How Wolves Have Changed Deer Hunting For Area Hunters
I still remember the first wolf howl I heard in my deer stand. At first I tried to convince myself it was coyotes or something, but there was no mistake. Later that night we heard them around the campfire at deer camp. We saw the tracks the next day on our way to our deer stands. They were following doe tracks.
It was clear that wolves had finally arrived at our deer camp after hearing stories from other nearby hunters for the last few years. No one in our party harvested a deer that year.
When I was first introduced to hunting in the 90's, there was little concern or talk about wolves in the woods. In recent years with the wolf population rebounding thanks to years of being on the endangered species list, things have changed for deer hunters. Sure we had a brutal winter in 2013, and deer population does fluctuate, but it's been a long time since we've had any bonus tags or doe permits issued. This year would be the first in at least 5 years that our zone is hunter's choice and not bucks only.
A recent article from the DNT reports that the USDA wolf trapping and management fund has run out of money. Wolves are a threatened species and are protected now, but according to the article, 180 or so deer are killed each year to protect livestock and reduce human/wolf conflict. This could definitely lead to a problem in coming years. There is already a 25% increase in wolf population, according to an article from WDIO.
I've reached out to fellow hunters in the Northland and the same narrative comes through. There are less deer and less doe permits being issued in recent years, and everyone points to the wolves. I know personally of several people who have had wolf packs surround their stand or at least be in visual sight of the hunter. There have been some other hunters who have been tracking a deer they have shot, only to find it being eaten by wolves.
This blog isn't meant to be a political "kill all the wolves" rant. It truly isn't. I personally believe that the wolf hunt should be brought back to manage the population, not destroy it. It's no secret that there is already a decline in people who hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors. Agree with hunting or not, license fees and hunter participation is a huge factor in wildlife conservation. Preserving our deer hunting tradition will ensure years of participation from future generations.
Personally, after my experiences with hearing/seeing wolves on our hunting land I've made some changes. First, I never go far from our hunting shack without some sort of protection, whether it be my deer rifle or side arm. I still believe the chance of a confrontation to be very minimal, but it helps me feel safer. I remember to respect the law, and the current laws are as follows straight from the MN DNR website:
Wolves in Minnesota can only be killed in defense of human life.
Only agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked or killed.
Protect all evidence and report depredation incidents to a DNR conservation officer. Use the Conservation Officer Locator and leave a recorded message 24/7.