Today was the last day of wolf season and I skied several miles into the Montana backcountry to see if I could find one. My alarm went off at 4:15am and I gathered my gear and hopped in the pickup. The roads were clear and after an hour drive I arrived at my trailhead, only to realize that I left my headlamp at home. Fortunately, it was bright enough that I didn’t really need one. I buckled up my ski boots that had been sitting by the floorboard heater vent, put skins on my skis, slung my rifle across my chest and headed out. I wasn’t too sure what I’d encounter, but I made sure to play the wind just right and let it dictate my path into the mountains. I have a terrible sense of pace, but when hunting wolves I try to stop more frequently than normal, listen, and move on.
I’ve only been out a handful of times this wolf season. Last year I lucked out and came across a pack one morning, and if it wasn’t for my nerves I’d have a wolf skin rug right now. Unfortunately, this year the only shots I’ve gotten to take are these few self portraits. In my opinion the wolf is the pinnacle of big game species here in Montana. They are at the top of the food chain and though I’ve found elk to be elusive enough, wolves are exponentially more difficult to hunt. Today all I saw were 3 healthy bulls and I’m glad they were doing well. They were just feeding and stretching their legs on the opposing hillside and even from 1000 yards away I am in awe of these beasts.
I suppose it is due to a number of factors that I haven’t been out that often this year. I did hunt quite a bit during the general elk/deer season and I feel that I need to make up for the time spent away from my wife and son. My lungs aren’t really in great shape either as the “cold/flu” season was brutal on me. Oh yeah – it’s highly unlikely to come into contact with a wolf especially within my 400 yard shooting range, so the level of discouragement is high. But I am glad I did get out as much as I did. I never saw one this year and I actually only cut a few old tracks. I suppose it is the effort that counts.
I want to say thank you to the folks who have spent countless days out their hunting and trapping wolves this season. You are a select group of hardcore outdoorsmen and women. Cheers to you for taking on a challenge that many are not up for. I know for a fact that the wolves are changing their behavior because they are now being hunted, but let it be known that in a year we will have more experience under our belts to make us even more successful when we pursue this big game animal again.
Until next year – so long wolves.