Predator Quest to return for sixth year

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WEST BRANCH — Hunters from around the state will be hitting the fields and woods for the sixth annual Predator Quest Feb. 1-3.

Predator Quest is not the typical predator hunt, according to organizer Kevin Bush.

“What makes us unique is our competition is call only,” he said. “Hunters are only able to use a call to bring animals in, no baiting and no trapping.”

“The event has grown every year,” Bush continued. “I feel that the predator hunt is important because it is a great community event. Not only is it great for wildlife management purposes, I do it because I like to see everybody in the community come together.”

Previously held at Logan Township Hall, the event moved to the Ogemaw County Fairgrounds a few years ago. At the time Bush and fellow organizer Greg David were concerned that the group would fall short of goals needed to pay for the larger facility despite outgrowing and overfilling Logan Township Hall.

“The banquet last year had a record turnout with more than 350 people there,” Bush said. “This year we are expecting more than 400.”

This year, more than 80 teams will be on the hunt to harvest bobcat, coyote and fox, each with a different score.

This year’s event begins on the last day of bobcat season for much of the state, Bush said.

“Only the northern zones will be able to take bobcats,” he said. “In Ogemaw County the season closes the 1st.”

Bush said the timing could make for extra excitement as teams from downstate head north to fill tags.

Registered hunters accumulate points based on the species they harvest during the three-day window. This year, the cash purses have been expanded to include the the top five teams with the remaining money to be paid out to each hunter based on the number of animals harvested. The amounts vary based on remaining funds after the top five payout.

Last year the group paid out to the top three teams, and gave out more than $25,000 in cash and prizes.

Bush said this year the prize pool was expanded to the top five to keep the purses from growing too large and the event becoming about the money, instead of the camaraderie and the fun.

The grand prize will be $1,800 for first-place team. However, there is a $600 limit for each hunter, so a two-man team would only win $1,200.

Cold hard cash isn’t the only prize on the line. Bush said every registered hunter gets a door prize, which he estimated is worth at minimum $75 — $20 more than the cost to register — ranging from hunting, camping and sporting good merchandise to liquor packages and gift certificates.

Attendees also have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win firearms or other merchandise.

Bush said it’s more than the banquet and prizes that keep people coming back.

“It is a competition, but it’s more like everyone is a giant family,” he said. “Even people from downstate that come have been coming for five years. We all know each other now.”

“There are people that come just to spectate,” he continued. “They come to check it out. Our dinner is for registered hunters and their guests, but the public is welcome to come check out the kill pole.”

Bush said last year the group was approached by an area resident, thanking it for hosting the event because she had recently lost a dog to a coyote attack and felt population management was important.

Harvested animals have to be at the fairgrounds by 7 p.m. Feb. 3, when they will be inspected to verify they were harvested legally and within the contest parameters. After that the animals will be on display as they are tallied to figure out everyone’s prizes.

Bush said after the harvest, hunters can choose to take their animals to a taxidermist or sell the fur in the market, but there are often buyers on hand at the event as well.

For the organizers and volunteers, the event marks the end of one year’s hard work and the start of the next.

“I spend the time organizing the event because it’s something I have a passion for,” Bush said. “I love seeing how happy it makes everybody. The money and time I spend is nothing compared to the gratitude I receive.”

The registration period for the event has closed, but this year’s hunters paid $55 per spot, of which $40 goes into the prize payout pool and the balance is used to offset the costs of the meal and hall rental, Bush said.

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