Whether you believe the wolf is a Saint, or Satan in disguise, tune in to the first ever televised lower 48 wolf hunt episode with “On Your Own Adventures” exclusively on Sportsman Channel, the leader in outdoor TV for the American Sportsman. Big game hunter and conservation historian Randy Newberg, along with hunting partner, Matt Clyde, will try to outsmart this most intelligent predator—and explain the reasons why wolf management is necessary—during an 11-day grueling spot and stalk wolf hunt. The series airs August 16 at 9pm ET/PT and concludes on August 23 at 9pm ET/PT.
“We understand this is a polarizing and highly charged issue,” said Sportsman Channel CEO Gavin Harvey. “As the leader in outdoor TV for the American Sportsman we felt the need to address it head-on in a factual, thoughtful and educational manner. The series is going to give viewers a solid understanding of the issues of conservation management as it relates to wolves and why it’s crucial for balance, while delivering some incredible action and imagery around this most elusive and incredible predator.”
The wolf was reintroduced in 1995 in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming from Canada. These reintroduced populations were agreed to be “non-essential and experimental” by Federal agencies. However, it took eight years in the courts until Congress intervened; allowing individual states to manage their own wolf populations. “Everyone agreed that the states could have their own management plan, and delisting would start once the wolf population reached 100, and 10 breeding pairs, in each state,” said Newberg. “In Montana, we now have some 700 wolves.” In March, 2011, a bill introduced by Senator Jon Tester (MT) and Congressman Mike Simpson (ID) was passed, allowing for state control of wolf management. Many states now have their own wolf hunting seasons; Montana and Idaho seasons started in 2011 and other states, like Minnesota and Wisconsin, will have their first this winter. (The wolf was not reintroduced in Minnesota, the species, technically, never left the upper portions of the state.)
“There are thousands of wolves in lower 48 now. We can’t have one species completely unmanaged while you are managing other species,” shares Newberg. “As much as we’d like to think there’s this natural balance from nature, it’s not there anymore. Migration corridors are gone; human development has driven elk from the plains to the mountains. It is not like it was 400 years ago. We can’t just manage elk and not wolves.”
Just 90 miles out of Newberg’s backdoor in the Gallatin National Forest in southwest Montana, the two hunters immediately follow a small group of elk that are migrating out of Yellowstone National Park for the winter. “If you put fence around Yellowstone National Park, elk would die because of the snow and lack of winter range. So elk have to migrate outside the park to public winter ranges, all purchased by hunters. That just didn’t happen – hunters purposely bought the tracts of land around the park to ensure the elk could migrate and survive these harsh winters. In essence, hunters set the table for wolf reintroduction by saving the critical elk winter ranges,” explains Newberg. During the episode, Newberg explains how the very valley they are hunting was once considered for 40-acre cabin plots and how that would have been a disaster for the migrating elk. Hunters worked to acquire the land and turned it over to agencies for public use.
The two-part episode explains much of the history of the reintroduction of wolves and how a hunting season became possible. But viewers will also see how much work Clyde and Newberg put in just to stalk one, lone, wolf. The men stretch their hunting over a 11-day period as they encounter fast moving wolves, confusion if the animal is coyote or wolf, changing winds and other hunters. “Wolf hunting is the most difficult thing you can do. If you want to do fair chase spot and stalk hunting, then you’ve come to the right place,” said Newberg. “It’s a whole lot of effort of hiking and glassing, hiking and glassing and then suddenly, it gets real interesting.”
“On Your Own Adventures” is sponsored in part by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), who worked in conjunction with Newberg’s team on this particular hunt. David Allen, president of RMEF, said about the issue, “The Northern Yellowstone herd was THE showcase elk herd in the world. They numbered around 20,000 in 1995, but it was about 5-7,000 too many for that ecosystem. But today, that same elk herd is at 4,100; that’s an 80 percent reduction when it should have been 25 percent reduction.” RMEF has been involved with the wolf reintroduction since the beginning. “It is the hunter that will be the long term solution to wolves. The subject is only emotional to those who don’t base it on science,” said Allen.
Wolves are hard to hunt – and harder to keep their numbers down. The animals are prolific breeders; a breeding pair can have up to 10 pups in one year. Newberg explains in Montana they harvested 176 wolves last winter, but the population still grew by 100 wolves. And the more humans hunt them, the smarter they will get to our ways. Trapping was recently approved in Idaho and Montana.
“Hunters are responsible for every species being as abundant as they are today. It wasn’t this way 80 years ago. Hunters should make no apologies for participating in our role as managing this species. I will never apologize for the fact that I hunt wolves. Every day I can hunt wolves, I will be there. I will have my rifle, I will have my tag and a wolf may be in trouble,” concluded Newberg.
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Image courtesy of Sportsman Channel