BILLINGS – Montana will resume its gray wolf hunt in parts of the Absaroka Range this Sunday with the start of the general deer and elk hunting season.
The season is set to last until Nov. 29, and an additional season may be opened if the quota of 75 wolves isn’t reached. Twelve have been killed in Montana since an early season in some parts of the state opened Sept. 15, including nine in the Absaroka-Beartooth region.
Carolyn Sime, wolf coordinator for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said hunting wolves isn’t the same as hunting other animals. Two successful hunters in the Absaroka-Beartooth said they howled to attract their wolves, Sime said.
“It’s a different kind of experience,” Sime said. “You don’t just find a track and follow it.”
She expects the final three wolves to be killed in the southern management unit will be taken soon after the general season opens.
Wolf hunts this fall in Montana and neighboring Idaho are the first in the lower 48 states since the animals came off the endangered species list. The states have a combined 1,350 wolves. Wolves are still under federal protection in Wyoming.
Those who hunt wolves say it’s not as easy as it may seem and there’s little reason to believe the population will be decimated.
“The people who say we’re going to destroy all the wolves, those are the people who don’t go into that country,” said Cameron Mayo, 27, owner of Absaroka-Beartooth Outfitters.
Charles Oberly, 31, who guides for Mayo and has worked in the Absaroka-Beartooth since 1997, said he thinks other wolves will quickly fill in any vacancy.
“They’re kind of like mice,” Oberly said. “Once you kill them, other ones move back in.”
Mayo said he doesn’t think the attraction of bagging a wolf is going to help his business, particularly since nonresident wolf tags cost $350. And the wolves move too fast to spot and stalk like other game, he said.
“It would be practically false advertising to say you could guide somebody to a wolf kill,” Mayo said.
With the decline in backcountry elk, Mayo said he has geared his business more to summer fishing trips and is advertising photo safaris for wolves and grizzly bears next summer.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.