HUNTING -- A predator hunting derby organized out of Salmon will offer trophies and cash prizes up to $1,000 to hunters who kill wolves and coyotes on Dec. 28-29.
The "Two-Day Coyote and Wolf Derby" is sponsored by Idaho for Wildlife, a nonprofit whose aim is "to fight against all legal and legislative attempts by the animal rights and anti-gun organizations" to impose restrictions on hunting or guns, according to the group's website.
Participants must check in at the derby headquarters in Salmon, a hub of predator resentment among ranchers and hunting guides who contend wolves and coyotes threaten livestock and big game animals prized by sportsmen.
The tournament offers cash and trophies to two-person teams for hunting categories such as bagging the largest wolf and the most female coyotes. Children as young as 10 can compete in the youth division.
Idaho opened wolves to licensed hunting as a management tool more than two years ago after the federal government declared wolf recovery accomplished in Idaho and Montana.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game wolf manager Jason Husseman said the upcoming event is believed to be the first competitive wolf shoot to be held in the continental United States since 1974, when wolves across the country came under federal Endangered Species Act protections, according to Laura Zuckerman, reporting for Reuters from Salmon.
The report quotes derby organizer Shane McAfee as saying media inquiries were not welcome. But outfitters and wolf experts say wolf hunting is difficult and very few wolves are expected to be killed.
Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker says the derby organizers don't need to be defensive, just sportsman-like:
Of course, if (McAfee) were to defend publicly his public event he might point to the big buck contests that are are everywhere during deer season nationwide. How about big fish contests?
The issue of course is respect for the quarry. Predator derbies, which have been held across the West for years largely have held their targets up for ridicule, not respect.
A predator management policy adopted 13 years ago by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission states: “Fish and Game will not support any contests or similar activities involving the taking of predators which may portray hunting in an unethical fashion, devalue the predator, and which may be offensive to the general public.”
Idaho Fish and Game Department officials say that while the derby rules are within legal hunting parameters, the agency is not involved in the event.