trust lands required a permit from the state – a permit Gunhawk did not have.

Because of that, Gross said all participants hunted on their own property.

"Anyone who was planning to hunt public land got their money back," Gross said. There was a $50 entry fee per team for the contest.

Looking back on the event and the ire it raised, Gross said he wasn't sure if the store would sponsor anything like it in the future.

"We never really planned to do this; we just took it over on principle," he said. "Whoever said we were going to make money on this is crazy. If anything, it took away from business.

"We were getting calls all day long, dealing with it. We had no idea it was going to be like this. If we ever did this again, we would actually plan it."

Gross said the winning team killed 11 coyotes over the weekend. He said the store was not releasing the name of the winners.

"We got back teams with a lot of ones and zeros," he said. "All the hides will be used; none of the carcasses were just left."

During the run-up to the hunt, Gross said he learned that people thought the contest would result in the killing of "thousands upon thousands of coyotes. I estimated maybe 200 at the beginning."

The only "incident" reported during the hunt, according to Gross, was a helicopter fly-over by an Albuquerque news station of one hunter's private property.

"Channel 7 buzzed his property and he had some coyotes in his driveway. I guess they thought that was news," Gross said.

Gross pointed out that this contest was not the first and certainly won't be the last the state will see.

"They've been going on forever; there's one next week, one in January. We're glad to pass the ball off to them," he said. "We're glad get back to business."

Right now, employees are in the midst of putting up a giving tree, just like they did last year, Gross said, "and our customers will make sure kids have something to open on Christmas."

The founder of the Stop Gunhawk Firearms Coyote Killing Contest Facebook page and Los Lunas resident Elizabeth Dicharry said the group is taking a deep breath before it continues to move forward and bring pressure to ban bounty hunts from the state entirely.

"Obviously, we wish they hadn't gone ahead but done the right thing for the community and the state and canceled the contest," Dicharry said. "This was a bounty. It was not about hunting, not about predator control. Over the last several weeks, I think we have made the distinction between bounty and hunting."

Dicharry said she and many members of the group are not anti-gun or anti-predator control.

"I have said if a predator is in my yard, I will shoot it myself," she said. "But not for any old reason or to promote a business."

In reference to Powell's edict that the contest was prohibited from taking place on public lands due to the lack of proper permitting, Dicharry said that was probably the first time anything like that has happened to a bounty killing contest.

"They thought they could use public land any way they wanted but you have to have a special use permit," she said. "These are long-standing regulations. It's not something that just happened.

"If you are a commercial business or are charging a fee, whether it's a fishing derby or a bike race, you have to have a permit to do it on public lands."

Dicharry said Valencia County has been in the news so much for things it shouldn't be in the news for.

"We have a blight. We are known for some of the worst cruelty in the state for kids and animals," she said. "We have to care about both if we want a less violent county."

Dicharry said she would like to see bounty contests of all kinds banned in the state. She and members of the Stop Gunhawk Firearms Coyote Killing Contest group are already contacting people in northern New Mexico in an effort to bring attention to a contest hunt scheduled for next weekend in Farmington.

"This is a big issue here in the state and nationally. It's not about ranchers; they didn't sponsor it," she said. "It's a business promotion that did not go through the appropriate channels.

"I love Valencia County, but right now I am very embarrassed — very embarrassed," Dicharry said. "But hopefully, we can see some good come of it."

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