Originally published Monday, October 8, 2018 at 03:48p.m.

I read a letter to the editor in the Kingman Daily Miner dated Oct. 5 where a woman from Sedona wrote about an organized varmint hunt that was held last weekend in Mohave County.

Once again an anti-hunter, this time one who doesn’t even live in Mohave County, expressed outrage over a legal hunt where predators, which are legal to hunt, were the targets.

This isn’t the first time people around the state have tried to stop varmint hunts in Arizona.

Many years ago, then Mohave Sportsman Club President Herb Stipe started the “Antelope Eaters Hunt.” Biologists at the Arizona Game and Fish Department had stated coyotes were the No. 1 predator of antelope fawns in Arizona. Stipe, who was an avid hunter, encouraged the club to have a hunt with the idea of removing coyotes from identified antelope fawning areas in game management units throughout northern Arizona.

The board of directors embraced the idea and the hunt, which was headquartered out of the Black Cat Bar in Seligman, has gone on for many, many years.

At one time I know there were over 200 teams of hunters that went after coyotes in targeted units. Even though coyotes were the main targets of the hunters, other predators – including fox, bobcats and even mountain lions – were brought in. Understand that not only is it legal to hunt these other predators, of which there are no shortages and respond to calls, but some of the coyotes were checked by staff from the AZGFD, who were on hand to obtain biological samples that were used as part of the Black Footed Ferret transplant program in Unit 10.

Hunters knew that coyotes in antelope country were their main targets, but they also know coyotes impact other wildlife populations including deer, javelina, turkey, and to a lesser extent, newborn elk calves, all over Arizona.

That’s not all they do. They are predators on newborn calves and constantly prey on domestic sheep, which causes an economic impact to the livestock producers in Arizona.

Add in their uncanny ability to come into communities such as Kingman, Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City to hunt and feed on cats and dogs, no one can dispute the impact they have on wildlife, livestock and even domestic animals in Mohave County. Since 1987 in the Phoenix area alone, there have been 20 reported cases of a coyote biting or scratching a human. Reports of missing pets in towns and cities all over Arizona are well known. Throw in that there is an estimated one coyote for every square mile in Arizona, and the state has 113,998 square miles within our borders, there is obviously no shortage of coyotes.

So I ask, why are the antis trying to stop hunts which are legal, according to the rules established by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission?

It’s a good question. It sure isn’t based upon biology or good science. Nope, these folks desire to stop not just varmint hunting, but all hunting. I call it “Creeping Incrementalism,” where you go after one species and once that is illegal to hunt, you move on to something else.

The antis tried to stop lion hunting in Arizona and failed, now they are again after predator hunting.

Why are they asking the Mohave County Board of Supervisors to weigh in on these hunts when in fact all wildlife is managed by the commission and the department?

The commission is the entity that sets seasons, bag limits, and methods of take for all animals that can be hunted legally in Arizona. It, through sportsmen’s dollars, also manage non-hunted populations of birds and animals and is responsible for conducting surveys of wildlife populations. This well-educated group of wildlife biologists and game managers are the best in the business.

I wonder if the bleeding hearts that think coyotes are cute, cuddly, dog-like creatures are even aware that the department has conducted aerial gunning of coyotes in selected game monument units to increase the populations of wildlife?

The department encourages sportsmen to partake in small game hunting opportunities as there are not enough big game tags to go around. Remember, it correctly bases the number of big game tags on science, not emotion.

Hunting predators can be under the broad umbrella of small game, since only mountain lions require tags before they can be taken. There are seasons on fox, bobcats and mountain lions. Only coyotes have no seasons and can be legally hunted year round with a hunter only needing a hunting license.

I am well aware that not all sportsmen agree in the way organized predator hunts are held. Just like all sportsmen don’t agree what shotgun should be used to take doves.

No one is forced to join or partake in these hunts. But just because you don’t agree with them, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be done if conducted legally by the participants who choose to do so.

I personally don’t hunt Chukar, Blue Grouse, or Sand Hill Cranes. Do I believe it should be illegal for others to hunt these birds during seasons set by the commission? Nope, that is a decision I’ll leave up to the biologists.

While it appears the supervisors have received letters from at least three people who don’t live in Mohave County requesting that they intervene in organized predator hunts, I agree that they have a right to voice their opinions. In Arizona, wildlife belongs to all of us, even those who do not hunt or believe in hunting.

The only thing I’d ask is that they do a little research and learn the facts about predators and the impact they have on wildlife, livestock and even domestic animals before they plead with our supervisors or the AZGFD to stop predator hunting.