How To

Take Advantage of Expanding Wolf Hunting Opportunities

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Wolves have very good eyesight and the largest brains of any canine. Stealth and camouflage are very important when hunting them.

Wolves have very good eyesight and the largest brains of any canine. Stealth and camouflage are very important when hunting them.

In the past five years, opportunities to hunt wolves in the United States have greatly increased. Here’s the lowdown on how and where to take advantage of this exhilarating hunting experience.

Wolves once roamed over much of the United States, but wolves do not do well with farming, ranching, and the industrial revolution. Over the course of our country’s history, wolf populations in the Western United States were all but wiped out while remnants of timber wolves remained in the forested areas of the Upper Midwest.

Wolves are abundant in Minnesota where the author hunts deer and bear. He regularly gets pictures of them on his trail cameras and excitedly awaits his opportunity to draw a wolf tag.

Wolves are abundant in Minnesota where the author hunts deer and bear. He regularly gets pictures of them on his trail cameras and excitedly awaits his opportunity to draw a wolf tag.

Thanks to recovery efforts, wolf populations have expanded greatly in the Midwest over the past 20 years. Large populations are established in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. So large, in fact, that they have become a serious problem, and the governments in those states, particularly in Minnesota, pay large sums for wolf control every year.

Wolves have all but wiped out the deer population in some areas of northern Minnesota. After decimating the animals in one area, they move to another and the population rebounds. I have personally witnessed this behavior. In one region where I hunt deer, the wolves expanded to the point that I was seeing more wolf tracks in the deer trails than deer tracks. A neighboring farmer lost a couple calves to wolves, and the government trapper caught eight wolves on his farm, which seemed to make a small difference. Wolves are efficient predators and often kill far more than they can consume when the conditions permit it.

In the Western United States, wolf problems are due to intentional release of wolves into Yellowstone Park in the 1990s. Wolves know no boundaries and have expanded into Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah. Elk, buffalo, and deer populations were hammered by large numbers of wolves and with no means of population control due to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Opponents of wolf control poured millions into stopping the delisting of abundant wolves from the Endangered Species Act, while ranchers, state resource departments, and would-be wolf hunters argued that the large number of wolves shows that the ESA works and wolves should now be delisted. A long battle through the courts systems allowed wolf hunting in Montana and Idaho, and later in Wyoming. Finally, reason prevailed over emotion so hunters and ranchers could begin to keep the wolf population in check.

Wolf and coyote howls are two of the sounds that bring wolves in. They are very territorial and will readily investigate any intruder.

Wolf and coyote howls are two of the sounds that bring wolves in. They are very territorial and will readily investigate any intruder.

When the wolves were delisted, Minnesota moved quickly and held its first wolf hunting and trapping season in 2012. Michigan and Wisconsin followed. The wolf opportunities in the West are quite different than in the Midwest, however. As an example, a wolf hunter can get as many as 10 tags in Idaho, while you must put in for a drawing to get a tag in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan. These states have far more applicants than wolf permits allowed, so a preference point system has been put in place.

A preference point is given each time you apply for a license and do not draw. This increases your chances of drawing the following year. For example, I put in for a wolf tag in 2012 and 2013 and was not drawn either year. I now have two preference points. In 2013, many applicants drew with one point, so I feel confident that I will draw in 2014 with two points and a few will be selected with one point once again.

Check the state DNR websites for specifics on how to draw a wolf tag in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. If you are interested in hunting or trapping wolves one day, you should start applying now so you can build up preference points.

Wolf hunting in the West has come of age and is now a sport that many hunters have grown to love. Wolves can be taken by spot and stalk hunting, predator calling, or trapping. Each of these has its own challenges and rewards, and each their own following. Wolf hunting has been going on in Canada since the settlement of North America and hunters are looking to Canadians for advice and equipment. Guides and outfitters who offer wolf hunting trips in the West offer unique hunting experiences.

In the West, hunters are offered multiple tags and opportunities in a variety of habitats. These three Idaho wolves were called in and shot using an elk call and a coyote howl.

In the West, hunters are offered multiple tags and opportunities in a variety of habitats. These three Idaho wolves were called in and shot using an elk call and a coyote howl.

In contrast with the West, wolf harvest numbers are low in the Midwest. Only 23 wolves were killed during Michigan’s inaugural wolf season. But hunters and trapping are honing their craft, learning as they go, and developing techniques that increase their odds of bagging this top-of-the-line predator that is very crafty and learns quickly. It’s clear that hunting and trapping wolves is one of the greatest challenges that can be faced by an outdoor enthusiast.

Wolf hunting opportunities have expanded across the country and if you have any interest in collecting one of the toughest predators that walks the earth, you should start making plans now to get yourself a tag and take on the challenge.

Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.

Images by Bernie Barringer

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • Bayou Woman

    Very interesting piece. So, is there any use for the wolf meat? And do you make use of the hides? Seems such a waste not to do something with the animals afterward. Make dog food or something!!

    • RWYO

      Not really a waste, other animals eat the carcass, mice, rats, eagles, ravens, etc: I am sure the hides are tanned or sold.

  • Revere

    Actually, I like wolves a lot better than the species that hunts them.Just wish I could get some tags to hunt &kill some of them.After all, humans are not an endangered species.I would use the wolves to draw them in.Should be easy pickins!

    • Ripper10

      Revere, start out with the federal humans.

    • bitterrootbill

      Revere what…Massachusetts? More than likely. You have no knowledge of our Rocky Mountain eco-system, so STFU. If you`d like, come on out to Montana and you will see how easy pickin I would be.

      • RWYO

        Revere, If you can get by bitterrootbill, you are more than welcome to come to Wyoming and try me. What an asinine statement by an animal lover. Wolves serve no purpose, kill and maim, We are over ran with them,.

      • PeaverBogart

        Or me, I’m in Montana as well.

      • bitterrootbill

        Good to know you guys got my back! I see the moron who wants to hunt us has gone back under the rock..

      • PeaverBogart

        Yeah, and if he comes to Montana he’ll be under a big Montana rock literally.

    • Truhawk

      Hunting hunters would be easy pickings? You would be making what I call a bad career move! Feel free to leave wildlife management to the professionals, and stick to whatever it is that you know about.

    • cat man

      revere ,best you keep your dumb anti hunter , anti gun what ever you are, or think you are ,ass where you are, these boys would skin your ass out in a heartbeat and your friends too girly .

  • bowhunter1

    what a piece of crap article! I enjoy hunting, but have no desire to shoot wolves… And trapping? that’s just commercializing and killing wildlife (including MOSTLY non-target animals) without regard to fair chase or identifying your target. Trappers sit on the couch watching sponge-bob-square-pants cartoons until they get the urge to go see what they caught…

    • Bernie Barringer

      This post is so outlandish I hate to even dignify it with a response but there are a couple issues that should be addressed in case there are people reading this who don’t know any better. First of all, a tiny fraction of trapped animals are nontarget animals. Trappers are very good at targeting specific species and trapping is hard work so they have no interest in tending a trapline that catches animals they do not want. Trappers are also very conscientious about their reputation and image which is continually attacked by people like you who have no knowledge of the subject you are talking about. Secondly, the thought that a trapper just has no interest in checking his traps is outrageous. As a teenager I got out of bed way before daylight every morning so I could run my traps with a flashlight before school. I could hardly wait to get out every day and find out what I might have caught. Most days it was nothing, but that didn’t slow my enthusiasm. The same was true when I was trapping for a living. I got up at 1:30 in the morning to be at my first set by 2:00 so I could run as many traps as possible before daylight when the animals might become more restless and try harder to escape. The thought of just sitting around and waiting for some kind of urge to hit and the go check my traps is a concept that would be completely foreign to any trappers I know. Plus every state I know has laws that require traps to be checked at least once every 24 hours. You might want to find a trapper near where you live and see if you can tag along and see what it’s really like before you sound off on a subject you know nothing about.

    • TRAPPER1_BOWHUNTER0

      What a piece of crap comment, from an outdoor enthusiest. Are you an anti? You have no desire to hunt wolves, then don’t! IF you do hunt, let’s talk about fair chase, IF you own a bow, you probably sit out in the elements and wait, for lets say a deer, and the deer comes in at the most 50 yards, you Mr. Fair Chase are in full camo up in your tree stand drawing on a 120 lbs animal and send an arrow at 500 ft/sec through the air and hope to hit vitals–as long as it doesnt bump a leaf, or limb, and throw it off course resulting in a miss or a bad shot on the animal. I know because I also hunt big game.
      A trapper will take a trap and set it hide it from their intened querry, and hope the animal steps on a 2″-5″ area, where the trap closes, causing minimal damage if any. Traps are modified to that when the animal pulls it doesn’t damage the limbs or the paw/leg of the animal. Why? because they want the pelt to sell, therefore the animals are taken care of. When I have walked up on coyotes, racoon, fox, etc. in my traps they very calm laying down. If they do pull out of the trap they have a soar foot–maybe, and recover to full strength in a day or so. Now for the dispatch methods, a point blank shot that always results in no pain. NOW who is giving regard to fair chase? If by very rare occasion a non-target animal gets in said trap, they can be let go easily and no damage done.
      Should I mention the fact that, the wild animals that are trapped could easily over populate and consume the big game animals you SUPPOSEDLY enjoy hunting?

      You mentioned commercializing and killing wildlife as if it was a bad thing? Do you eat the meat that you shoot, I would hope so, wild meat is much healthier for you than beef raised on corn? What do you do with your deer hides? Waste them? You probably let the person who cuts them up for you, dispose of them and probably do not realize he will then sell the scraps to…. TRAPPERS!!! Trappers who do a good job throw very little out, meat is sold to states that want it, hides are sold to companies that put it to full use.
      It sounds like you speak with very little knowledge about things you know very little about, which makes you look ignorant. Mr. Barringer, that was a great artical highlighting both hunting and trapping.