Photos: Inside the controversial sport of coyote coursing

This subset of coyote hunting involves trained dogs and is relatively uncommon in the West.

  • Guy Martz fires his .22 revolver across a gully as his dogs scan the prairie for coyotes.

    Scott Squire
  • Hunter Todd Fritz's dogs launch out of his truck box in pursuit of a coyote.

    Scott Squire
  • Guy Martz's dogs give him affection as he secures the box on his truck.

    Scott Squire
  • Todd Fritz's kennel with “Pinhead,” a self-willed loner who doesn’t hunt.

    Scott Squire
  • Young coyote hunting fans re-enact an exciting chase at Loomis Trade-N-Days in Loomis, Nebraska.

    Scott Squire
  • A brindle dog during a 'just-for-fun' race at Loomis Trade-N-Days.

    Scott Squire
  • The brothers Love and a hunter friend pose showing tattoos in memory of their dead brother: “He died in a gun cleaning accident. He loved coyotes. He loved coyote dogs,” says Pye Love. The stylized deer silhouette tattoos are recognizable by any aficionado as the logo of Browning firearms. “He loved his Browning too.”

    Scott Squire
  • An old-timer calls the action in a 'just-for-fun' race at Loomis Trade-N-Days.

    Scott Squire
  • A young farmhand taking a break at a Kansas livestock auction.

    Scott Squire
  • A wire-haired coyote hound and the results of a successful hunt.

    Scott Squire

 

Photographs in the new book, To See Them Run, offers a glimpse into the Great Plains culture around coyote coursing: a sport that involves athletic hounds trained to run down coyotes. Along with images by Scott Squire, the book includes vignettes of the collection's main characters by writer Eric Eliason.

The sport, writes Eliason, is “an uncommercialized and never-before-studied vernacular tradition.” Although coyote hunting is widespread across the country, coursing, a subset of hunting, is relatively uncommon. 

Many states allow coursing and offer bounties  in Utah it's $50  for each coyote carcass. Coyote hunting contests are held in several Western states, including New Mexico, Idaho and Montana. In 2014, California became the first state to ban coyote killing contests, which sometimes includes coursing.

Opponents of coursing say the practice perpetuates unnecessary cruelty and wildlife abuse and isn’t effective in population control. Yet proponents of the sport say it helps tamp down coyote populations and protect livestock. Available science is spotty and backs up neither in a convincing way, as High Country News reported in a February 2016 story on Wildlife Services.

In To See Them Run, no photo shows the end of the hunt, when the greyhounds catch their prey, side-stepping the controversy entirely. In the end, that’s what is most unsettling about Eliason’s book, which keeps the gore of an otherwise bloody sport out of view. The book provides a unique perspective on the culture to a familiar reader, but for the reader that comes to Eliason’s collection to better understand the sport, it will leave them wanting. — Paige Blankenbuehler

To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing
By Eric A. Eliason Hardback, $40.
University Press of Mississippi, 2015.