Marquette, Mich. — Week one of Michigan’s first modern wolf-hunting season began with success early the first morning, and wolf registrations came in almost daily for a total of 11 wolves killed by Sunday, Nov. 25. With a quota of 43 wolves by the end of the season, which runs through Dec. 31, officials believe the goal is reachable.
As the hunt progresses, stories are filtering in of success both in the field and at the license counter. By design, Charlevoix resident John Haggard purchased the historic first Michigan wolf tag.
“I wanted to get issued the first tag, so I got to the Holiday (gas station) in Charlevoix expecting a line to be forming., but no one was there. At 11:56, they swiped my driver’s license and punched in the information. When the clock hit 12:00 the information was submitted and out came wolf license number 0001,” Haggard said.
Haggard said he planned to hunt in the Baraga area after Thanksgiving to hunt with friends who have been scouting. He hunts bears in the area and heard of a hunter who lost two dogs this year to wolf predation. That incident and the excitement of wolf hunting encouraged him to get a tag.
A hunter from Jackson in southern Michigan shot the first wolf of the new hunt on the morning of Nov. 15. The hunter, who wishes to remain anonymous, was hunting on a managed goose field on the Baraga Plains in the western U.P.
He said he heard other wolf hunters calling, and it seemed to spook the wolves as he saw a pack coming from that direction. He was offered a shot and killed the first wolf of the modern hunt. He was not calling. The first wolf weighed approximately 75 to 80 pounds. The hunter is having the animal mounted.
Perhaps the youngest wolf hunter was hunting with his father on a farm in Mackinaw County that had previous depredation issues. The 14-year-old hunter tagged a black wolf that weighed 83 pounds on Saturday, Nov. 16, the second day of the season.
“We have averaged about one per day. With a 47-day hunting season, and a quota of 43 wolves, it is not unreasonable to think we will reach the quota,” Debbie Munson Badini, the DNR communications representative in Marquette, told Michigan Outdoor News.
Another successful hunter was using a coyote challenge call in Wolf Management Unit A (western Gogebic County) when a male wolf came to the call and began marking his territory with urine, giving the hunter a good opportunity for a shot.
One hunter collected road-killed deer with a permit and was using it for bait. He did not shoot a wolf over bait, but saw one when he was walking to the bait and killed it.
“It’s going a little slower than I anticipated, and I thought Unit C would have more wolves registered,” said Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette. “I knew it was going to be a tougher hunt than some hunters thought. We estimated about a 4-percent success rate.”
A Skandia man called in and killed the ninth wolf, and registered it at the DNR’s Marquette field office on the eighth day of the season. He was scouting in WMU B (parts of Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties) when a wolf ran in front of him and gave him a shot. It was a male that weighed about 70 pounds.
A few things may have hampered wolf hunters during the first week of the season, including weather. The first few days were unseasonably warm for November in the U.P., and they were followed by sustained high winds of 35 miles per hour and then heavy rain, all of which minimized animal movement. The yearly migration of deer hunters to the woods also may have contributed to low wolf movement, officials believe.
Roell said he thinks hunting will pick up after the firearms deer season since there will be fewer hunters in the woods, and the possibility of more snow on the ground for tracking, making it easier for hunters to locate wolves.
“I hope we still have a lot of people out there trying to get a wolf,” Roell said. “There is a lot of good wolf hunting left, and significant snowfalls will help to see where they are moving. It may also minimize the movement of some packs.”
Roell said he knows of one group coming from Lower Michigan after deer season, just to concentrate on wolf hunting. Once deer season is over, he also hopes U.P. residents who bought 25 percent of the tags start targeting wolves.
“I don’t know if we will reach the quota in every unit,” Roell said. “I believe, though, that we have a good chance with so much season left.
Hunters may choose any of the three units in which to hunt. When a unit closes, it may concentrate more hunters in the units that remain open, possibly increasing the harvest rate.
The hunt quotas are: 16 wolves in WMU A; 19 wolves in WMU B; and eight wolves in WMU C. Upon killing a wolf, the successful hunter must report it before the end of the day, and must register the carcass within 72 hours.
As soon as the quota has been reached in a specific WMU, that area will be immediately closed to further hunting. Hunters have the responsibility to call the DNR or check the DNR website each day to ensure the area they are hunting in remains open.