MISSOULA, Mont. – In an online questionnaire about their wolf-hunting experiences, members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation offer valuable intel that could help more hunters enjoy the challenge and fill their wolf tag this fall.
A Top 10 list of hunting tips is featured below. Dozens more ideas and observations are posted at the following link:
RMEF members goal in sharing this information is simple: More successful wolf hunters mean better balance in areas where undermanaged predator populations are impacting elk and other wildlife.
“Elk are the inspiration behind our organizations 6 million-plus acres of habitat conservation,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. ”No conservation group has a membership more invested in elk country, more affected by wolves or more passionate about achieving balance. Thats why RMEF members are eager to share their collective experience in a type of hunting still new to most of us.”
In parts of the northern Rockies, burgeoning numbers of wolves, bears and lions are compounding habitat issues, all contributing to elk calf survival rates too low to sustain elk herds for the future. RMEF continues to conserve habitat while supporting litigation and legislation to clear the way for wolf management via hunting.
But wolves are providing a challenge that could make adequate population control easier said than done. Of the 710 respondents to the questionnaire, less than 7 percent killed a wolf during the inaugural hunting seasons in Idaho and Montana.
Lack of success was not for lack of trying. Half of the respondents spent 8 or more days afield in 2011 with an eye peeled for wolves.
More than 60 percent of respondents said wolf sign was plentiful in their hunting area, while another 27 percent encountered some tracks, scat, vocalizations, etc. Yet only 47 percent of respondents actually saw a wolf.
Among those who bagged a wolf, 20 percent credited their success to a coincidental encounter with their quarry. Calling, watching and waiting in a likely area, and stalking were reported as the most productive proactive hunting strategies.
Top 10 wolf-hunting tips from the RMEF member questionnaire:
1. Stay close to elk. If you can find a herd of elk, especially a herd a mile or more from a road, its just a matter of time before wolves show up.
2. Wolves can be patterned like other game. Scouting will help you find travel routes, crossings, etc. Wolves tend to take the easy paths: roads, trails and frozen lakes.
3. Get hunting permission from private landowners. Lots of landowners are happy to have wolf hunters. Could lead to other hunting opportunities down the road.
4. Most wolf hunters want to shoot a big trophy male. But taking females is better for population control. The main thing is just dont shoot a collared wolf. Collars are needed to track the packsand funding for collaring wolves is getting tighter.
5. Go on more hunts specifically for wolves, not for wolves as a byproduct of another hunt. (Questionnaire data reveal only 11 percent of respondents hunted exclusively for wolves; most hunted for wolves as part of a deer or elk hunt.)
6. Howling works to locate wolves. But too much howling, especially by inexperienced callers, can educate wolves. Elk calf- and fawn-in-distress and coyote calls work well. Also try moose calls.
7. When calling, set-up on high ground, not in a hole or depression. Visibility is a key. Consider using a blind. Wolves seem to spot blaze orange from a great distance.
8. Wolves are more reckless in their pursuit of prey when its colder outside. Hunters should concentrate on bad weather days for wolf hunting.
9. Watch for birds – magpies, gray jays, ravens – as a tipoff to fresh kill locations. Approach carefully and watch the area for returning wolves. Consider using a tree stand. A driving technique with a group of hunters also can work.
10. Once you kill a wolf, stay put. Other wolves from the pack often return to the site, sometimes very quickly. You or a buddy may get a chance at a second wolf.
In addition to more tips posted at www.rmef.org, several wolf-hunting features are slated for the Sept./Oct. 2012 edition of Bugle, the member magazine of RMEF.