Wolf Hunting 101
As pretty much everybody knows, wolf season opened here in Idaho temporarily in 2009. I only got out wolf hunting once and didn’t have any success, but I’m going to try harder once they open it up again. Two of my friends got wolves that year and I congratulate them. They worked hard… anyway, I digress. I figured I would do my part and try to put together a little educational wolf hunting post so maybe we’all can have more success soon.
*By the way, I am not a wolf hunting expert and have compiled this information from friends and some of it from huntwolves.com.
Wolf Hunting Methods
Wolves are tough to find. A lot of stamina and patience is involved in hunting wolves. Another difficult aspect of hunting wolves stems from the fact that wolves do a lot of their own hunting at night and currently both Montana and Idaho hunting seasons prohibit the hunting of wolves at night.
Basically, there are 2 ways to hunt wolves. The first way is to keep a tag in your pocket because you never know when you might stumble into a pack of wolves. While I was guiding pre-wolf season I could have killed 10+ wolves that I just came across.
The second way to hunt if you’re interested in shooting a wolf is to wait for the wolf to come to you. In Canada, they can bait in wolves, but in Idaho & Montana wolves are currently considered a game species & baiting is not allowed. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a wolf to come to you though. Predator calling can work very well.
Calling Wolves Works Too
Calling a wolf is much like calling a coyote. Calls that work can range from a squeaker that imitates a field mouse to a cow elk call. Perhaps the most popular, and arguably most effective are the calls made to imitate the death squalls of a cottontail or jack rabbit. While a rabbit might not seem like much of a meal for a wolf, it’s still an enticing, easy snack. Wolves, unlike coyotes, often prey on elk, and can also be called in with the same cow elk call you would use to bring a big bull elk in with. There doesn’t even have to be a hint of distress in the calls for this to work. With all these options, you can use what ever call you’re most proficient with or have handy.
Howling for Wolves is a Great Wolf Hunting Tactic
Its no secret wolves like to howl. Combine that with their fierce territorial behavior, and you’ve got a recipe that can put a whole pack of wolves in your lap.
Picking a Good Wolf Hunting Stand
Picking a good stand to call from is critical. Wolves have keen eye sight, and an even keener sense of smell. When choosing a stand you need to take this into account and pick a spot that will put you down wind of the wolves when they come in, yet give you good visibility of the area in front of you. Position yourself in a place where you have a clear view upwind, but where you can also see downwind. You should pick a high spot in the terrain so you a have a good view. Wolves can hear calls from over a mile away, so the farther you can see the better chance you’ll have of spotting a wolf on its way. This will give you more time to prepare for a shot and also lets you see how the wolf is reacting to your calls. Other things to keep in mind when picking a stand are to look for sufficient cover. The best time of day to get setup in your stand is early morning just before the sun comes up or later in the evening because wolves are most active at night.
How to Call WolvesOnce you’ve chosen your stand, sit down and position your rifle in a way that gives you the widest shooting window with the least amount of movement. Once it’s positioned try to move as little as possible. If you choose to start off with a howl, and quickly get a response back, you may want to just continue howling. If the responses sound like they’re getting closer keep it up. If they don’t, or you didn’t choose to howl at all, it may be time to use a game call like an elk or rabbit. For rabbit calls, its good to call aggressively at first for 1-2 minutes at a time and then lay off for a few minutes. Repeat this process and continue even if you see a wolf coming in from a long distance. When a wolf gets with in a few hundred yards, simply squeaking with your lips may be all it takes to lure it in. If the wolf is looking your way, try not to move at all. As soon as the wolf is in a range that your comfortable shooting, take the shot. The closer the wolf gets the more likely it is to pick up your scent or see you. If you miss the shot, a bark or a quick howl will sometimes stop the wolf long enough for a second shot. Miss again and your probably out of luck. If you do take a wolf in the first shot and your hunting with a buddy that has a tag too, don’t jump up just yet. Making a yip or whining sound like a hurt pup will likely bring other members of the pack that are close by running and your buddy will get a chance to harvest a wolf too.
Patience is key with wolf hunting, so don’t expect to plop down on a hill 5 minutes from a well traveled road and call for 10 minutes and get a wolf. Wolves are extremely cautious and they also might be coming from a mile or more away. It pays to wait and calling for 30 minute to an hour or more can pay off. Remember, as soon as you stand up, your probably going to scare anything that was coming in away, and if you would have waited 5 or 10 minutes longer you might have seen that wolf coming over the hill. It might take a few times, but if you bring the right gear, use the right rifle, and try out some of the calling techniques listed above you’ve got a great chance at getting a new wolf skin rug.