Last weekend started off with a bang as the 7th Annual Coyote Hunt was put on by the Geary Fire Department.
The event is a fundraiser set up to be able to provide the fire station with updated gear, equipment, and supplies.
However, this year’s event was different as all profits and donations for the event went to the families of Waynoka firefighter Taylor Bradford and Fire Chief Lonnie Bolar, who died while trying to rescue two people in a house fire late last month.
“It's an event that we put on in rural Oklahoma because there's a lot of people that enjoy hunting coyotes, one, for predator control, and, two, just for the sport,” said David Phillips, the event’s promoter. “So it's something that you can draw a lot of people in for a good fundraiser”
Phillips mentioned the event takes place after deer season and before turkey season which gives hunters more chances to get out and hunt.
“It's a good fundraiser. It gives the guys that are going to do it anyway, kind of a little competition amongst ourselves,” Phillips said.
This year's event resulted in a total of $755 raised for the families of Bradford and Bolar. The winners this year were Andy Smith and Chase Didier who won $1,200 with the total combined weight of their three heaviest coyotes at 109.21 lbs.
“I’ve been hunting since I was old enough to hold a gun in my hand. Hunting is a passion that was instilled in me by my grandfather and father. It’s just great getting out in the woods with friends and making memories you will never forget,” Didier said. “It’s really not about the winning, it's more about just the experiences you have in the outdoors that make everlasting memories. Winning is just icing on the top of it all. Also, the event benefits local fire departments.”
Second-place winners were Mike Estep, Nick Laub, and Bill Reeves and thirdplace winners were Sterling Smith and Logan Arnold.
Each team paid an entry fee of $200 which is divided by 20% usually going toward the fire department and 80% going into the winner’s pot.
A Big Dog and Big Cat contest was held as well and was won by the team of Andy Smith and Chase Didier and the team of Larry Weber, David Gallo, and Thad Wooldridge respectively.
Fundraising and the chance to compete in the sport are not the only results brought on by the annual coyote hunt. When speaking about predator control, Philips mentioned how it is something that must be done.
“I've hunted coyotes for 25 years or better, and the coyote population is probably as thick, if not thicker this year than I've ever seen it,” Phillips said.
Once the coyote population grows, the coyotes sometimes end up having to travel farther out than what they’re used to in an attempt to find more food, Phillips said.
“That's when people are getting them coming up to their house, getting in their trash, or trying to kill Ms. Kitty Cat,” Phillips said. “It's also good for the wildlife. All wildlife has its place, but it's all got to be kept in check, too.”