WHITING, Vt. -- A coyote bounty hunt that has generated opposition and a lawsuit seeking to stop it was held over the weekend despite protesters.
About two dozen people stood quietly Saturday morning with signs outside the general store while hunters gathered behind the building where coyote carcasses were weighed and laid in the snow.
Organizers said they were helping to protect the state's deer herd, although state wildlife officials doubt the hunt will make any difference. Opponents said that paying bounties for the small coyote taken each day and the largest for the entire event was poor sportsmanship.
''It's pointless; it's just bloodlust," said protester Jim Hoverman of Middlebury
He and the Rev. Paul Bortz, of East Middlebury, unsuccessfully sought a court injunction to halt this weekend's First Annual Howlin' Hills Coyote Hunt. They have 10 days to make another appeal and they say they will continue pursuing it.
''We're in this for the long haul," Bortz said, standing along the road holding a sign that read: ''Would Jesus Organize a Coyote Slaughter?"
Organizer Donald Fellion, 56, of Leicester, said the hunt would go on despite the protests. He said 310 hunters registered for the three-day event.
''I don't see any real threat to anything," he said.
But it has prompted some landowners to make their land off limits to hunters. ''I posted my land today," said David Carlson, a 20-year resident of Whiting. ''My neighbors are hunters, and I respect their right to hunt. But I don't respect bounty hunts."
Fellion, who has been hunting since he was 8, said he had received threatening telephone calls. He organized the hunt, he said, because a lot of people are interested in hunting coyotes and because he is trying to control the population of animals that are ''eating a lot of deer."
Fellion has been hunting coyote for a long time. ''I got 26 last year," he said.
He said he likes them for their fur. ''They have a nice pelt. They look nice. And I like to give them to people," he said. ''Other ones, I just throw them away."
Licensed hunters can shoot coyotes any time of year in Vermont. Fish and Wildlife officials estimate there are between 4,500 and 8,000 coyotes in the state depending on the time of year.
Deer hunters blame coyotes for holding down the deer population, but state Fish and Wildlife Department officials were not keen on the derby. They said it was unlikely to have much effect.
''We don't have the legal ability to shut it down," spokesman John Hall said. ''We do not support having organized coyote hunts. On the other hand it, is not illegal. Foremost, we are concerned about the image of the hunter today in the eyes of landowners and those folks who aren't participating."
Hall said coyotes feed on deer in the winter and spring, but are not the prime cause of the mortality rate. Hard winters are the more likely culprit.
Bortz and other Addison County residents say they will urge the Legislature to change the law to outlaw bounty hunts and to set a specific coyote hunting season.
Eighteen coyotes were killed on the first day of the hunt.