The wolf hunt has begun in Wisconsin and begins Saturday in Minnesota. Minnesota seems to be a bit more conservative and cautious but then it would appear that their wildlife biologists and wolf experts actually had some say in the setup of the season, unlike my home state. In Minnesota the 'harvest quota', a polite and inoffensive euphemism for how many wolves they plan on killing, is roughly 13%, 400 out of 3,000 total. In my Wisconsin, where the regulations were pretty much written by a guy from a bear hunter’s advocacy group, it's damn near a quarter, 24%. As of Halloween Day, 44 wolves have been killed, 27 by trapping, 17 by rifle. In addition, 74 more had been killed outside the wolf hunting season by federal wildlife services employees and landowners.
As I mentioned in a previous post, in Wisconsin you can pretty much use any method you can think of to kill a wolf. Bait, electronic calls, trap, hunt at night, and even run them with dogs if a lawsuit gets thrown out. More on the dog aspect a bit later. Trapping is by far the most effective method. One grouse hunter’s dog has already been caught in a wolf trap and the story is here. All kosher, according to the law, and the dog was unharmed (according to the owner, not the dog). As a guy who has trapped both gophers and some beaver over the years, I can't get all holier than thou on the trapping thing. My opinion is that there is no long standing tradition of wolf trapping in the state, other than by the wildlife pros, and with all the other trapping possibilities I guess I fail to see how adding wolf trapping will enhance the outdoor experience. The same point could be made about running wolves with dogs, an activity where the down side outweighs the upside considerably.
There is currently a lawsuit pending against the use of dogs, a suit which I believe will be heard on 20 December. Hunting wolves with dogs stinks on a number of malodorous levels. We are the only state, including Alaska and the western states, which is even thinking about allowing it. When the bear dog guys train dogs, basically letting a pack of hounds run wild over the countryside, regularly disturbing certain people's relaxing happy hour reverie, they tree the bear, the owner says 'good dogs', drags them back to their pickup truck kennels, and then wait for the season to open so they can shoot the hapless bear out of the tree. Training dogs to hunt wolves would seem to inevitably result in a pitched battle between two groups of canines, an event that might please and excite Michael Vick, but not most people, especially the groups that filed the lawsuit, the Northwoods Alliance, National Wolf Watchers, and state animal welfare organizations. Also, if I'm out for a relaxing afternoon of grouse hunting with my dog, and the pack of wolf dogs comes barreling through, what's to say that a dog fight won't break out between these unfamiliar canines? If I'm standing there with a shotgun, watching a pack of dogs attack my dog, my only decision would be whether I had enough shotgun shells with the right size pellets to quickly and decisively rectify the situation. That of course, would be bad news for all dogs and humans concerned. Right now there do not seem to be any rules on when they can train, how many dogs can be used, or where they can be trained. Apparently soon a person can even run their dogs and hunt in the state parks in Wisconsin. That should be great for skiers, hikers, and other state park users. From a completely selfish standpoint, I don't want packs of dogs running through the woods where I am deer hunting, grouse hunting, or even making firewood. Once again, Wisconsin seems to be the only state where this is even considered, not surprising given the way the wolf hunting regulations were formulated.
I think the classic hunting tradition in Wisconsin is being hijacked by some sort of redneck, whack job- type lobby coalition. I love to hunt, my son loves to hunt, and my dad, grandfathers, uncles, etc. loved to hunt. I used to trap and likely would again if I found a couple dozen of my lumber sized aspen lying on the ground with just the tops gone as I did a few years back. I don't even mind 'new' species being opened up to hunting, especially large bearded birds that gobble. But let’s have the wildlife professionals recommend and set the seasons and rules. And for God's sake, let’s not turn this into another bleeding heart liberal nut case vs. Teabagger maniac political issue. I am very near having my head explode with that crap and may need to go to the titanium stocking cap to prevent it. I hope I can make it through the next week. We might want to look west to Minnesota, a state which retained it's wolf population when the rest of the lower 48 exterminated theirs, and see how their limited gun hunt goes. Unless the agenda is to eliminate all the wolves once again, a goal that many of the gutless comment posters, afraid to use their real names on various pro wolf hunt websites, advocate. Take the political bullshit out, let the pros do their job, and give us concerned grouse and deer hunters some hope that our tradition, the tradition of crisp fall afternoons in the grouse woods, rainy mornings in the duck blind, and cozy snowy days at the deer camp, will survive and flourish into the future.