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Some stories simply slip by me. One did last weekend, but I promise not to let it happen next year.
I hadn't heard of the Indiana Predator Challenge until it was nearly over. The Friday- through-Sunday event drew more than 60 hunters, but as I pulled into the Branchville Conservation Club Sunday afternoon, the final contestants were setting off for home.
According to Jason Bruce, the event's organizer, the Indiana Predator Challenge draws hunters who set their sights on coyotes and foxes, using calls designed to mimic the sounds of prey, such as a rabbit in distress, to lure animals in. The activity is challenging because animals are wily and often flee when they see, hear or smell hunters.
The recent event was certainly a challenge to hunters, whose combined weekend efforts saw a few coyotes bagged, but no foxes. Photos and a summary of the event can be found at www.IndianaPredatorChallenge.com.
Warm weather and fog apparently kept animals from moving much over the weekend, Bruce said, challenging even the most skilled hunters.
Teams of hunters score a point for killing coyotes and two points for foxes. There's also a rifle marksmanship contest that adds points to team totals. Winners receive prizes and, probably more important, bragging rights.
Hunters reported seeing other groups of coyotes and a fox was seen near the clubhouse as hunters gathered. Other hunters spotted a rarely seen bobcat.
The event strives to make the event as fair as possible, Bruce told me. That means contestants have to live at least 100 miles from the contest site, so local hunters can't take part.
Hunters are also restricted to calling foxes and coyotes on public land, meaning no one will benefit from a farm home to lots of coyotes or foxes.
"There are no honey holes, the rules are strict and judges enforce them well," Bruce said Sunday after an awards ceremony that I missed out on by an hour or so.
The event has been held in Perry County twice and will likely return next year.
"We've hosted the event out of Perry County for the last couple years and we hope to continue hosting it there," Bruce said.
Registration for the event began in July and rosters filled quickly, Bruce said.
The 70-plus hunters and contest organizers spent most of their time in the field, but spent money on gasoline, hotels and food.
As local officials try to draw more visitors to the county, events like this month's predator challenge are an example of how we can leverage natural resources to draw visitors, not only for events in which animals are bagged, but in ways that promote our county's natural beauty.
Over the years, the county's coon club has brought in hunters from across the nation, many of whom return.
While the predator challenge won't be looking for local participants, Bruce did offer to help any local landowners, at no cost to them, find responsible hunters and trappers to help control predators.
Bruce can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com