The sport of predator hunting started with conservation in mind. The California Varmint Callers Association (CVCA) started with the motto of “The Conservation of wild life by the taking of predators by Sportsmen.” Later in 1968, in an effort to maintain their nonprofit status the name was changed to the California State Varmint Callers Association, Inc.
There is nothing new about predator hunting. It has been around for decades but really took off starting in the 1950’s. Doug Kittredge and Jim Dougherty shared a love for the outdoors and predator hunting. Becoming increasingly aware of other predator hunters mostly in Texas who were into the sport, they eventually started a relationship with Wayne Weems of Weems Wild Calls in Ft. Worth Texas. Eventually relationships were grown with other call makers and varmint callers.
The first known organized group of varmint callers was called the Texas Wild Animal Callers Association.
The predator family of foxes, coyotes, bobcats, wolves, etc., long have been termed varmints, lumped improperly, in my opinion, with such creatures as rats, crows, groundhogs and prairie dogs. It is my belief that our smaller species of predators have long been overlooked as worthy adversaries, and only in recent times have they been accorded the respect, and in some cases the protection they are entitled to as game animals. The growth of the sport of varmint calling and hunting has had a great deal to do with this increase in status.
In 1956, Kittredge and Dougherty received a letter announcing the first World Championship Varmint Calling Contest. The event was billed as a rendezvous with callers from all across the country, was compromised primarily of hunters from the Southwest. It was held in Chandler, Arizona, in February 1957.
With the growth of contests, it was only natural that organizations would be formed. Shortly after the 1959 event, the California Varmint Callers Association was founded, becoming the third such group in the country. Others followed, as did interest within existing sportsmen’s clubs, and among individual sportsmen. The challenge of calling in the wily predators to within “handshaking distance,” as the Burnham Brothers put it, gained a large following.
It was the calling contests that cemented the foundations of the sport and brought it into center stage among the hunting fraternity. There was an annual world event, a national championship, various state contests and a multitude of combination calling events wherein contestants battled in a variety of game calling categories that resulted in individual division winners as well as the high overall calling champ. Numerous multitalented outdoorsmen were drawn either to enter or just listen and exchange views while enjoying the camaraderie that existed.
In Arizona and California, the state calling associations flourished, branching out into statewide chapters based in large cities or rural towns. The parent organizations became recognized as accredited sportsmen’s associations that worked closely with various departments of state and federal wildlife departments in providing data on varmint populations, helping in heavily populated areas to reduce depredations by hunting the critters. Thus the groups were providing a service while turning varmints into a source of outdoor recreation.
There are times when coyote populations become burdensome and stringent methods of control are required. It was the position of the callers that, in such cases, they should be allowed to participate in the control and that the use of noxious methods such as poison not be permitted. The voice of the callers across the land played a large part in the elimination of poison in predator and rodent control.
In addition to calling contests, there were many field contests with the winners being that individual or team that collected the greatest amount of critters in a predetermined length of time. Most often these events were held in areas where predator populations were high, with resultant economic damage to landowners such as ranchers of poultry or sheep. This type of event eventually ran its course as far as large-scale contests were concerned. With increase in anti hunting sentiment, and the critical comments of the overnight environmentalists, who suddenly knew all there was to know in spite of what the biological experts in all management phases of our natural resources said, such pursuits were not in the best interests of the hunting fraternity.
Perhaps it is best that the large-scale field contests ended. While it is certain that they did nothing in the way of harm to the predator resource which is resilient and has avoided man’s attempts to eradicate him for centuries, the events are not suited to today’s social pressures.
In spite of the emphasis on ecology, most of us still have difficulty in dealing with the confusion. An example stands out in California today. Various animal rights activists have gone throughout the state of California petitioning various city and county agencies demanding an end to lethal predator control in favor of a non-lethal, coexistence approach, they have even petitioned California Department of Fish and Wildlife put an end to so called immoral predator hunting contests while they fail to admit their non-lethal program has been proven to fail on every level not only costing municipalities more than when the USDA’s Wildlife Service’s conducted predator control but actually resulting in the death of more coyotes and no real effect on depredation rates .