by Mark Walters
Trials and Tribulations of a Wolf Trapper
In the space that I have, I will try to describe my experiences while attempting to trap a wolf as well as some of the regulations, habits of the gray wolf, and most importantly the incredible challenge that I went through while running a trapline along with my good friend, Jody Bigalke.
Wednesday, October 15th
High 64, low 30
Day one, of what would be a six-day experience where both Jody and myself beat the heck out of my 2006 Chevy pickup and ourselves.
There are six Wolf Harvest Zones in Wisconsin and this plays a huge part in a trappers or hunters experience. My trapline would cover 80-miles and touch four counties (Juneau, Wood, Monroe, and Jackson) and then in the last 24-hour span to become a 120- mile drive with 15 sets.
Jody and I would walk 9-miles each day between the 15 sets and complete exhaustion would be knocking on the door by day four.
Yesterday, three-inches of rain fell across this part of the state, which really made a mess as far as driving off road or on sand roads, especially with deep, water filled ruts.
Almost every one of our sets is a dirt hole set which, in short, is a hole dug near where wolf are traveling, scent is put in the hole and a trap is placed off center and to the front of the hole.
This may sound simple but there are 1500 permit holders that are allowed to harvest a total of 150 wolves and each one can attest to the incredible intelligence of their quarry.
Friday, October 17th
High 59, low 28
Today is day two of checking traps; my 13-year-old daughter Selina does not have school today so she is working the trapline with Jody and I. We are in a race against time as on this day, Zone 2 permit holders would receive notice via the internet that with a quota of 15 wolf, for what is Wisconsin’s far northern eastern zone, they would have to pull traps or quit hunting the following day.
Zone 5, which is where I am trapping, would be at 9 animals harvested with a max of 20, so Jody and I figured we had at best four more days to reach our goal.
Today, after a one-mile walk to one of our sets, we had our first real action. A wolf’s tracks were clearly in the sand and its foot had missed the MB 650 foothold trap by a mere four inches, we were happy just to have the experience.
Selina found this day to be so exhausting that she slept in the truck for an hour and a half when we got home.
Sunday, October 19th
High 61, low 32
Day 5 of this incredible adventure, Zones 1, 2 and 4 are now closed! Each day Jody and I check the computer at days end and it has become our enemy. Today, we started our day in the dark and finished at dark. We moved six sets which is no simple job and added 40-miles to our drive.
Yesterday I caught a raccoon that truly tipped the scale at 26 pounds. We have realized that a wolf will not travel 20-feet to the left or right to check out a set. When they are traveling they go down paths, which could be made by man or beast. The set has to be made within two feet of where they place their feet.
Much of where we are trapping does not have a single deer track or dropping. Here is a simple way to put what we are seeing. Lots of wolf, some deer! No deer, some wolf! No wolf, then some deer!
My friends, the gray wolf does not kill every deer on your property. They kill as many as they can eat and the remainders move out of the wolves’ core area. The problem comes along when you have packs bordering each other, so there are no safe zones for the deer to go.
What I just wrote is a fact! I have listened to the anti-wolf people and the anti-harvest! I am open-minded. Let the biologists make the decisions on how many to harvest in each zone and go from there.
After a killer day on both truck and man, a day in which we hoped to have two more nights to harvest our objective we looked at my computer and realized that at 6:30 p.m. the following day one way or another, our adventure was over.
I felt like I was punched in the face! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank