LL, N.M. (AP) — A coyote hunting contest sponsored by a sou theastern New Mexico gun store has drawn “several hundred” hunters this weekend, the shop’s owner said.
Wiley Maloney, owner of Larry’s Discount Gun Shop and Sporting Goods in Roswell, told The Associated Press on Saturday that he didn’t know exactly how many teams of two-hunters had entered, but the two-day competition has drawn participants from around New Mexico.
“The ranchers are telling us that they really appreciate this and see it as a public service,” said Maloney. “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.”
Under contest rules, teams of two hunters can shoot as many coyotes as possible from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset on Saturday and Sunday. The team that kills the most coyotes wins a pair of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. Teams that place high also win a variety of other prizes, said Maloney.
The rules outline spots where hunters are allowed to hunt coyotes, mostly on private lands where ranchers allow hunters to search for predators. Asked if any hunters were going on public lands, Maloney said, “it’s not up to me where they are hunting.”
A gun store in Los Lunas held a similar contest in October despite angry protests and death threats from animal rights activists. New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell also warned the Los Lunas gun store that a permit or lease was needed for commercial use of state lands and none had been issued. Anyone participating in the contest on state land would be considered a trespasser, Powell said.
In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had sent the store a letter to say that hunting won’t be allowed on its land.
Maloney said Saturday that his store has not seen protesters.
The hunt comes as animal rights groups continue to push for a state proposal to ban similar coyote hunts. The House could vote on House Bill 316, which would prohibit the contests, next week.
Animal Protection of New Mexico director Lisa Jennings said her group, who backs the bill, doesn’t want to end hunts.
“What we object to is making a contest and game of it, giving a prize to kill,” she told the Roswell Daily Record.