More than 15,000 hunters have purchased tags for the first authorized wolf hunts in some 80 years in Idaho and Montana. Experts say few of these hunters are likely to bag a wolf.
However, here’s some advice to help improve the odds.
Listen to locate them: “The biggest giveaway with wolves is their howling,” said Carter Niemeyer, who has years of experience trapping wolves for Idaho Fish and Game.
Wolves howl in the evenings and early mornings, pegging their location at least for that moment.
Wolves are fast. Locate where they are howling and you can form a strategy to call them within gun range.
Random calling rarely produces a wolf.
Calling is the best bet: “Anything that makes a squeal; a young animal in distress is the key sound,” said Becky Schwanke, wolf biologist and hunter in Alaska. “Get a good vantage spot and squeal away.”
Rick Kinmon, an Alaska hunting guide who targets wolves, said he often uses a combination of a distressed animal call and wolf howl, appealing to their sense of opportunism for an easy meal and posing as another wolf challenging their territory.
Respect their senses: Wolves have excellent eyesight, hearing and sense of smell and know how to use them to protect themselves. “They’re unbelievably intelligent, and that’s the biggest hurdle hunters are going to face,” Schwanke said.
Monitor wind direction, wear camo and be stealthy when approaching your calling spot.
Expect long shots at moving animals. Kinmon has called in about 200 wolves, and most were long shots of several hundred yards or more. Only two were standing still.
Kinmon said wolves will often stop well out of gun range of the caller, so he positions his hunters in front of the spot where he’s calling and hopes they will intercept a wolf investigating the call.
Be prepared at all times. Whether stalking or calling, wolves aren’t going to present themselves for a shot for very long.
“You’re going to get one quick chance and it’s over, and it’s over for the whole pack,” Kinmon said.
Winter is better than fall: Tracking in snow is a big help to the hunter, Schwanke said. Winter usually concentrates deer and elk populations, and wolves follow.
Winter also is the best time for wolf pelts.
Wolves rarely stay put: “They can go 15 to 20 miles in a night, no problem,” Niemeyer said.
Don’t overestimate their size. Wolves are smaller targets than they might appear. It’s easy to misjudge the distance and shoot over them.
Hunt ethically: Some Idaho hunters are frustrated with wolves and convinced they’re harming deer and elk herds. The state is under intense scrutiny during the first wolf season.
“I hope hunters will represent themselves with dignity and be good role models for sportsmen,” Niemeyer said.