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Hunters justified in killing for food

Feb. 2, 2001

The ground was wet. The cold north wind began to blow. I sat quiet and still, listening to the squeal of a baby pig. The sound was coming not from a pig, but from a Johnny Stewart PC3 variable pitch open reed mouth call, which is made here in Waco. Jesse Barnett, representative for hunting superstore Out House, was practicing for an upcoming varmint hunt competition.

As Barnett continued to make his calls, their intensity grew. The squeals were quicker and lasted for longer periods of time. I could imagine what a hurt pig or rabbit would look like as the coyote attacked his prey. Barnett explained that coyotes had also been known to attack ranchers' livestock and even to eat household pets.

Barnett said that after exhausting their usual food supply of deer, rabbits and feral hogs, coyotes will begin to prey on the next available food source.

According to Roy Welch, an employee of Texas Parks and Wildlife, it is all about energy expended vs. energy taken in.

'It is easier to kill a sheep or calf than it is to chase down a deer or a rabbit,' Welch said.

However, coyotes also play an important part in the ecosystem. When the coyote population is low, deer and hogs destroy agricultural land, so there must be a balance. That is why Barnett says he believes in varmint management.

'With the removal of the Mexican Grey wolf in the lower states, coyotes have made their niche,' Welch said. Pressure has been put on the coyote, which has resulted in their having bigger litters.

'Sixty or 70 years ago, their litters averaged three to four pups. Now they average six to eight,' Welch said.

As I sat patiently waiting to shoot, Barnett signaled to me to look into the brush nearby. Coming toward us were two of the most vicious canines you could imagine.

Barnett slowly picked up his rifle and flipped the scope cap off, keeping an eye on the animals' cautious approach. He carefully took aim and said, 'Gotcha!' But the only real firing this day was that of my camera. He says he does not bait animals because he believes in a fair environment.

Although I personally am not an advocate of hunting, neither do I believe that we should take the guns out of the hands of true hunters. I don't believe people should kill animals they aren't going to eat, but I see now that the coyotes are destroying ranchers' livestock, the food they depend on for life. After this eye-opening experience, I understand at least one of the reasons that people hunt.