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STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER On the first night of last year’s hunt, Bill Kalinauskis adds a hunter’s successful harvest to the leader board. One lucky hunter will walk away with a $2,000 grand prize this weekend.

For the 21st year, the District 9 Northeast Pennsylvania Trappers Association will sponsor the Coyote Hunt beginning this Friday, Jan. 24 and running through Sunday, Jan. 26. The weigh ins will end at 2 p.m. sharp on Sunday.

Bill Kalinauskis, the District 9 Director and hunt chairman who has been involved since the beginning, is expecting a good turnout this year, with over 600 registered hunters as of last Thursday. The registrations were still being filed and counted as of press time.

In 2019, 663 hunters registered for the event and brought in 39 coyotes. That was down from the 45 taken in 2018.

“We hope the weather is decent, and that all our participants have a fun time,” said Kalinauskis. “At the end of January, there really isn’t a lot to do, so it gets people together.”

Kalinauskis also said that a lot of the registrations are coming from outside of the area.

“The majority of our hunters are returners. But we did a lot of advertising this year, more than usual. We will see if it was fruitful,” said Kalinauskis. “But there are definitely new subscribers.”

“Some people come up for deer hunting and are at a camp, and they hear about the coyote hunt or see flyers, and wonder what it is all about. That sparks an interest, and then they come back,” he said.

In the past competitions, the coyotes brought in have ranged between 46 and 52 pounds and a few of them have had special coloring and markings. Kalinauskis, said in an earlier interview, that the typical coyote has markings like a German Shepherd dog, but he has seen some come in with strawberry red fur. The contest has had two 50-pounders in the 20 years.

The grand prize for the heaviest kill is $2000 and there is also a daily $250 prize for the heaviest coyote each day of the hunt. Moreover, each coyote turned in during the hunt will net a $100 bounty.

In case of a tie, the first coyote weighed in will win.

All Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations must be strictly adhered to. The coyotes must be taken by hunting only, as there will not be any allowances for animals that are trapped or cable restrained. Also, they must be taken in fair chase/stalk methods.

“Percentage wise, I think hounds (hunting) bring in more coyotes,” said Kalinauskis. “The dogs, if it is the right conditions with snow, can track the best. If there isn’t any snow, obviously it is harder, but still one of the better ways.”

But, as he pointed out, more isn’t always the standard, “Two of the past three years, a caller has gotten the heaviest harvest. You may get more with the hounds, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee size.”

Another successful way to hunt for the big prize is to use drives.

“We have groups go out and set standards across swamps and fields,” he said. “People go through with others from their families, and camps, and chase the animals down.”

The weigh-in station will be set up at Triton Hose Company, which is located at 116 West Tioga Street in Tunkhannock. Weigh ins will be from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

A weigh-in dinner will be held for all registered hunters from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hose house. District 9 has a relationship with Triton, and will be providing a chicken dinner for anywhere between 300 and 400 hungry hunters.

At this point, committee members are tallying the kills and calculating the winners. The awards are announced at the dinner, which also provides the hunters with a social time to share their stories and experiences.

“We have never had a repeat winner in the 20 years we have been doing this. Sure, sometimes the same people bring in animals, but the grand prize winner, or even the daily winners, haven’t done it twice. Everybody has a chance,” Kalinauskis said last year before the hunt.

Also, the hunt is a time for researchers to explore predator habits in an 8-county hunting ground. Research students from Keystone College, as well as USDA in Harrisburg, are expected to converge upon the hunt to collect DNA and environmental samples.

“The purpose of this is to find what diseases the coyotes might be carrying. We can take samples of the intestinal tracts and the blood,” explained Kalinauskis. “There are also trends we can examine to determine if there are any upcoming diseases. These are generally transmitted to domestic cats and dogs, so we want to be aware.”

He acknowledged, “Yes, we are killing the coyotes, but the research is better for it. Without organized hunts like these, we might not have the research. This is to get a cross-section of what is going on out there.”

A controversial part of the hunt is determining whether or not the organized hunt helps to control the coyote population.

“It really is a double edged sword,” he said of the debate. “It is a stressful time for the females, and with stress comes less pups. Also, the more coyotes that are taken, the birth rate seems to increase. But, there is still the population decreasing. Regardless, it all helps to further the research needed to detect wildlife diseases.”

The annual event, which Kalinauskis is too busy planning to participate in, will go on in whatever weather comes through northeastern Pennsylvania. Acceptable areas for the weekend hunt are in the counties that comprise District 9- Wyoming, Susquehanna, Lackawanna, Wayne, Pike and Bradford- and also include Luzerne and Sullivan counties for the event.

All registrations and entries were to be postmarked by yesterday, but for more information about the hunt, please call Kalinauskis at 570-885-9224, email, or visit the District 9 PTA website at