Friday weather looked very mild, so Thursday night I cleared my calendar for hunting the following day. Made a call to a landowner who owns a small inholding in this area and asked if I still had permission to fill a doe tag, bear tag, wolf tag, or anything his outfitter might not be chasing on that small quarter section piece that is one of the few private parcels in this big area of public land. He laughed at my idea of hunting whitetail does, then told me I could shoot anything given his outfitter was no longer hunting there, and reminded me that permission is perpetual until further notice.
Up early on Friday, thinking I would find a whitetail with ease. On the trail before sunrise. First thing I see is a small 4x4 buck on top of a doe, doing what deer do in November. This buck is not anything I'm interested in and I'm not shooting a doe this far from the truck, so neither are in danger. A smaller 3x3 comes along and acts like I'm some sort of deer attractant. Nope, not him either.
I continued, crossing a corner of this 160 acre private piece, on my way to a drainage on public where I've seen some really nice whitetails cruising. I would shoot a buck in there, but not a doe. As I reached the boundary that would put my back on public, I glassed up to the far corner of this small section where this drainage starts. A coyote was traveling the snowed-in two-track. I glassed, thinking that is a darker colored coyote than the normal silver phase I see up here. As it walked past the boundary fence corner to the neighboring 80 acres, the only other private land here and where I don't have permission, I realized this was too tall to be a coyote. Either that, or the fence post was stunted. Nope, this was a wolf, no doubt.
Now what to do? The wolf had made it to the other property. I dropped down behind a small roll in the ridgeline, then set up in a small rock pile that would give very slight cover and kept any grass from growing, something that might allow an unobstructed prone shooting nest.
The wolf had now entered the timber, which would probably have him back on public. I had lost sight of him in the time it took to hustle over to this shooting perch. I cussed myself for being half asleep and not able to make the most of this situation.
I stayed prone as the sun cleared the horizon behind me. I glassed the timber beyond the fence lines. Nothing. I glassed some more. Nothing.
Having grown up in Northern Minnesota, I would go down to the river in the winter and howl at night, seeing if I could get a reply from the wolf packs across the frozen current. Sometimes it worked, most times it didn't. I was always surprised how any derivative of a howl could get a reply from wolves that might be present.
With that experience from days past, I knew of nothing else to do. Lone wolves are usually the most likely to respond to howling, so I cupped my hands and gave a poor version of a lonely wolf. I scanned the timber edge. Nothing. No big surprise.
I cupped my hands again, took a deeper breath, and tried to hold a long, steady howl, that eventually sank to a tone that in my human mind mimics what a lonely wolf would sound like. I turned again to scan the timberline. Bolting from the timber was a wolf, making a straight line toward me. It crossed under the property fence, then disappeared in a small cut that forms the head of this drainage.
I snapped a quick range of the trees and rocks of where I thought it might appear. All were 275-295 yards. I spun the dial on the CDS to 300, laid the rifle across my pack that I'd pushed out in front of me, and waited. As if the script had been read, the wolf appeared straight west of me, immediately upslope from the scattered group of trees I had ranged at 290.
I held the crosshairs on its chest as it faced directly toward me, I suspect scanning into the rising sun to locate this wolf that was suffering from a sore throat. At the bottom of my breath the reticle was not moving. The trigger released the firing pin. CLICK. WTH? In my excitement, I had failed to put a round in the chamber.
Simultaneously, I mumbled some adult words while racking a live round into the chamber. I came back to the scope. No wolf. More adult words. I looked left. The wolf had only moved a few steps and was now sitting on his haunch, looking for this other lone wolf that had been howling aches of loneliness.
Again, the pack provided a bench-steady rest. The crosshairs were steady on the chest. Not a wide target for a frontal shot at this range, but a shot I remember feeling very comfortable with before the instincts took over. The last image I recall was the reticle tight on the white spot that met the dark chevron collar this wolf sported. Recoil moved me from the scope, allowing me to cycle another round while grabbing a quick glance of where the wolf was located. No wolf moving across this snow field. I came back to the scope and the scubby tree the wolf had been next to. I could see fur among the grass tips poking through this snow that had been melting each day and freezing each night. I kept the crosshairs on this patch of fur. No movement.
I stood and viewed with the binos. Yup, just across this small cut, at the patch of small trees, laid a big pile of fur. I looked around for a camera, having been trained to give my immediate expressions following moments of frantic excitement. Oops, no camera guy to record what I was saying/thinking. I had set up my cell phone to my right when I first had setup, thinking it would be fun to capture my expressions of this chance encounter, though I doubt that will be useable.
I gathered my trekking poles, other gear, and started postholing down the drainage where west winds accumulated snow at this elevation. I crossed some fresh wolf tracks that were headed the direction I had first seen this wolf. It eased my temporary doubt that this could have just been a big coyote. Those tracks, coupled with my knowledge that a coyote runs from, not to, a wolf howl, put me at ease that when I got up the other side of this small slope I would find a wolf.
When I got there, that is exactly what I found. A big old gray wolf. A female. Front teeth well worn, hide completely furred out, and evidence that she never wiggled upon impact. The 300 Win Mag entered just right of the sternum, traversed the length of the body, exiting just above the left hip joint. Thank goodness for prone shooting rests when such small targets are presented.
No deer were harmed in this hunt. I am still amazed that my rusty howling skill brought this wolf out of the timber, under the property fence, and within 300 yards of my position. I spent the morning skinning and quartering the salvageable meat, thanks to the benefit of a big fir limb that served as the perfect skinning gambrel. Within a few hours, the hide, the head, and the meat was in game bags and loaded in my Mystery Ranch Metcalf. As I hiked down to the trailhead, I shook my head at how many days/miles I've spent in pursuit of wolves, only to have this situation present itself as the ancillary benefit of a deer hunt. A lot of luck, but I'll take it, given how much investment I've made in chasing wolves.
Checked it in yesterday afternoon at FWP. They are not sure how old it is, but given the teeth, was expected to be an older wolf. I will take the skull to Mattson Labs here in the Gallatin Valley and get a tooth aged. Not sure what meat prep techniques we will use, but I intend to see how it tastes. Last time we shot a wolf, we were cautioned by the biologist to not consume wolf meat due to the large array of diseases present in wolf populations. I have since researched and feel comfortable with eating this. Anyone want an invite to the BBQ?
I have two more wolf tags, but given the rest of my season has me helping family and friends, mostly out of state, the odds of me finding another wolf this year are very slim. As much as some hate wolves, I find them to be remarkable animals that have earned my respect over the last six years of hunting them. I can't imagine having to hunt elk and deer with just my teeth and somehow find a way to survive the places and conditions wolves live. Happy to help manage them via hunting and trapping, yet still very impressed with everything about them.
Hard pass on the wuff bbq.
What a great Day...thanks for Sharing!
Good luck on the BBQ.
this seems like one of those, well done and congrats!
With all that said, I'm glad you killed it. I'm glad you did it on a day that you set aside for yourself. And I would love to someday mimic it. But, you are nuts! I wouldn't eat that thing unless I was starving. And, you kill to much to be starving.
Looking forward to the report from the feast. Judging by the negative RSVP's you've received, you will dine as you hunted. Solo! LOL.
Thanks for sharing
Your stories are an inspiration and always great to read! Thank you for taking the time to post and congratulations on a beautiful wolf! If I was closer I would definitely try it!! I have eaten many things that other people would never dream of trying, and most of it has been good!
Thanks for being a great outdoorsman, ambassador and inspiration!!
Have you eaten wolf before? I know the Indians preferred dog to bison/elk (Lewis & Clark journals). I tried coyote once but I suspect I wasn't careful butchering it; I'll try it again someday. Curious about wolf. Please let us know.