Jan. 25—ELLENDALE, N.D. — Over the weekend of Jan. 20-21, Troy Olson hosted the eighth annual Predator Hunt as 154 people broken up into 56 teams hunted around the southern part of North Dakota and northern part of South Dakota.
Olson has hosted the event every year since it began in 2016. This year, Olson said 36 kids participated in the hunt. In order to participate in the event Olson said there was a $30 entrance fee per person.
"We've seen some other places try these hunts before and it's neat to see the people get together," Olson said. "It's very good for conversation too. In fact, Ducks Unlimited is part of our sponsorships. We thought we'd try it and it's grown every year."
This year's event started Friday evening, Jan. 20, and went until 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22.
Olson said organizing for the event starts months before but it is helped by the companies sponsoring the event and his family pitching in.
"I usually start about October but the same sponsors do it over and over and they've been more generous," Olson said. "They actually make it pretty easy for me. It's a family ordeal at the hunt too, my family helps me, my wife, my kids. It runs pretty smooth."
The hunters killed raccoons, coyotes, skunks, foxes and a badger. In total there were 243 different animals with 146 raccoons being killed. Olson said it was important to not just focus on coyotes because of the need to protect birds that nest on the ground.
When the event concluded on Jan. 22, multiple prizes were given out for the top three teams by points, the lightest and heaviest animals and even the ugliest coyote. The event also included a raffle in which various guns and gun safes were won among other prizes. The event had 30 sponsors including Ducks Unlimited, a conservation organization.
"The reason I did (sponsor the event) was it affects conservation from a wild animal standpoint," Ducks Unlimited Regional Director Terry Lassiter said. "The community aspect of the event that they hold, those are some of the reasons that I originally wanted to sponsor it."
The teams collect points based on what animals and how many of each type are killed with coyotes being worth the most at 25 points and raccoons being worth the least at five points.
"That keeps it very close for everyone that wants to hunt different species and brings in a lot more participants," Olson said.
Olson said the only weapons allowed were guns but people hunting raccoons hunted using dogs. One of the groups that used dogs was Tyler Efraimson, his brother, Derek, and a friend.
"The dogs will find the ones that we generally can't," Efraimson said. "I would say they find half of them that we couldn't have found without them. They're pretty small dogs, they get into those little tight places the (raccoons) like to go and hide."
Olson said the most common firearm used was a .22-caliber rifle, but the largest that was allowed was a .410-caliber shotgun.
Lassiter said he does not work very closely with Olson. He said Olson brings game wardens to the hunt to teach attendees about the species and to make sure everything is as it should be. He said the hunt doesn't adversely impact the environment and the species that inhabit the area.
Olson said he works hand-in-hand with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to make sure everything is above board.
"In regards to the general census, raccoons, skunks, they're not really native to the prairies, and a lot of the gentlemen that hunt this particular predator hunt, they focus on those species just because of the impacts that they have on ground nesting birds," Lassiter said. "So, from an ecological standpoint, there isn't really a huge impact in regards to game species."
Efraimson, a veteran of the hunt, said he comes back every year because he enjoys spending time outside with his friends.
"We've been doing it for several years and it's a good way to spend some time in the winter and help out the local wildlife," Efraimson said. "If it's pheasants or deer or whatever it is, it's fun to go out and hunt with your buddies."
The top three teams got cash prizes with the top team winning $2,315 followed by $1,389 for second and $926 for third. Olson and his group were part of the second-place team and caught the lightest raccoon at 3.15 pounds.
"That means a lot, we work really hard at it," Olson said.