By most accounts, hunting season is over.
You may see a few goose hunters in the northern end of the county, but even that season will soon come to a close.
But that's not the case for one of the hottest trends in hunting. With the traditional game seasons in the books, many hunters turn their attention to coyotes in late February.
Open any of the popular hunting magazines or flip through the pages of just about any hunting catalog and you will see what I mean. A coyote was on the cover of my two favorite magazines this month.
Clearly, varmint hunting is a hot topic. It makes sense. Coyote hunting combines the most thrilling and interesting aspects of our sport.
Many times, calling is involved, which is always fun. Perhaps most challenging, though, is coyotes have a fantastic sense of smell. That means a lot of the shots are made at long distances. And with long shots come fancy guns. There is a quickly growing segment of the rifle market focused solely on varmint hunting. It's yet another reason to expand the gun locker.
With the popularity of coyote hunting comes a surge in tournaments. Over the next month or two, Pennsylvania's hunters will have the opportunity to participate in at least a dozen coyote tournaments all across the state and, if they're willing to travel, across the East Coast.
What is most interesting about some of these tournaments is the payout. Last year, some contests handed close to $40,000 to competitors. For a regional tournament, that's good money and shows how large many of these events have become.
The question now is why are so many sportsmen eagerly gunning for coyotes? Like many things in the Pennsylvania hunting community, it boils down to deer. By eliminating coyotes in late winter and early spring, young whitetail fawns have a better shot at survival.
The Game Commission does not seem to mind. For the state's wildlife regulators, Pennsylvania's blossoming coyote population is one more hard-to-handle variable in its goal of maintaining a balanced ecosystem. They want hunters to help control the situation.
The Commission's coyote regulations are about as lax as they can get. There is no closed season and hunters can take as many as they want. Again, that is part of the draw of the sport. Coyotes can be harvested just about any time — even when traditional hunting season is over. There's even a legislative debate about putting a bounty on coyotes.
Really, with a slew of tournaments across the state this month, there is no excuse for cabin fever. If you feel it setting in, grab your fancy new varmint gun, a thick jacket and get hunting. If you are lucky, you might even paid to do it.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.