Wolf kill take near 70

Grand Rapids, Minn. — The DNR’s Dan Stark was asked earlier this week if the wolf harvest thus far was surprising in any manner. Given that it was the state’s first modern-day wolf hunt, and having no previous data on wolf-hunter success, officials weren’t certain what to expect, according to Stark, the large carnivore specialist in Grand Rapids. Thus, there was little that would surprise.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, wolf hunters in Minnesota had killed 69 wolves in the state’s three zones open to the hunt. One of them, the East-Central Zone, closed Monday, with a harvest of eight wolves, and a target of nine.

Thirty-two of a target of 133 wolves had been killed in the Northwest Zone, and 29 of 58 had been taken in the Northeast Zone, according to the DNR. The season opened concurrently with the state’s firearms deer season last Saturday.

Word on how hunters were finding success hadn’t trickled back to Stark as of earlier this week, but he suspected most were opportunistic deer hunters, those with wolf-hunting permits who hoped to get a shot at one of the canines while hunting another species.

“It seems (via anecdotal reports) that people are deer hunting first and then secondarily wolf hunting,” Stark said, adding that it’s possible some could be altering their hunting method somewhat, to better their chances at wolf harvest.

Much of the specifics of the hunt will come to light after the hunting season, and the second hunting and trapping season, which begins Nov. 24. The early and late seasons combined have a harvest limit of 400 wolves. If the goal of 200 isn’t met during the first season, what’s left in one zone from the early season will be carried over to the second.

Another current unknown is where most of those with wolf permits are hunting, and whether or not they’ll keep hunting once they’ve killed a deer. All there is currently to go by, is checking to see where wolf permit holders purchased area-specific deer licenses.

“At the end of the season, we’ll have to look at all the data we can compile from anywhere, including in the region (Wisconsin’s wolf hunting and trapping season currently is under way),” he said.

The DNR also will have a wealth of biological information from animals killed across the state’s northern tier. Hunters are required to submit the entire carcass (they may keep the pelt) to a local DNR office.

On Tuesday, Circle Pines’ Garrett Mikrut was one of those successful hunters.

The 26-year-old killed a wolf Saturday morning in St. Louis County, north of Duluth and based at a hunting shack that’s been in his family for about five decades. Four members of the hunting party applied for deer tags as a group, and each received a permit, he said. Group hunting, while legal during firearms deer hunting, isn’t permitted, but each member of his group is allowed to harvest his own wolf.

“I was just deer hunting with hopes of seeing a wolf, and hoping to get a shot,” Mikrut said.

It wasn’t far along during opening morning when he said he heard deer crashing through the woods. It turned out to be a doe and fawn, and they stopped within 10 yards of his stand. Then he heard something behind them. He suspected it might be a buck, but it was a different animal altogether.

Two wolves emerged, both about 100 yards from Mikrut’s stand.

“I was in shock, completely taken by surprise,” he said.

He set his sights on the front animal and shot and killed the 80-pound male wolf. It was about 10:30 a.m.

About a half-hour later, Mikrut said, his father, about two miles away, had a similar encounter. His father shot an 8-point buck, and about 10 minutes thereafter, before he’d climbed from his stand, he spied four wolves, coming from the direction from which the buck had come. Mikrut said his father was unable to get a shot at any of the wolves – nor was he able to the following day when he saw three more.

What’s more unusual than the fact that his dad saw seven deer in two days, was that he hadn’t seen a single wolf in the previous 30 years of hunting the property.

Coincidentally, later Saturday afternoon, Mikrut shot a doe, and a 13-year-old female member of the crew harvested her first deer, a button buck.

Both Mikrut’s deer and wolf were shot with a .300 Winchester short mag.

Mikrut said he’s uncertain what he’s going to do with the wolf pelt – rug, mount, or something else – but the rest of the animal was to be left with DNR biologists.

Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement operations manager in St. Paul, said he was aware of one instance of alleged illegal wolf killing during the firearms deer opener. That occurred in the Cass Lake area.

CO Dan Starr, of Tower, reported the wolf season was “going smoothly, with some being heard, but few harvested.”

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