On the first day of the Carolina Coyote Classic tournament last Friday, 111 hunters from across the state had a difficult time luring the super-wary predators close enough for shots.
But after the winds calmed on Saturday and Sunday, they bagged 33 coyotes, 14 each the last two days and nights. Almost all of the coyotes were killed after dark, the majority between 1:30-5 a.m.
Team Snyder of Iredell County tied for first place with the Carolina Dog Killers of Union County with six coyotes each. Team Snyder won after a comparison of total weight of the kills at Albemarle's American Legion Post 76.
"Last year the hunters killed 17 coyotes, so we broke that record pretty easily," said John MacPherson of 704 Outdoors TV show, the event’s main sponsor.
The first day's segment resulted in hunters popping only five of the canine predators.
The first Coyote Classic in 2014 drew a dozen hunters, while last year's event attracted 37.
"It has become popular as word has spread," MacPherson said. "We have coyotes everywhere, even inside Charlotte's city limits.
"Many guys also are deer hunters who are upset about coyotes that hurt the state's deer population. It's impossible to get rid of all coyotes, but if you can remove enough in a given area, it gives deer some breathing room. A single female coyote will kill dozens of deer fawns each spring to feed her pups. They also kill other game animals, domestic livestock such as calves and family pets and they don't have natural predators. Like every predator, they need some control; they don't have natural enemies. Hunting tournaments are the best option."
A.J. Snyder was captain of Team Snyder. Other members included Chad Gilreath, William Reece and Wesley Jordan. Snyder said his team probably owned its victory to Gilreath oversleeping the first night.
"We were going some place else, but we had to go near his house," Snyder said.
"I set up an electronic call at 5 a.m. and three came out of some woods," Gilreath said.
Armed with a .22-250 rifle mated to a 6.5 Photo ambient-light/infrared scope, Gilreath shot the largest coyote, then quickly dropped a second one. The third ran into some woods, then came back out to investigate, and Gilreath downed it.
"I'd never killed a triple," he said. "It only took about 45 seconds."
Snyder later used a 12-gauge Remington pump shotgun to nail a coyote that ran within a few feet of him. His scattergun had a night-scope for close-range shots.
"You never know when coyotes will pop out near a call and too close for a rifle shot," he said.
Reece, who killed two coyotes, bagged the event's largest male, weighing 39.70 pounds. He earned a .22-250 rifle package, Bob’s Custom call, skull mount and cash.
John Alden of Iron Station, a Fox Pro staff member, dropped the No. 2 coyote, which weighed 38.20 pounds. He downed one coyote the first two days and four more after 12:01 a.m. Sunday. He used a tack-driving AR-10 DPMS rifle chambered in .243 caliber that shot hand-loaded 58-grain Hornady VMax bullets. He used a D 3760 night-vision/infrared scope to win a Sniper Hog Light and Bass Pro Shops gift card.
Cody Ahlstrom of Waxhaw, a member of the Carolina Dog Killers, dropped three coyotes within two minutes early Sunday morning. He used a .243 Winchester rifle with a night vision/infrared scope.
"They came from 1,100 to 1,200 yards away to a pig distress call and pig squeal," said Ahlstrom, who nailed the coyotes at 200 yards.
Ahlstrom's team members included Trent and Smitty McWhorter and Scottie McCorder, all from Monroe.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission opened night hunting for coyotes and feral pigs on private lands with the use of electronic calls on Aug. 1, 2012.