A local gun shop’s first-time sponsorship of a two-day coyote hunting contest this weekend drew some 200 entrants and plenty of attention.
Larry’s Discount Gun Shop on North Main Street was filled with enthusiasts, though the coyote hunters had already hit the land Saturday morning.
Paying $300 per two-man team, the hunters were expected to call in their numbers Saturday night at 7 p.m. and again tonight at 3 p.m.
Coby Griffin, a salesman at Larry’s Gun Shop on North Main Street, said he expects the kill rate to be high.
“The more the better,” he said.
Under the rules, teams can shoot as many coyotes as possible from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset Saturday and today.
Wiley Maloney, owner of the shop, told the Associated Press on Saturday that the contest drew hunters from around the state.
“The ranchers are telling us that they really appreciate this and see it as a public service,” Maloney told the AP. “My family had a ranch for more than 50 years, and the coyote problem got so bad down here we had to quit raising sheep.”
“They’re a huge problem right now,” Griffin told the Record. “We’ve had a drought this year and the smaller animals haven’t had a chance to thrive.”
By thinning the coyote population, Griffin said smaller animals such as sheep and deer may have a chance this year.
If the contest is successful, the shop may consider holding one again next year.
“It’s just something a lot of clientele are asking for,” Griffin said. “We hear from our local ranchers about their day-to-day struggles all the time.”
Larry’s Discount Gun Shop, one of the most popular firearm sporting goods stores in Roswell, was packed Saturday, with a local radio station broadcasting live outside and celebrity UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones, who trains in Albuquerque, signing autographs and chatting with young customers inside about martial arts and other topics.
“Today’s been a lot of fun,” Jones said.
Michael Hamlett, 18, of Hobbs, drove two hours to visit the store. He agreed with the thinning of the coyote population.
“It keeps the population down and keeps them from killing baby deer,” Hamlett said. “(The coyotes) come up so close, you can shoot ’em easily. It’s about the only thing that you don’t have to have tags for.”
The team that kills the most coyotes wins a pair of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. Second place gets a 22-250 rile and third-place to tenth-place winners garner shotguns and cash prizes. Teams that place high also win other prizes.
The rules allow hunters to kill coyotes in certain outlined areas, mostly on private lands where ranchers allow hunters to search for predators.
The gun shop puts no age limit on the contestants, but they must bring written permission from property owners to the shop to hunt and have a valid hunt safety card.
Hunters were urged to review state rules about locations and obtaining permits. Everything was to be called and shot. Snaring, baiting and trapping were not allowed. No dogs or live decoys were permitted.
If any locals were against the contest, none appeared Saturday to voice opinions — one day after anti-gun rallies were held in cities throughout the state about other gun-related issues.
Protesters who want state and federal lawmakers to pass new gun control laws held rallies Friday in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Los Lunas a day after a state House committee killed a bill to ban assault weapons in the state.
The New Mexico chapter of the Organizing for Action staged the event to support proposals to include universal background checks for gun owners, a limit on the size of magazines and a ban on many military-style guns.
Lisa Jennings, director of Animal Protection of New Mexico, based in Albuquerque, backs House Bill 316 that would ban hunt contests, but told the Record this week the organization does not want to end hunting.
The organization is not involved in wildlife issues, Jennings said. It has a wide range of programs from spay and neuter clinics to equine protection.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.