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Predators become prey

SACRED HEART -- Trying to come up with cold-weather ideas to capture the interest of people can be a difficult proposition.

The Sacred Heart Jaycees think they have a tremendous event planned for their annual Winterfest, which will be held Feb. 22-23. In fact, it's such a great idea that it surprised the people who came up with it.

"We were having a slow deal with our Winterfest," said Troy Nelson of the Sacred Heart Jaycees. "We decided to have something based on the outdoors that we could do in the winter. We started out as a sportsmen's club."

In keeping with the tradition of their founding, the Jaycees decided to have some winter fun and help wildlife in the area by holding a Coyote Hunt for Winterfest. All funds from the event will support Relay for Life.

The first question is, are coyotes a problem around Sacred Heart?

"If you were a mouse or a rabbit, you'd be in trouble," said Ken Varland, regional wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Southern district in New Ulm. "If you're a duck or a pheasant, they're not a problem. They actually compete with a predator that is more dangerous for waterfowl and that is the red fox.

"Will coyotes take small lambs and calves, you bet they will. They're main diet source is small mammal. They also eat a lot of plants. But they're not a major concern for waterfowls."

But it's not just coyotes that can be hunted. Any predator that is listed under the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Unprotected Animals list can be hunted. The list includes coyotes, weasels, gophers, porcupines, striped skunks and other mammals for which there are no closed seasons or other protections.

"There is no season or no limit on predatory animals," Nelson said. "You can basically hunt them year-round."

Hunting coyotes and other predators differs from hunting big game or small furbearers. Obviously, there is no season for the predators that are mentioned above. There isn't a license requirement for hunting an unprotected mammal. Out-of-state hunters still need to have a small-game license to hunt coyotes, but they aren't required to buy the additional furbearer hunting license.

Varland said a coyote hunt like the Jaycees' event isn't common, but it's not uncommon, either. He just wants to make sure people are being safe.

"We don't promote, nor do we say that they shouldn't be doing this," he said. "They are unprotected wildlife. Hopefully people will use good ethics during the hunt. Predators do play a role in nature."

Another aspect of this type of hunting may surprise some. According to the DNR's Hunting Handbook, hunters can utilize artificial light to hunt coyotes under the following circumstances:

It has to be from Jan. 1 to March 15;

Hunters have to be on foot and not within a public right-of-way;

Hunters have to use a shotgun, and

Hunters cannot be within 200 feet of a vehicle.

There are a few other regulations dealing with artificial light, and those can be found on the DNR's website at

The Jaycees event begins at 5 p.m. Feb. 22 and runs until 9 p.m. Feb. 23. Nelson said there will be cash prizes for the biggest predator and the most predators brought back. There will also be a raffle for a rifle.

Before the event, there will be an informational meeting, explaining the rules. For more information, call Nelson at 320-894-5568.