KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — For 13 years now, several hunters and trappers from Kosciusko County have paired their labor of love with a burgeoning charitable movement.
Every hunting season from Nov. 15 through March 15, they skillfully scour the area’s snow-covered fields and woodlands looking for coyotes. They harvest their take — coyote hunting has no bagging limit — process and deliver the pelts for auction and donate the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.
The annual project known as “Hunting for a Cure” coordinates the efforts of close to 150 hunters in 10 north central Indiana counties: Kosciusko, Fulton, Marshall, Wabash, Miami, Huntington, Cass, Grant, Howard and Carroll.
The take is prolific. Since the program began in 2004, the trappers and hunters have bagged 2,368 coyotes in what founder Larry Frank referred to as a “win-win situation.”
“We are harvesting pests who prey on pets and livestock,” he said, “and we give the proceeds to a good cause.”
Frank cited another benefit of culling the coyote population. “We help control the diseases they pass on to hogs, cattle, dogs, etc.”
The fundraising method is not endorsed by everyone, but Frank urges a look at the big picture.
“Trapping and hunting can sometimes be an issue not everyone embraces,” he said, “but here we are using the money for something charitable.”
That money has added up. The yearly donations, matched by various area corporations and individuals, cumulatively total nearly $65,000, with an estimated 250 of this season’s 366 pelts yet to be sold.
The hunters deliver the animals to Frank, who in turn processes and ships them to Wisconsin for sorting and delivery to auctions in Toronto by Canada-based North America Fur Auctions.
“It takes about an hour of time for each one,” said Frank, who works with Bo Bodenheimer of North Webster on the processing.
A pelt can bring “anywhere from $2 to $125” depending on size and quality. “China and Russia are the two main purchasers,” said Frank.
With rare exceptions, the harvest has grown every year of the program. The 2004-05 season yielded five coyotes; last year’s record take totaled 410 pelts. The harvest is “dependent on the weather.”
Frank highlighted the intangible value of “Hunting for a Cure.”
“There are several benefits from donating to charity besides the satisfaction of helping for a good cause,” he said.
“When local groups work together for a common goal, it takes away the competitive walls that get built up between groups. It also sheds a positive light on our group of hunters and trappers to the public that we are not in this just for the money.”
Frank encouraged other individuals and groups to leverage their recreational diversions into charitable fundraising opportunities.
“I would like to challenge them to evaluate their hobbies or interests to see if there is a way they could use it for the good of someone else,” he said. “Be creative.”
To volunteer for the program or offer matching donations, call Frank at (765) 985-2286.