The recently concluded wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula has certainly grabbed all the attention in the hunting world, no doubt because of the fervor over the season raised by anti-hunting organizations.
So while all the debate was raging on over the wolf hunting season by foes and supporters of it, a large number of hunters have quietly gone about enjoying their sport.
This included late season archery deer and grouse hunters, whose seasons ended with the dawn of the new year, as well as rabbit hunters, who can enjoy their sport through March 31.
There's another group of hunters that has been expanding in numbers in recent years, which can be attributed to the ever-growing population of what they are pursuing - predators.
Of course, I realize wolves are predators, but they fall under a different classification than what are more widely pursued by predator hunters. Included are coyotes, fox and bobcat, which all offer a real challenge to hunters.
As mentioned, the populations of these predators have grown significantly in recent years, which puts additional pressure on some of the game animals and birds that hunters enjoy gunning for.
To help ease this pressure, many sportsmen's organizations across the region have come up with predator hunt competitions, with a few of them set to get under way next week.
One of them is billed as "the U.P.'s original predator hunt," and the 11th annual version of the U.P. Predator Challenge kicks off next Thursday.
Sponsored by the West Branch Sportsmen's Club, the challenge has grown to include dozens of hunters pursuing coyote, fox and bobcat. They have done pretty well, too, as can be discovered by looking at the photo gallery on the challenge's website at www.uppredatorchallenge.com.
There is a mandatory check-in for all hunters, as well as a and final chance to register, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Skandia Township Hall on Kreiger Drive in Skandia. Included will be a pasty dinner for $3, an introduction by challenge officials and door prize drawings from 6 to 7 p.m. and a question-and-answer session with a Michigan Department of Natural Resources representative from 7 to 7:30 p.m.
Hunting will begin at 7:30 p.m. and run until 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, when the gates to the West Branch Sportsmen's Club will be locked. Check in will begin at 11 a.m. Jan. 19 at the club, which is located on Engman Lake Road about 1 mile south of M-94 East, which is the back road into the former K.I. Sawyer Air Base.
The rules of the challenge are pretty much the same as in previous years, including hunters can participate as individuals or teams of two, the cost is $35 per person, trapping is not allowed, road kills can not be registered, dogs are prohibited and all participants must have the proper Michigan licenses. Coyotes can be taken with a small game license but fox and bobcat require a fur harvesters license.
Scoring will be 30 points for bobcats, 25 for coyotes and 20 for fox. If there is a tie, total weight of animals taken will be the tie-breaker.
Then once the top finishers are determined, the following cash will be presented: $800 for first place, $400 for second, $200 for third and $100 for fourth. There's another incentive for participants to register any predators they get - all hunters who finish in the prize money will receive $25 for each predator registered.
There is also an optional $5 fee for those who want to register for the heaviest coyote contest, with all the money going to the winner.
The challenge also has grown in the number of sponsors contributing door prizes and cash, with the three lead sponsors being Midway Rentals and Sales, Bark River Knife and Tool and Adventure Centre Arctic Cat. In addition, there are dozens of others spread across the region.
For more information, call 942-7004 or 877-471-4868.
Another competition that gets under way next Thursday is the 10th annual Predator Hunt sponsored by the William Anderson Sport and Recreation Club in Hermansville.
This one is a little more open in terms of rules, including two classes: two-person baiting, shooting, trapping, snaring and calling; and two-person calling and baiting only.
The cost is $20 per team and registration runs from 4 to 6:30 p.m. (CST) at the club's building on Hermansville Lake. Hunting begins after the registration and continues into Feb. 2, when check-in of harvested predators will be from 9 to 11 a.m.
There will be cash prizes for the top teams, as well as door prizes and a prize for the heaviest coyote. For more information, call 295-0340, 399-3450 or 235-2902.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.