I started deer hunting when I was 14 and am still an avid hunter, not just for deer but for birds, grouse and pheasants particularly. I grew up in Duluth, and do my deer hunting in wolf country near Biwabik.
I've heard a lot of wolves, including some while deer hunting. But I've only seen them once. Two years ago, four of them passed within 10 yards of my stand. Not long afterward, a fifth wolf appeared, pushing a doe ahead of it. It seemed to me it was pushing the deer into a certain ambush by the other wolves. I don't know this, of course, but it appeared that way.
A lot of hunters blame the wolf for their lack of success. I don't think that's fair. Deer hunting has changed, with the big herds we've had in recent years. Outdoor TV shows also have contributed to this. Now hunters have much higher expectations, and many of them don't want to walk very far anymore, or get off their ATVs. You don't find many hunters these days more than a quarter-mile or so off an established trail or road. That hurts their hunting as much as anything.
I also think wolves play an important part in the balance of wildlife in the woods. I'm not totally against hunting them. But I'm supportive of them and I admire them greatly.
Some years ago near sunset, I was deer hunting and listening to a pack of wolves howling to the south of me. It was the end of my day in the woods and it seemed to me that as I was leaving the woods, the night shift of hunters was taking over.
They were simply trying to do the same thing I was trying to do: kill a deer.
The part that bothers me most about the wolf season is that the Legislature is running it concurrently with the deer rifle season. I think it sends the wrong signal to hunters, that now it's OK to shoot wolves. To my mind, the illegal wolf kill is probably higher than the DNR thinks. And allowing wolf hunting during the deer season could set up a perilous situation regarding the state's overall wolf population.
I think we need to rely on the Fish and Wildlife Service's science-based recommendations regarding structuring a wolf season, including the five-year moratorium and holding a season after the gun deer season.
Hunting wolves after the firearms deer season is a far better situation, in my mind, at least for the wolves and perhaps for everyone and everything involved. The wolf is a very complicated animal, as is a wolf pack's interaction.
I'm not sure we understand these dynamics as well as we should.