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Minnesota hunters kills big wolf

Minnesota hunters kills big wolf

By JERRY DAVIS La Crosse Tribune

Josh Swenson has an answer for those who ask why he went wolf hunting in Canada.

“I’ve hunted all my life,” Swenson said. “I grew up in Houston (Minn.), went to college in Winona and have hunted most legal game including black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, grouse, pheasants and ducks, but I like hunting predators best.

“I’ve hunted fox and coyotes in Minnesota. This was a chance to hunt wolves,” he said. “This was a chance to see some beautiful areas and a chance to get away with some friends.”

Last month, Swenson and four friends traveled from Houston to Alberta, Canada, for a six-day wolf hunt. Each hunter paid an outfitter $1,500, plus travel expenses. If a hunter shot a second or third wolf, each one would cost $200.

Swenson, 26, shot one gray wolf on the fourth day of the six-day-hunt. The other hunters, Travis Peterson, Mike Lange, Jeremy Van Gundy and Brent Carrier, all from Minnesota, didn’t have opportunities to shoot wolves, although they did shoot coyotes.

Swenson was determined to wait for a wolf before shooting any coyotes, so he passed on the other predators that came by his stand.

“I’ve been asked the question – why do it – a lot since we got back from Alberta,” Swenson said. “I thought about it before I went, and I had a lot of time to think about it while I was sitting in a small, wood hut, 11 hours a day, waiting for a wolf to come by the blind. When this wolf came by, I had a few seconds to react and honestly didn’t have time to think about it then.”

Several things persist in Swenson’s mind after returning to Minnesota, things his outfitter told him about how wolves fit into the food chain in Canada.

“A wolf will kill 200 to 300 moose in its lifetime,” he said. “A wolf needs one full deer a week to stay alive.

“These animals are very secretive animals. Most hunters don’t even see wolves,” he said. “The guide, who basically drove me to the hut I hunted from, has shot only five wolves, and he’s lived there all his life.”

Without question, Swenson said hunting wolves is the most exciting thing he has ever done.

Wolves are not endangered in Canada (or Alaska) and are hunted and trapped in most Canadian provinces.

Swenson’s hunt was fairly simple. Even though there was a guide for every two hunters, the hunters were their own bosses. Bait stations were placed by the hunting huts, but most wolf activity occurs at night, and none of the five hunters saw a wolf at the bait stations. The type and amount of bait used is regulated.

“We could use game calls, but I doubt that was much of a factor, either,” Swenson said. “I’d call on a rabbit squealer a couple times a day, but more for something to do.”

The hunters sat, one per hut, up to five miles apart from each other. The guide dropped the hunters before dawn and picked them up after dark. A propane heater provided some heat in the non-insulated huts. The hunters had two-way radios, but most times the radios didn’t work because the hunters were too far from each other.

“There were about 7 inches of snow, and we could see tracks of all kinds of animals, including wild horses,” Swenson said. “The best chance of seeing a wolf is just sitting it out all day, and that’s what I did for four days.”

Moose, elk, black bears, mule deer, whitetails, coyotes and fox were common visitors to the areas where the hunters waited.

Swenson was watching out one side of his hut on the fourth day, then turned and caught a glimpse of movement in the other direction. A large gray wolf stepped out into a 40-yard clearing as Swenson raised his .280 caliber rifle. When the wolf paused before re-entering the woods, Swenson took a shot at 90 yards.

“I just had a few seconds. It all happened so fast,” he said.The wolf Swenson shot was almost entirely black, weighed 140 pounds and was estimated by the guide, who scores wolf skulls, to be one of the top 20 gray wolves ever shot in the world. The official skull score has not been determined.

Peterson, a taxidermist who went along on the hunt, is preparing a full body mount of the predator for display in his Houston studio.

“I plan to go back, maybe as soon as next year,” Swenson said.