Wolf hunting may be fraught with controversy, but that shouldn't stop you from pursuing an exhilarating legal hunt.
With efforts to bring back gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the 1990s, wolf hunting is at the top of the list of big game hunting hot button topics. Conservationists, hunters, and anti-hunting groups are constantly trading pokes, whether online or in the courtroom.
No doubt, the gray wolf is a species recovery success story. But when appropriate, wolf harvest is part of a sound wolf management strategy. Some simply don't want to see the animals, formerly listed as an endangered species, hunted at all.
Because of competing interests between lawmakers and groups like the Humane Society of the United States and Hunter Nation, the gray wolf issue gets ugly at times.
In places where the population objectives have been hit or exceeded, they should be managed like any other game species. States like Idaho agree. Overall, there are just a handful of states that have opened up hunting seasons for wolves.
Let's dig into the nitty-gritty of wolf hunting including where you can go for wolf hunting season.
Where and When is Wolf Hunting Allowed?
Out of five total wolf hunting states, there are four that currently allow it: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. All of them offer resident and non-resident opportunities for the controversial carnivores.
When you can hunt wolves is dependent on the state. In some cases, different units within the same state may have different season lengths and dates.
Idaho, for instance, allows year-round hunting of wolves in nineteen units that are designated "chronic depredation units." In the southwest and south-central areas of Idaho, the season extends from August 1 to June 30.
Always be sure to check the current regulations of the state you intend to hunt. Season-setting can vary year to year depending on the current wolf population.
Alaska has subsistence and general season hunts state-wide. Subsistence hunts are conducted by many cultural groups and rural residents year-round in nearly all of Alaska. Wolf tags in Alaska are inexpensive, even for non-resident hunters. A non-resident can pick one up for less than $80.
Mike getting it done, another Idaho wolf gets a dirt nap!
Idaho has opportunities for trappers and wolf hunters alike. Almost two dozen units offer year-round hunting. Other units offer a close second with an 11-month season.
Another cool bonus is that elk or deer hunters can use those tags to tag a wolf if it makes sense to do so.
Like Idaho, hunting and trapping wolves in Big Sky Country is legal. Montana has three designated seasons: archery season, general season, and trapping season.
If you hadn't already seen the media coverage, the most recent Wisconsin wolf hunt ran well over its expected harvest quota. The hunt, which took place during breeding season, resulted in 200 wolf kills. Wisconsin DNR is currently assessing future hunts. Hunters will have to pay attention for updates from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources later this year.
Wyoming has lengthy gray wolf seasons with "predatory animal" and "trophy game animal" designations. The trophy game animal management area is a group of specific wolf hunt units (1-14). Season dates run from September through the end of the calendar year in most of these units. Regular license and tags apply.
Gray wolves which lie outside of the trophy game animal hunt units are designated as predatory animals. Most of these wolf hunts can be conducted without a license year-round.
For non-resident hunters hunting designated wilderness areas, you will have to go through an outfitter as a licensed guide is required.
Wolf Hunting Methods
Wolves can be hunted with most typically legal weapon choices. Most states allow archery, crossbow, rifle, muzzleloader, and shotguns with slugs. Some additionally allow handguns.
Due to the difficulty of hunting them, many wolves are incidentally taken or trapped. Alaska wildlife officials report that the majority of wolves taken in that state are trapped.
Below are the main methods that are used to hunt wolves in the U.S. Not every method is available in all five states, so make sure you know the regulations. Other countries such as Russia allow aerial hunting from small planes or helicopters. Yet other countries in Central Asia hunt them with golden eagles.
Blind and Bait
A box or pop-up blind over bait can be an effective hunting strategy. Bait stations are sometimes put out to 200 yards because of the unwillingness of wolves to come in. They are elusive and highly attuned. Wolves seem to know when something is up.
Wolf Kill Sites
Another effective strategy is to hunt over a wolf kill site. Wolves potentially return to those areas frequently and so it is somewhat predictable. Locate the sites where an animal carcass has been likely killed by a wolf, and then set up downwind of them. It's often smart to use a blind or some other method of concealment.
Predator calls such as coyote distress or challenge howls can bring wolves running. Local laws of the area you are hunting will determine if you can use electronic calls or not. Also, take note of the local fauna expected to be in the area. Mimic those animals with either locator or distress calls. Cow and bull elk vocalizations will also bring them in.
Give yourself enough sight distance if you can. Wolves can move fast and be on top of you before you know it, so it's best to take your shot at around 100 yards if possible to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
An effective calling method is locating a wolf pack and calling downwind of them. For best results use a ground blind as a calling station.
Wisconsin is the only state that allowed wolf hunting with dogs in recent seasons. When using hounds for predator hunting, they are typically trained to get on the scent and track to the location of the animal. Wisconsin allows up to six dogs to hunt one animal, but the technique used by many houndsmen is to release one hound on a set of discovered gray wolf tracks.
The hound will run the wolf and then circle its location, barking.
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