Large predators have an incredible impact on the population of prey species, especially in the spring, when they kill defenseless fawns and calves. Wolf lovers should remember the plight of the dodo bird and the short-sighted humans who reasoned, “So we eat all the eggs, what’s the problem?” Wolves don’t study biology or do population counts… they simply kill everything they can and when that food source is gone, the move on. Imagine what’s its like for prey species as adult wolves teach their youngsters to kill and kill and kill. Fortunately, states may become the managers of wolves and hunting will be a prime part of this process. What’s a wolf hunt like? Want to apply for a license? Here’s a gripping account from last fall.

November 2012 drew our Wisconsin gang back to northeast Minnesota for the opener of whitetail deer season, as it has done for the past 12 years. This time, however, there was a sense of something new and exciting about it. We had two coveted non-resident wolf tags and with the resident wolf packs growing in size and numbers, this was our chance to aide the deer and moose populations that have been in decline during those years. Today, there is an alarmingly low deer population and no visual moose population.

tmb_197_wolf-camp-052213[1]It amazes me that I haven’t seen any pro-wolf folks show up out here to enjoy nature or experience the wolves in the wild and see what the burgeoning wolf population does to deer, moose, elk, and other animals. There is very little wildlife to view anymore as one travels and camps along these wild waters and woods. All our stands were set up that Friday in the same old spots they have always been, and a couple of wolf baits were placed at locations we found during our earlier bear hunt, which had seemed to draw wolves every year. The tents where set, the wood stoves were pumping out heat, and with full stomachs from a good camp meal, we hit those canvas cots and sleeping bags early. We were not even asleep when the wolf pack started howling and hollering not far from our tents. Morning could not arrive soon enough.

A cold, cloudy day was a perfect opening for the season. We ate a quick breakfast and then made for our stands. There was not much in the way of action the first day, with our fellow hunters complaining of not only the lack of deer, but of deer sign altogether. Later that evening, I worked my call to locate the wolf pack. I found them, but it was getting too late to shoot, so I called just enough to alert the pack that there was an unwanted wolf in their midst. The threat of the “intruder” ticked them off to a point that they were calling and moving in on my position at a feverish pace.

wolf-camp-0522131[2]The next day rolled in a barometric twin to the first, with perfect hunting conditions and our group dispersing with all the excitement and anticipation they did the day before. The day was looking up, as all the guys saw deer, and my day ended much the same way as the first. The only difference was that I added a fawn distress call to my bag of tricks just before leaving the woods for the night. The wolf pack was ready to take out the intruder at all costs, and I called into my view a couple of females and immature wolves in the fading light. I slipped into the darkness, returned to camp, and immediately began formulating my plan to intercept the wolves the next day. Morning arrived seemingly before we knew it, with much talk around the cook tent of yesterday’s hunt. The group had renewed high expectations. I told the guys how I was going to move in on the wolf pack with hopes for a shot at a large male. We wished each other good luck with a few high fives and were off.

CO Rifle Elk 2011 229For me the day was going along quite well. I saw two small eight pointers and a half a dozen does and fawns by mid afternoon and I started my two-mile hike into the middle of the wolf pack’s bedding area. Once there, I waited for them to start calling. I replied with a couple of short, low howls, and at once the pack opened up! My plan was in full swing and I needed to stay downwind and out in front of them until I was able to reach a clearing from an old clear cut and draw them into it…

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Joe Byers
Joe Byers has more than 1,000 magazine articles in print and is currently a field editor with Whitetail Journal, Predator Xtreme, Whitetails Unlimited, Crossbow Revolution, and African Hunting Journal magazines. He’s spent the last three decades depicting the thrill of the chase and photographing the majesty of all things wild. Byers is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association and numerous other professional and conservation organizations.