KALAMAZOO, MI -- A combination of fair weather and new hunting laws led to more success this year for D&R Sports Center's fourth annual Great Lakes Predator Region Challenge last weekend.
Hunters took to the woods and fields of Michigan Friday night and checked-in their animals Sunday morning.
More than 400 hunters representing 152 teams participated and brought in 95 animals to be entered in the contest.
Winners of the contest, Eric Lewallen and Travis Inman, brought in five coyotes weighing a total of 143 pounds, 8 ounces. The sleep-deprived duo picked up their $2,000 winner's check after hunting most of Friday night, all day Saturday and into Sunday morning.
"We got our first one in the afternoon Saturday and once we got one it seemed about every hour we were getting on them," Inman said. "One was a shotgun kill and four were center-fire rifle kills."
The addition of allowing centerfire rifles at night, a change in the law enacted by the Michigan Natural Resource Commission last fall, has made an impact for the hunters.
"It was huge," Inman said. "Every year with rimfire you could always get them to come in but nine times out of ten you'd let them walk away. We went from doing 2-3 a tournament to this year five. It's a huge difference."
Hunters were limited in the past to using shotguns or .22 calibre rimfire rifles at night for hunting predators such as coyotes or fox. Now they're able to use centerfire ammunition and guns up to .269 calibre at night, a big benefit when trying to reach a suspicious coyote at more than 100 yards away.
"We've essentially doubled our effective range from 100 to 200 (yards) and you've got the knock-down power," Merle Jones, a Kalamazoo County hunter who helped get the law changed, said. "From the statistics last year there were a lot of shots that weren't taken because of the good sportsmen we have, they made the choice not to do something out of their reach."
Just 25 animals were taken during last year's event. Some of that was due to poor weather though, Jones said.
Hunters were asked to identify what calibre they were using for their successful hunts so more information could be gathered about the law's effectiveness.
"At face value it looks like it made a huge difference, we've almost quadrupled the amount of animals taken," Jones said. "We'll have to look at the statistics, there were surveys taken from each team so we'll have to disseminate that information. From what everybody is telling us and what we're seeing in numbers, it's making a big deal."
D&R Sports Center marketing manager Alex Bigelow spent much of Monday morning looking over the entry sheets and was pleased with what he saw.
"I can tell you by looking at a lot of these, a lot of them were center-fire rifles at night," Bigelow said. "It's a much more humane way to put them down. This is a great effective tool to help insure an ethical kill."
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