Watertown’s Marc Larese on a predator hunt.

The fifth annual Marc Larese/Camo Boy Outdoors predator hunt was held last week, with 36 coyotes and six bobcats brought to the Watertown check-in.

“We had a record number of participants, with 73 two-man teams from all over the state,” says Larese, a field representative for Fox Pro predator calls, who organizes the annual hunt. “It has gotten bigger every year.”

The first-place Smith County team of Luke Stinnett and Brian Smith brought in four coyotes and one bobcat.

The biggest coyote weighed 45 pounds, eight ounces, the biggest bobcat 19 pounds, three ounces.

The hunts were conducted in and around Wilson County.

“Hunters could hunt anywhere in the state,” Larese says. “The only requirement was that they had to be back at Watertown by 7 p.m. for the check-in.

Outdoors merchandise was awarded the top-finishing teams.

“The hunters enjoy the competition, and the hunts are a good way to keep the area predator population under control,” Larese says. “Coyotes will never be completely removed, but hunting can limit their numbers. In fact, it’s the only way.”

Coyotes take a heavy toll on wildlife, especially new-born fawns. Studies have found that in some areas as many as half of all fawns born every spring fall prey to coyotes.

Coyotes are also known to prey on pet cats and small dogs in suburban areas where their numbers have increased in recent years.

They prey on poultry and newborn livestock, and their removal is welcomed by farmers.

“Coyotes are ultimate predators and they’ll take whatever they can catch,” Larese says. “We don’t see as many bobcats as coyotes because they’re more secretive, but they’re plentiful too.”

The predator hunt is held in the winter when the pelts are in their prime and can be sold commercially. Area furrier Bruce Carr collects the harvested animals.

Larese says the hunt will be continued next year.

“As word spreads across the state, participation has grown every year,” he says. “It’s a challenging competition for the hunters, and a perfect way to control area predators.”