While hunting turkeys or deer or even the majestic elk is sure to give you a healthy dose of thrill and satisfaction, none of them compare to standing face to face with a fierce creature that could rip you apart if you make a wrong move. Not a creature designed to be meek pray, but a predator just like you.
We have gathered the best wolf hunting tactics we could find to set you on a path towards decorating your trophy room with a gray pelt.
Hunting wolves has been a tradition across the World ever since humans started settling down and raising farm animals. In medieval Europe, there were even knight orders dedicated to this craft. Wolf hides are and always have been a valuable commodity. In fact, we grew so good at hunting wolves, we wiped them out from whole parts of the Globe.
Not northern America, though, where this ancient tradition lives on today. So, whether you are doing it for the hides or just for the sport, we hope these wolf hunting tips will prove useful to you.
The very first thing you will want to do is to check the legislation regarding wolf hunting in your corner of the World. If you are in Canada you will find that the laws are far more permissive than further south. In the U.S., things can get complicated, as laws are changing constantly to keep up with current wolf populations across the states. So the when, the where the how and the how many today might be very different than they were even a year ago.
Now, assuming that wolf hunting is permitted you will need to get yourself some wolf hunting tags. Together with a hunting license, a tag is what legally allows you to hunt certain animals, one animal per tag. The number of tags might be limited in your area, either per person or on the total, so make sure you get one as soon as the season opens. Should you get more than one?
Well, on the one side, you might quite likely not encounter a single wolf all season, and each tag will be an investment. On the other hand, you are about as likely to come upon a whole pack as you are to come upon a single wolf, and it would be a shame not to be able to profit from that situation.
But make sure you have that one wolftag in your pocket even if you are going out to hunt something else. Quite a lot of hunter – wolf encounters happen by chance when the hunter is stalking an elk or turkeys, a golden opportunity one should be prepared for.
Another good way to prepare is to find a person who already has experience in this kind of hunting, be it a friend, relative or someone who offers their service and expertise for a fee. Preparation goes a long way, but experience goes even longer.
You should also do a bit of research on the behavior of wolves in the wild. Understanding these beautiful creatures will help you find patterns in their behavior that you can use to your advantage. We all know about wolf hierarchies, about alpha males that lead the pack and mate with the females and beta males that protect the pack. Well, all of that is not really true.
The studies that came to that conclusion were done on groups of unrelated captive wolves. Shockingly enough, it turns out that the behavior of a group of randomly thrown together wolves in a zoo does not really reflect the behavior of the wild counterparts. These have tight family bonds, that live in packs of around seven members composed of a breeding pair, a few juveniles from previous litters and however many pups.
Such a group controls a large territory and will spend most of its time patrolling it to protect it, mark it and to look for food. Unfortunately, such a patrol may take a couple of days, but luckily it goes around in circles, so if you find a wolf trail you have good odds of encountering the pack if you are equipped with enough patience.
Thus, a couple of wolf tracks are always a good sign. Now, these might be confused with coyote tracks, but wolf paws are quite big, a paw print will be around 4 and 5 inches or about two-thirds of your palm.
Wolves are mainly active at night, unfortunately, that is also the time of the day that hunting is prohibited in many areas, so your best chances to see action are at dusk or dawn.
What to wear
Wolves are intelligent creatures and most are familiar with the experience of being hunted, or at least they know that humans are news, as such wolves are wary of humans and will go to great lengths to avoid them. Unfortunately for us, this paranoia is combined with excellent senses of smell, hearing, and sight.
There are ways of working around the first two, you can mask your scent by using the direction of the wind, and you can avoid detection by sound by, well, be very, very quiet, as if you were hunting rabbits.
For the sight issue, there is only one way to go, camouflage. Camouflage that covers as much of as possible, so also consider boots, hat, and mask.
To get the best camouflage gear possible for your hunt, find out as much as you can about where you will be hunting, what sort of terrain is it, what sorts of plants grow there, because camouflage is not always camouflage; forest camouflage can stick out as much as a purple dinner jacket in the wrong terrain.
There a few experts you need to consider when choosing the right weapon for this endeavor. What terrain will you be hunting in, how close are you comfortable shooting from, both in the sense of your own accuracy and how close you are prepared to get to these animals? You also need to consider whether you care about the hide of the animal or not.
If you have hunted coyotes before you might be tempted to use the same weapon for wolves that you have used on the coyotes, the only issue with that is that wolves are two to three times larger than coyotes, so the stopping power that you need is far bigger. Some large males can even come in at 175 lbs, which is closer to a white tail deer than a coyote. So if you have the option of choosing between a deer rifle and a coyote one, chose the former.
If you don’t, however, that doesn’t mean you need to invest in a new rifle, unless you were looking for an excuse to do so; even a smaller calibre rifle, such as a .223, will do good by you, as long as you have quality hunting bullets and you are prepared to get a bit closer to your quarry. 30/30 or .22/250 cartridges will also do fine if used at distances no larger than 200 yds.
Ideally, you will shoot from between 200 and 400 yds. You will still need heavy, solid core bullets and the some of the following cartridges, or others similar in size will do: .220 Swift, .243, .308 or .270 Winchester. These will have sufficient stopping force and will only do minimal damage to the hide.
If you plan on shooting in large open areas, such as the Alaskan tundra, then you will likely shoot from a greater distance and you will need more powerful cartridges, such as 25/06, 30/06, 7mm Magnum or .300 Magnum. Just be aware that these will leave large exit holes if used from a closer range.
Despite being the careful and shy creatures that we presented above, wolves are also curious animals and fiercely territorial. They are also constantly looking for prey. As such, the howls of other wolves or the distressed sounds of their prey are sure to get a lone wolf or a pack investigating the source. As such, it would be wise to invest in a caller or howler.
The former will let you mimic the sounds of prey animals such as rabbits or elk, while the latter will make you sound like a wolf.
There is a variation of such tools, just bare in mind that the more expensive ones are not necessarily the better ones. Handcrafted howlers made from cow horns might look cool, but they are cumbersome and they sound they make are not as close to the real thing as cheaper plastic howlers. Go to your nearest hunting supplies store and you should find plenty to choose from and someone to help you make that choice.
Ask a hunting buddy to teach you which sounds to make and how to make them, or watch an online tutorial. You also have the possibility to buy an electric caller/howler, which will simplify things quite a bit, however, you need to check the legality of such devices in your area before you do so.
Thanks to their keen sense of smell, baiting is likely to attract wolves within a couple of hours. Of course, it helps if you know about their patrolling patterns so that you can hang up the bait while the wolves are within proximity.
Once you set up your bait, your instinct will be to wait within viewing distance of the bait, however, the closer the wolves get to the bait the more cautious and paranoid they will become, you might end up hearing their approach but never make contact.
Experienced hunters suggest moving away from the bait, a few hundred yards even, and settling down in a ground blind near the paths the wolves will be likely to use to approach the bait. However, try not to place yourself right between the bait and where the wolves will be coming from, as your scent might make them suspicious.
While magnificent hunters, there is no wolf that will prefer running down a deer to a free meal in the form of a wounded, dying jackrabbit. Thus, mastering the squeals and screams of such a creature will be a useful addition to your repertoire of hunting skills. Fortunately, special reeds that allow you to mimic such sounds are available.
Close-ended reeds are easier to use but are limited in the variety of sound they can make, while open-ended ones take some practice but offer a wider range of sounds and pitches.
An ideal calling pattern will have you alternating a couple of minutes of screams and whimpers with about five minutes of silence. Don’t make the squeals be rhythmical or constant, as you are mimicking a frightened, wounded animal. Once you see a wolf coming towards you, you should stop with the calls. If the wolf, however, seems unsure, you can give out one last sequence. Make sure to move as little and as slowly as possible during this phase.
Another sure thing that will catch the attention of a wolf is the howl of another one. As mentioned before, you can purchase howlers, but, if you feel more adventurous, and your lungs are up to it, you might try it on your own.
There are three types of howls a canine will use, a location howl, a challenge howl, and a distress howl.
The location howl is the long howl we all recognize from movies, start off with this and see if you get any response. Remember that you are trying to cover an area around five square miles. If you don’t get a response right away, move about, go for a walk. However, do keep an ear out for the sounds around you, as it is possible that instead of replying to wolves decided to go for a sneak attack.
If you do get a response, switch to a challenging howl. It might take a few minutes until the wolves respond. If they do, then wait 3-5 minutes yourself and give out another challenging howl. Keep this up and whenever they respond to try to figure out if they are coming closer or moving away.
If they are moving away, try a distress call.
While you are doing this, stand down-wind from the wolves and preferably with some sort of natural barrier behind you, so that they cannot encircle you. If you are already familiar with the much more common coyote howls and howlers, then you can use these, as wolves hate coyotes and are likely to hunt them down.
Wolf hunting is a sport that requires preparation, patience, and experience. It is a sport for those who enjoy the hunt more than they enjoy the kill, as contact with these elusive and noble creatures happens far rarer than with other game.
But when it does happen, few other encounters provide a similar thrill. And for that addictive thrill, you will go out again and again. We hope that this article will turn out to have been a good starting point for a new hunting experience.