Hunting Wolves

Not what you’re looking for? Find more articles on hunting predatory animals!

Interest in hunting wolves is increasing

While wolves have lived in relative obscurity for the past century or so, burgeoning populations across western Canada and recent introductions to the western US have really brought them to the forefront for some hunters.

As sightings increase with increasing populations, and ungulate numbers plummet in some regions, the interest in hunting wolves is increasing. It wasn’t all that long ago that taking a wolf was relatively rare for hunters, but now, for those that get out and target them, success is relatively common. No longer is the wolf just an incidental kill on other big game excursions, it is becoming a targeted species and many wolf hunters are enjoying some impressive results.

Wolf hunting provides a great off-season activity for big game hunters looking to beat the winter blues and it also offers a great excuse to get out and explore some new country for the following big game season. While the jury is still out as to whether sport-hunting wolves has any significant impact on populations, there is little question that the practice is very sustainable and provides a very unique opportunity and trophy for western hunters.

While at one time only residents of far northern climes, wolves are showing up with regularity right across the west now and the opportunities to hunt them have never been greater. I’ve been fortunate enough to take several wolves over the course of my hunting career and I find myself getting out more and more each winter and enjoying ever-increasing success.

 

Spot and stalk

As pack hunters, wolves spend a lot of time in open areas and are a great target for the spot-and-stalk hunter. Wolves will hunt anywhere there is game but, if there are concentrations of ungulates in the open, count on wolves being there as well. Elk, mule deer, moose, whitetail and sheep winter range are a classic examples of this. On the stark, wind-blown slopes of the Rockies, to the west, to the deer and moose yards of the boreal forest, you can count on wolves being nearby and often easily seen. For those that don’t spend a lot of time in the mountains, you’d be shocked at how comfortable wolves actually are in the high places that sheep call home. I’ve seen wolf tracks at elevations in excess of 10,000 feet and routinely see them above the tree line in quality wintering areas. Wolves are very efficient hunters in deep snow and will typically stick to the lower country if conditions are good for them, but when snow is limited in the low-lying areas you can count on them moving up and targeting sheep and elk on winter range.

For the wolf hunter, these areas can be a gold mine. I usually start by looking for tracks and then, if I do find wolf sign, I’ll find a good vantage point and break out the spotting scope. Wolves can appear at any time in these wintering areas and I’ve seen as many at midday as I have during the shoulder hours. Once you spot wolves, pay close attention to the direction they are moving. Rarely will they remain in one location unless they have made a kill. The trick is to figure out where they are going and get in front of them and wait in ambush.

We spotted a big, lone wolf earlier last fall that was working an open slope above the lake we were on. After watching him for a while, it became obvious that he was moving right along the tree line, hoping to catch a moose in the open burn above. We raced down the lake and got to a position where we thought the wolf would cross and we didn’t have to wait long. I took the wolf with one shot at 175 yards. I’ve done the same thing on a couple of other occasions too. One time, when we were hunting in northern Alberta on one of Andrew Lake Lodge’s outpost lakes, we found a huge pack of wolves. I found a well-used trail in muskeg and set myself up behind a small bush. The wolves ended up passing less than 20 yards away, not before I was able to take three with my muzzleloader, however.

I think the mistake that most wolf hunters make when they spot wolves is heading to where they last saw them. Wolves are always on the move and having one stay still for long is a rarity. But, figure out where they are headed and get in front of them and your odds of success go way up. The real key is to concentrate on areas with heavy ungulate concentrations and then be patient.

 

Calling

Many hunters rely on traditional mouth-blown or electronic calls that imitate small mammals in distress, while others enjoy great success howling like a wolf. I have had, by far, the greatest success in howling for wolves. Wolves are very social by nature and will often come to a wolf howl to see if it is another member of their pack or, in other cases, they respond in an attempt to protect their territory. They often have traditional rendezvous spots where members of the pack will go to reunite with other pack members. These are typically long points that jut out into lakes or more open outcroppings in the trees. The key is that their howls will carry a great distance. It is not uncommon to see deep trails going to and from these rendezvous spots. Spend some time howling in these locations and success is all but guaranteed.

In areas with high wolf populations, calling like moose or elk can also be extremely effective. While up in the Yukon on a moose hunt two years ago, we quite literally had wolves come in every day while calling like a cow moose. While obviously this only works during the rut for these species, it is something to keep in mind. The wolves are well aware that animals become distracted during the rut and become easy targets and key in on these calls.

When using distress calls, I much prefer a fawn in distress to more traditional rabbit and rodent calls. The one big advantage that electronic callers offer, where legal, is that you can set the caller up a hundred or so yards away from you. This allows you to set up in a position where the wind won’t betray you even if the wolves come in from down wind. Also, it offers a wide variety of sounds from animals in distress to wolves howling. Mixing some coyote howls or even coyote pup sounds in with your calling sequence is another great way to attract wolves. I’m not sure if they see the coyotes as an additional source of food, or if it just gives them confidence, but it really works.

 

Baiting

Where legal, baiting can be another great means of attracting wolves. This typically involves putting out the entire carcass of a large animal and fooling the wolves into thinking they have claimed a kill. It seems some hunters do extremely well by dragging the carcass out onto a frozen lake, several hundred yards from shore. The wolves seem to have more confidence when the bait is not close to cover and will come in more readily.

If the winter doldrums are getting you down and ice fishing just isn’t the cure you are looking for, a day or two in search of wolves may just be what the doctor ordered.

Join us on Facebook!

Do you like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Western Sportsman print edition today!

Find more articles on hunting predatory animals!

This entry was posted in Hunting, Predator and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.