Wolves alter elk hunting in Wyoming
Story in the Caspter Star Tribune by Whitney Royster.
Note that “altering elk hunting” is not the same as reducing the number of elk. This article takes pains to stress that.
A lot of the complaint from some elk hunters is that they have to adapt to new conditions, and learning new techniques of hunting is hard and they don’t want to do that. In other words, they have no pride in being a hunter. Maybe it’s one more case of spreading mediocrity in American society.
Wyoming’g governor backs up these hard-to-change hunters, although at other times he seems to forget what he said last and again claims the elk have just about been wiped out.
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
13 Responses to Wolves alter elk hunting in Wyoming
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Slob hunters and road hunters are less likely to see big game because of changes in their own habits, not those of the “game” they seek. This is not limited to elk country. The same slob-hunting segment of Pennsylvania’s (dwindling) deer-hunting fraternity comes up with much the same argument. It is spreading mediocrity. Some guys no longer want to use the quads God gave them.
Well Alan, all they want to do is use the quads they bought down at the ORV place.
Here in the Upper Country of the Wind River, Wyoming, the impact of wolves has been, to some degree, to force elk to split up into smaller bands and seek out the smaller meadows scattered throughout the woods during the summer. In other words, they’re increasing their use of security cover. At times, however, they still collect at the higher elevations above tree line, on the broad, grassy plateaus that make up the Absaroka Mtns and provide such good summer range. In the old days, they tended to stay higher up all summer.
During hunting season, the elk are moving between drainages more often than they used to, before wolf arrival. The place to hunt the big bulls is still in the vicinity of the passes between drainages.
This past Saturday afternoon, on Spring and Table Mountains above the East Fork winter range, I observed approximately 1000 elk in three groups doing what elk normally do on sunny, quiet, cold winter afternoons–they lie up in the open in the sun. What’s different is that elk are using the lower meadows along East Fork Creek and the main Forest Service road running from the main highway, US Hwy 26, up to the East Fork trailhead leading into the Washakie Wilderness. That is, they’re using meadows (formerly hay meadows, and some hay is still raised) specifically set aside for them more intensively than they did before wolves arrived. However, they’re still wary of human intrusion and are using these low meadows only at night, and moving back up the draws toward Table and Spring Mountains well away from the roads at dawn.
So yes, elk behavior is changing in the presence of wolves, and their use of different habitats is also changing, but a little time spent on the ground figuring out what they’re doing still means a successful fall hunt.
On the other hand, if all you want to do is whine about wolves killing all the elk, you’re also most likely running up and down the roads on your ATV where you won’t see any elk at all. Yep, I guess the wolves got ’em all after all.
Vegetarian: An ATV hunter.
Hey I’m a newcomer to this site and have been reading several of the posts and related articles by all you wolf lovers. While I believe everyone has a right to their opinion it does bother me when those opinions begin to effect me directly. From my perspective there is a common thread that runs through all of the wolf lovers posts. Those of us against the reintroduction are ignorant and just need to be better educated. If we were properly enlightened we too would become wolf lovers. Hunters are made out to be ignorant or lazy. Politicians that voice their concerns over the growing wolf population are out of touch with the times and barbaric. Several of the commentaries would lead us to belive there is this huge conspiracy to falsify information concerning the wolfs impact on wildlife or domestic animals. I am a avid outdoorsman and have hiked, packed, canoed and kayaked in various parts of Idaho. We are blessed to have such a beatiful and pristine state with so much natural beauty and wildlife. I do not approve of 90% of ATV use but I do not begrudge those that practice it lawfully. For many older hunters it is one way to maintain some mobility and continue to hunt. My personal experience is extensive but to quickly summarize one hunt, I was excited to revisit an old stomping ground I had not hunted in 3 years. My partner and I started hiking at 4am in order to get into the drainage and set up before daylight. We are archers which requires us to get right in with the elk. It was a 3 hour hike into our area and was just getting light as we began dropping into the area. As we were hiking in with headlights I kept spotting wolf sign on the game trails but was hoping it was old and they would not be the drainage where we were headed. Generally as we decend I would spot deer and elk in the open areas and it was unusual to see neither. As we got down into the deadfalls it was completely silent and I was feeling uneasy about where all the animals had gone. As we began to set up we heard yipping and growling like dogs fighting and sure enough spotted several wolves about 100 yards away. We were pissed but thought we would try to cow call them and see what they would do. They immediately shut up and moved out without making a sound. We ended up having to push back out of the drainage and dropping into an adjoining drainage but never heard or saw an elf. Big deal you might think, but when you have a limited number of days to hunt and loose one of them due to uncontrolled wolf populations it can become very frustrating. I could recite others but just wanted to dispel the myth that the only ones complaining are on ATVs and yes I have changed the way I hunt to adapt to the wolf introduction but when the numbers keep growing and they are able to move around like they do it is hard to stay a step ahead without extensive scouting.
Aside from your editoralizing about “wolf lovers” and stuff, you describe a trip into an area where you haven’t been for three years, but did well there in the past. You see some wolves and made them shut up and leave. You didn’t see elk. Your hunt was not successful and you don’t have as many days to hunt as your would like. Did I sum it up correctly? Ralph
Alan,hope you don’t mind an Arizona hunter climbing into this….
I am always amazed at people who seek to degrade people who don’t hold the same view they do. But being a Vet. I guess I helped you earn those rights so you are free to use them.
I am from Idaho and lived there when they reintroduced wolves into our state. I recall the ranchers and sheep herders voicing their concerns and I now forget what you guys called them, but I recall it was equally as childish.
Personally, I sided with the ranchers and sheepsman and disagreed with re-introduction of wolves, guess that makes me a slob hunter on a quad. Only problem is, never owned one, used a horse but what the heck, I don’t agree with your side of the fence so I imagion I fall into them bad slob hunters.
When I was in Idaho this last hunting season I didn’t see any quads in the week I hunted but had the fortune to see a wolf. I wish I had a tag for it. I would have taken it out in a minute.
no one ever said just because you go hunting, means you automatically have to kill something,, when did the guarantee of a kill become the purpose of the hunt,, if you truly are an outdoorsman,, isnt the pre-season scouting, and the hunting and tracking the herd part of the whole deal,,,it was when i hunted,,,never mad i didtn get something, never mad that i only had certain number of days to make a kill,,why is that if you dont make a kill, you are disappointed,,,
i dont think the predators make a kill every time,,, they walk out, why should you, and they do it to survive,,, you do it for the pleasure of it,,,
Kim, Who said anything about wanting a guarantee? I was simply responding to the post generalizing that all the hunters that complain about wolves are ATV or slob hunters. I do not expect success on every hunt but I do expect to see animals not just wolves. I also find it interesting that all you wolf lovers claim to be hunters? Also I’ve yet to have someone explain to me the infatuation with wolves and why you folks expend so much energy on insuring wolves have free range throughout the state of Idaho regardless of the impact. If you have some time please enlighten me?
The simple answer to your question is: Wolves make for wilder elk, which makes for better, more challenging elk hunting.
I don’t think folks here are infatuated with wolves.
This blog is about all wildlife, and as for myself, I like all wildlife. My interest in wolves originally come from the idea that their restoration would be beneficial in restoring natural patterns to the outdoors, and because I have always liked the backcountry to be a place that is NOT tame.
I have never liked ATVs for recreation because I seek them as toys for outdoor weaklings.
I do think people who use them are far less successful hunting.
The last time I went hunting (I don’t much anymore), the elk were spooked by some guys with big 4 x 4s with two ATVs between them (the riders where wearing camo!). They drove up and asked me if a had seen some elk (I had been looking right at about 15 on brushy rock slide until about 5 min. previous and sound of their motors was heard).
People who support wolf restoration have got to like elk unless they know nothing about biology.
In my day I have joined in plenty of appeals of Forest Service and range projects because I thought they would harm elk, deer, or other wildlife populations in the area.
Have you done anything like that?
Ralph took the words out of my mouth,,, its not just wolves,,,I think they are fasicnation creatures,,as i do elk,, bison, bears,,ducks,,eagles,,,throw in there trees,,wild things in general,,,,,but to single them out for all the problems is un fair, and its human arrogance and ignorance to think we have more right to the world than anthing else does, History has shown us that we dont know how to manage nature we are so in tent on controlling ever other specie population, but as co existing specie, wont put on a rubber to help control ours,,,,
I am an ex hunter because i know longer had the land or time to do it,,nor was i mad at the game either,,so why shoot it,,,, It is terribly unsafe to hunt on public national forest in parts of the south,,too many Bubba”s out there shooting anthing that moved. You never knew where othere hunters were, or when you were walking in a kill zone from some guy with a 7mm rifle, just aching to pull a trigger,,,way to many mistaken shootings,
so there, i hve given you my reasons and addtional time,,, its not just wolves,,,its the cycle they help to perpetuate, not destroy,,
Why would it be interesting that a person that is for wolves in the wild should also be a hunter? Why do you feel the two should be mutually exclusive? For my self I have been a wolf fan for over 30 years, mainly because they are one of the most fascinating species on the planet in my opinion. I also believe that they have a niche in the overall scheme of nature that is just as viable and necessary as it was in the past. Should they be left unchecked and un-managed, NO. Neither should they be made the scapegoat for every perceived negative incident with either hunters or livestock producers. And yes I am a hunter for about 40 years, and if you don’t count the being born in Lima Montana (14 miles north of the Idaho border)I have lived in Idaho all but 2 years of my life. The controversy is, in my opinion, the public demonetization by the elected and appointed officials in Idaho (my main concern) of wolves with apparently no regard for either the input of the citizens as opposed to special interest lobbies and little regard for scientific biological facts
Thanks for taking the time to help me understand your perspective. I appreciate all the feedback. I am reading some of the literature developed by Ralph Maughan and it is very informative and impressive. There are extremes on both sides of the issue that help to keep things stirred up or inflame opinion. I do love wildlife so I should probably reexamine some of my feelings concerning wolf reintroduction. I’m just messing with you all when I keep referring to you as “wolf lovers” my main objective is to better understand what has always been an opposing perspective on wolf reintroduction. I am going to continue to research this subject and probably post additional comments on this and other related web sites. I am always curious to see how people respond.
sounds like you are at lest willing to read what is available and at least reexamine your stance,,,if your mind is not some swayed then,, then at least you took the time and effort to make an informed opinion,, which is more than many will even consider,, more power to you there,,
,,,i am not against the hunting,, i think the elk bugle is the neatest sound,,,i personally have no interest in shooting one, and if that urge ever came,, i would only have an interest in bow hunting,, why,,, because it is, in my mind,, a true test of skill, the hunters savy, vs the elks instinct to evade..I dont really see loading up and shooting at 300-400 yards much of a challenge,,thats a shooting skill, not a hunting/stalking skill…
If you take man out, wolves are just a part of the circle of life that was here way for man, and later the cow,,,why should our presence or the cow or sheep,,change that,,,My concern is for the system,,who will be to blame when the warming weather in the plains, brings in more and more golf communities,ski slpes,, and large tracts that were once prime hunting grounds become Jack Nicolas Signature courses,, once the sweet perfume of increasing tax dollars to the local and state governments becomes the new friend,,the huning community will lose their status as important,, and you cant go shooting golfers and delisting them,,,,if we, as a society, not wolf enthusiast or grizzly enthusiast, or whitetail deer enthusiast dont protect what few wild areas we have left,and all the creatures in them.,, all the truly wild things we like to do, will be gone,,, you only have to look at the systematic destruction of rural area after rural area for new strip mall, subdivisions, “progress” in general to see where its going,,,
I find it interesting that some of these new Green subdivions or what ever they call them,,, try to put back was there in the first place,,,they back filled the ponds, cut down all the trees, put in streets, then, after a few years, have learned people like a few trees and a little water, so they have to replant stuff, build little walkways and trails, dig a few holes for water, and call it Bighorn Hills,,or something like that, to resell the “nature” of the subdivision,,
My two cents… First, I am a hunter, I do not own an ATV (but am not against it either), I hike (on foot) into very remote areas of my state to hunt elk. Over the last couple of years while scouting and hunting I have noticed a very disturbing trend and have several photo’s and video to prove it for all of you skeptic wolf lovers. What I have noticed is a lack of yearling calfs in the cow groups. I have photo’s of a particular group of over 30 mature cows in late summer. Only 3 young survive! Now, I realize that not all of them were taken by wolf, but grizzly and possibly coyotes and other natural causes as well. Needless to say I have come across several more cow groups with similar calf ratios. Also, I have proof through photo’s that these wolves do not take just the young, old, weak and sick. I have pictures of a pack of wolves killing a mature 350 class bull, perfectly healthy, just too many wolves for him to fend off that time. Here is the thing! I am for the reintroduction of wolves, but it should be done responsibly!!! And by responsibly I mean, they should be regulated (hunted) and populations should be kept in check. The problem is that the wolf lovers just want to claim endangered species act and do not want to come to the realization that there are real dramatic consequences to this. Is it sad that wolves were eradicated at one time? YES! But with the size of the human population encroaching more and more into natural wildlife habitats, the balance of nature no longer works as well as once may have used to. I am sure I am going to hear from those that hate the human species and the amount of population expansion. To them I say knock yourself off first; I don’t believe in that way of thinking! Sorry, but the balance of nature has been upset by us. That is just plain fact whether you like it or not. Sorry Kim, but your dead wrong! People have upset the balance and unless you and every single person on the planet wants to give technology it will never be that way again. Also, your dead wrong about the archery thing too. Hunting with a rifle is every bit as difficult as with a bow, you obviously must not hunt otherwise you would say this. The argument can also be turned around on bow hunters. In fact a friend of mine who bow hunts just shot a nice bull two days ago in the snowy range mountains outside of Laramie. Guess what? He can’t find it! He followed a blood trail for miles. Came back the next day and today. Still no elk, so he wounded a nice bull for the scavengers! This can happen with a rifle as well, I understand that, but in my experience it happens far far less often. The kill with a rifle is typically very humane and the animal suffers little. So don’t belittle those that hunt with rifles, I am sorry to say, but as soon as you bring that point up you lose your credibility. I hunt and stalk my elk with a rifle (contrary to your belief it takes a lot of skill) and I do not take shots at an animal that I feel are too difficult or too long. I owe that to the animal. If I am not mistaken shooting a bow takes “SHOOTING SKILL” too! Don’t get me wrong, I am not against bow hunting, in fact I’m all for it! Just giving you a different argument to chew on for a bit. It is easy for one to stick their foot in their mouth in these types of arguments. I have done it many times myself, I hope I didn’t this time 😉
Bottom line… The pro wolf and anti wolf people need to compromise. Introduce the wolf, sure. But regulate it as well. Also, the authorities must not be so stubborn and deny that wolves are not in areas where they were not reintroduced, because they are! I have proof from dozens of first hand experiences with face to face wolf confrontations in “so called” areas where they do not exist. That is just plain bull and it is about high time the authorities start admitting and accepting it. It is also about high time that the pro-wolf movements come to terms with the fact that these creatures must be controlled. Just because you don’t have wolves in california doesn’t mean they are endangered, because they are thriving in my state of Wyoming. Everyone can win in this situation if everyone can agree to compromise!
Before I leave I should clarify, that I do love the wolves, but I love all the other animals that those wolves eat as well. Wolves are very beautiful creatures, and are breath taking to see in the wild, but in todays world they cannot be left unchecked!