Jim Schmidt has been working with coyotes for more than 50 years. As a wildlife specialist for the USDA, he has been involved in coyote damage control throughout the country.

He has hunted them, trapped them, snared them, chased them with hounds and chased them on horseback. He has also lived remotely with them for almost a year collecting biological samples for scientific research. He knows those critters intimately.

“The coyote is an opportunist, a smart, resourceful animal who can live and survive just about anywhere — the mountains of Arizona to the back alleys of Chicago,” Schmidt said.

He disagrees strongly with those scientific folks who assert that coyotes can’t be managed or controlled; that if you kill one, two will take its place. He does suggest, however, that you probably could not eradicate coyotes, even if you wanted to.

For years, Maine managed many of its wildlife species, except coyotes, who continued unabated to take down weak wintering deer in their yards. When public relations considerations forced the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to outlaw coyote snaring, the coyotes in Maine multiplied, and plundered our wintering whitetails with impunity.

After much legislative pressure, MDIFW finally implemented a modest coyote control program. Before that happened, a number of exasperated private individuals and sporting organizations elected to take matters into their own hands.

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For almost a decade, recreational hunters and trappers have done what they can to cull coyotes from deer wintering areas, and done so with tangible results.

The best example is the annual coyote contest organized and maintained by Aaron Smith and his dad headquartered at their Smith General Store in Springfield. Smith is an avid deer hunter and sportsman who believes deeply that there has been an inverse relationship between coyote control and increasing deer numbers.

“If I shoot a coyote or two that are hovering near a deer wintering area, that’s two fewer animals to take down a wintering deer. It’s common sense,” Smith said.

Smith’s store has been tagging coyotes and handing out prize money to successful hunters since 2008. The contest goes from December to April. This year, Smith’s store tagged 131 coyotes. The largest male, taken by Tim Jipson, weighed 49 pounds. The largest female, shot by Earl Smith, tipped the scales at 40 pounds.

Since the coyote contest began, the store has tagged 880 critters. The total purse this year was $4,005.

Here’s the best news of all, in Smith’s words: “Growth in our deer tagging here at Smith’s General Store from 2009 to 2016 has more than doubled. During deer seasons, when there was a tracking snow, the deer tagging numbers tripled.”

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Bottom line? The numbers don’t lie. Fewer coyotes means more deer. These results only serve to underline the needless procrastination that went on within the halls of Augusta policymakers as they debated too long what to do about Maine’s declining deer numbers.

Smith’s comments cut to the chase.

“We can whine and moan that the state needs to do this and that, but it may never happen soon enough due to political reasons,” he said. “We as sportsmen need to keep taking it upon ourselves to do everything we can. Why? We are the effective ones! Keep up the great work.”

Amen to that, Mr. Smith.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors,” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.


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