November 2012 drew our Wisconsin gang back to northeast Minnesota for the opener of whitetail deer season as it has done for the past 12 years; however, there was a sense of something new and exciting about it this time. We had two coveted non-resident wolf tags and with the resident wolf packs growing in size and numbers, this was our chance to aide the deer and moose populations that have been in decline during those years. Today, there is an alarmingly low deer population and no visual moose population anymore.
It amazes me that I haven’t seen any pro-wolf folks show up out here to enjoy nature or experience the wolves in the wild and see what the burgeoning wolf population does to deer, moose, elk and other animals. There is very little wildlife to view anymore as one travels and camps along these wild waters and woods.
All our stands were set up that Friday in the same old spots they have always been, and a couple of wolf baits placed at locations we found during our earlier bear hunt that seemed to draw wolf every year. The tents where set, the wood stoves were pumping out heat, and with full stomachs from a good camp meal, we hit those canvas cots and sleeping bags early. We were not even asleep when the wolf pack started howling and hollering not far from our tents. Morning could not arrive soon enough.
A cold, cloudy day was a perfect opening the season. We ate a quick breakfast then made for our stands. There was not much in the way of action the first day with all fellow hunters complaining of not only the lack of deer, but of deer sign altogether. Later that evening, I worked my call to locate the wolf pack. I found them, but it was getting too late to shoot so I called just enough to alert the pack that there was an unwanted wolf in there midst. The threat of the “intruder” ticked them off to a point that they were calling and moving in on my position at a feverish pace.
The next day rolled in a barometric twin to the first with perfect hunting conditions and our group dispersing with all the excitement and anticipation they did the day before. The day was looking up as all the guys saw deer and my day ended much the same way as the first. The only difference was I added a fawn distress call to my bag of tricks just before leaving the woods for the night. The wolf pack was ready to take out the intruder at all costs and I called into my view a couple of females and immature wolves in the fading light. I slipped into the darkness returning to camp and immediately began formulating my plan to intercept the wolves the next day.
Morning arrived seemingly before we knew it with much talk around the cook tent of yesterdays hunt and renewed high expectations. I told the guys how I was going to move in on the wolf pack with hopes for a shot at a large male. We wished each other good luck along with a few high fives and were off.
For me the day was going along quite well. I saw two small eight pointers and a half a dozen does and fawns by mid afternoon and I started my two-mile hike into the middle of the wolf pack’s bedding area. Once there, I waited for them to start calling. I replied with a couple of short, low howls, and at once the pack opened up! My plan was in full swing and I needed to stay downwind and out in front of them until I was able to reach a clearing from an old clear cut and draw them into it.
As soon as I got to the clear cut, I gave another howl as well as a shot volley on my fawn distress. The wolves went crazy and it seemed that the entire pack was out for blood. I was not at my ambush location for more then a minute when I noticed a large male slip into the clear cut 225 yards below me. As he stopped to see if he could see and or wind the intruder I steadied my Ruger in 7mm Rem. Mag. topped with a Simmons Pro Hunter scope high on the shoulder and fired. At the shot, the Hornady 154-grain bullet dropped the large wolf in his tracks. Wow! I watched for any further movement in case a follow up shot was required, then noticed that some of the pack was within yards of me running around wondering what just transpired. I wasted no time getting to where my wolf had dropped. I found him stone dead but still looking like he could come to life any second and use that nasty set of teeth on me.
It was now getting dark and I had about two miles to hike back to camp to retrieve the guys to help get the big wolf out of the woods. I tagged him and tossed my jacket on top of him and was off. I had taken my shot at about 4:15 that afternoon and by the time we got back in camp with the wolf it was about 9:00 at night
It was a successful and historic 2012 wolf hunt for me, but for the first time we went home from deer camp without a mature buck. The gang was still happy to have hunted though, and enjoyed the camaraderie that goes with it. We cannot wait until 2013 so we can do it all over again.–Joel Johnson