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Wolves are one of those carnivores that are known for their intelligent and doughty nature. In North America, wolves are typically found in Wyoming, Montano, Idaho, Canada, and Alaska. Unfortunately, wolves have been one of the most hunted species for over 10,000 years, resulting in their endangerment now and then.
Wolves are hunted mainly for their skin. But hunters also kill wolves to protect livestock since they are bloodthirsty for cattle, a common issue farmers face. Now that their population is considered “healthy,” is it fine or even legal to hunt them?
The answer depends on the state you live in. Keep reading to learn everything you need about wolf hunting and the best areas offering open seasons.
Wolves became an endangered species in 1974, and it became officially illegal to hunt and kill wolves in 48 states of America. However, in 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) took 66 gray wolves and placed them in Yellowstone National Park.
These wolves are no longer federally protected in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, allowing the residents to legally hunt wolves. It’s worth noting that Wisconsin also permitted a wolf hunt, but it stopped in December 2022 when animal-advocacy groups sued.
Wolf hunting is also legal in Alaska since wolves have never been threatened or endangered there. Here’s everything you need to know about the three wolf-hunting states of America.
The Idaho Legislature passed a bill in July for a year-round trapping season for wolves on private property, which allows hunters to buy unlimited tags. The state has minimum restrictions on wolf hunting and has also legalized hunting foxes and coyotes. According to Idaho News 6, there are approximately 1,500 wolves in Idaho.
Hunters have killed most Yellowstone wolves in Montana, and the state has three designated wolf hunting seasons. Archery season for wolf hunting is in the first half of September, the general season runs from September to March, and the trapping season runs from November to February.
There’s only a small window of time where people aren’t hunting wolves in Montana. According to Montana’s fish and game department, each hunter can hunt no more than 10 wolves and trap no more than 10 wolves, taking up to 20 wolves.
By 2017, wolves were no longer endangered in Wyoming, and the state now has a healthy wolf population. However, even when wolves were endangered in the state, state officials killed 20 wolves yearly.
According to Wyoming’s fish and game department, the wolf hunting season runs from September and December. For the 2021 hunt, the state-issued 47 wolf tags, while the 2020 hunt had 50 tags.
Most hunters prefer to schedule their hunts for periods when the wolf and its fur are in prime condition since the main trophy is its skin. The wolf’s fur is in the best condition during the winter. During this period, wolves are also more vulnerable to hunters since food is lacking.
However, snow fills the typical wolf habitats in the winter, restricting hunters’ mobility during their hunt. Still, November and December are the best time to hunt wolves, despite the compromise.
Wolves are an intelligent species, which is why various hunting methods are used at different times and locations to outsmart these predators. Baiting, bow hunting, calling, and rifle hunting are a few methods. Here are some tips from expert hunters to remember while practicing each wolf hunting method.
During a baited wolf hunt, the hunter sets up a blind and lures the wolf in by baiting, which is legal in Montana. They may also lure the wolf in by calling with rabbit-in-distress wails or fawn bleats.
If the hunter is experienced enough, they may use doe decoys and e-callers. In this case, they set their blind far away from the bait or decoy, ensuring that it’s camouflaged expertly. The hunter must set the snare properly around the bait station, attracting the wolf and making it vulnerable.
One of the main aspects of bow hunting is the correct judgment of the distance. The distance you can shoot accurately depends on your bow, strength, and the type of arrow you use. There are three effective methods of hunting:
After learning how to take the right aim and shoot, getting the perfect rifle should be your priority. Most people start hunting wolves with a coyote rifle. But the issue with these rifles is that the average coyote only weighs 40–55 pounds, while wolves are two to three times that size.
In most regions, there is a good chance that you might harvest more than a wolf, which makes semi-auto rifles like the classic AR15s a great option. These rifles make it easier for you to take another shot and take down two or three wolves quickly.
This method might take hours to work, but since this is the initial step for wolf hunting, it’s best to follow up. Make sure to call the wolves with loud, long, and mournful howls, as they live in denser covers than coyotes. Three howls with your hands cupped around your mouth are sufficient, and then you must wait and observe.
Seasonal hunters recommend not getting too fancy with the howls. Just a few classic howls from high to low pitch seem to work every time.
Wolf hunting is no easy feat. Even the most expert veterans can make mistakes. Unfortunately, there’s little space for mistakes in a sport as dangerous as wolf hunting, so you must always keep certain tips and tricks in mind, especially as a beginner.
Initially, Minnesota and Wisconsin did not allow hunters to use bait while wolf hunting. American hunters stick with traditional baiting techniques since they’re effective and practical. Expert hunters suggest not to set up too close to an active bait site if you want your baiting method to work.
Wolves tend to get more on guard as they get closer to your bait, so we recommend using ground blinds to conceal yourself and slip in and out quietly. When the bait has just been hit, it’s ideal to stay in the blind and get into position.
There’s no doubt that howling is another great tactic to bring coyotes and wolves into gun range. However, coyote and wolf vocalizations differ. Wolves don’t bark as much, and their howls are deeper, longer, and more melodious.
Wolves are more intelligent and territorial and can distinguish between a lonesome howl, a challenge bark, and a pup’s noises. Even a good coyote hunter can lure a wolf with the right-sounding call. While howling as a tactic, it’s best to get as close as you can noiselessly. Moreover, expert howlers limit their wolf calling to dawn or before dark.
Canada has minimum restrictions regarding wolf hunting, with cheap wolf tags, long seasons, and zero bag limits. This doesn’t come as a shock since Canada has the highest wolf population in North America.
Expert hunters detail distress calls as the most efficient way to lure wolves in, but they also commend this tactic’s challenging and exhilarating nature. They also advise that if you’ve found a location with previous wolf sightings, it’s best not to give up too soon.
It’s also worth noting that wolves will likely respond to moose or elk calls, but early morning and just before dark are considered the best times to hunt. If there is confirmation that the wolves in the area are feeding on elk and moose, it’s good enough to use a cow elk bleat and a moose calf bawl sound.
Now that you’re all aware of wolf hunting methods, tips, and legal status in the U.S., you’re ready to book the next season! Make sure to carefully read the basic guidelines, as the hunting laws differ in the five states that allow wolves for hunting this year.
Featured Image Credit: maxzzerzz ❄, Unsplash
Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.
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