By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic
HAMILTON — Hunters now have another incentive to try to fill their wolf tags.
The Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is offering $100 and an annual membership for photographs of wolves killed in any open wolf hunting district between Dec. 19 and the end of the season, or until a quota is filled.
“This contest is one way to encourage folks to get out and harvest wolves,” said the organization’s president, Keith Kubista of Stevensville.
So far, hunters have killed 110 wolves of the 220 quota set for the state’s second wolf hunting season.
Kubista said the group is worried that the quota won’t be met this year because hunters aren’t focusing their efforts on wolves. Wolves do not have the cultural and resource values that elk, deer and moose have for hunters, he said.
“You have to encourage people to do it,” he said. “You can’t eat a wolf. There’s no food value.”
This is the second time this year that a sportsmen’s group has offered an incentive to hunters to shoot a wolf following the end of the general big game season in November.
The Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association offered to raffle a rifle to hunters successful in harvesting wolves in two hunting districts in the southern Bitterroot.
So far, that incentive hasn’t been effective in harvesting any wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot.
A lack of snow this year has certainly made wolf hunting efforts more difficult, Kubista said.
In the West Fork, hunter numbers were way down after the state switched totally over to permit hunting for elk and deer. Most wolves are killed by hunters looking for other game.
“We’ve just not had enough guns in the woods to harvest wolves this year,” he said.
Kubista said his organization ran the “Montana Wolf Hunting Photo Contest” by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks before unveiling it this week.
To qualify, hunters will have show a photo of a successful wolf hunt and show the tag. Hunters must acknowledge that the wolves were harvested in an open Montana wolf hunting unit and taken legally.
The best photo will qualify for an additional prize. Photos can be sent to Mt-SFW; P.O. Box 2243; Missoula, MT 59806.
Marc Cooke of the National Wolf Watchers Coalition opposes the contest.
“It just perpetuates the hatred that people have toward wolves,” Cooke said. “That money could be used better if given to a food bank to feed people who are having a difficult time right now. I just think it’s the wrong way.”
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission extended this year’s wolf hunting season to Feb. 15 at its last regular meeting.