Coyote hunt helps in gaining habitat

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 1999

Hunters who haven’t quite got the hunting bug out of them, and who want to help secure public hunting land for the future, may participate in a contest to bag the biggest coyote.

Saturday, December 04, 1999

Hunters who haven’t quite got the hunting bug out of them, and who want to help secure public hunting land for the future, may participate in a contest to bag the biggest coyote.

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Milan Hart of Hart Bros. Gun shop is holding the contest to support the Southern Gateway Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the South Central Chapter of Pheasants Forever. The two organizations have been working together for about three years in acquiring the Grass Lake wetland area, which is located south of Albert Lea along Highway 1 east of Highway 35. The property is owned by private landowners and is generally considered marginal for farming. It is a habitat where many species of animals can be found, including deer and pheasant.

The hunter who shoots or traps the biggest coyote up until June 1 has a chance to win a new rifle. The entry fee is $20 and the proceeds will be donated to purchase the land for public use.

Coyotes are wary and diminutive cousins to the wolf, considered to be a varmint, and often blamed for killing small farm animals. Unlike the wolf, they are plentiful and unprotected.

The contest runs from late November to July 1. The animals can either be shot or trapped. Contestants must prepay and will receive a free cap. The coyotes will be judged on length from nose to tail, weight, paw size, and width of the teeth.

Winners of the contest will receive one of three top prizes. The top prize is a new Tikka 270-caliber bolt-action rifle. The weapon is made in Finland and features a stock made from European maple. Second prize is a pair of Burris Landmark 10X42 roof prism binoculars. Third prize is a gift certificate from Tom’s Taxidermy.

&uot;It’s all for a good cause. When the land is bought and donated to the state, then everyone can use it and enjoy it,&uot; Hart said. &uot;It’s not just good hunting ground. There are plenty of people who will want to go there to watch birds or just to appreciate nature.&uot;

Hart’s goal is to earn about $1,000 for the land purchase.

Jack Adams of MDHA and Pat Neilon of Pheasants Forever are leading the effort to purchase the land. Adams credits people like Hart, the many local service organizations, and those who donate their unused deer hides, for their help in acquiring the land.

&uot;Milan has donated guns to fund-raisers in the past and we’re grateful for that,&uot; Adams said. &uot;We’re also grateful to the people who donate the deer hides. That’s our biggest money maker all year.&uot;

Hides donated to the Hides for Habitat Program are sold at auction to help projects like this one. The hides are used to make gloves, vests and coats.

Albert Lea and Freeborn County have one of the highest collection rates in the state. Three-quarters of the proceeds are used by the state and invested into state wildlife areas, and the rest is used by the private organizations.

Grants and donations are also helpful. Earlier this year Neilon and Adams received a $4,000 donation from the Miller Brewing Company on behalf of their organizations as part of the Friends of the Field program.

Over 374 acres of what was once the Roberson property was donated to the state recently, Adams said. Another 350-acre property was obtained, but has not yet been turned over. An 80-acre plot remains, and the entire area should be turned over to the D.N.R. by fall of next year, Adams said. The different properties once combined will add up to around 800 acres.

When the property is turned over to the state, it will be open for hunting. Some of it is open now, but other portions are not. Hunters should look for wildlife management signs to make sure they don’t transgress onto private land, Adams said.