Sunday, September 9, 2012

Predators In My Hunting Area



Hunting in Idaho brings an array of adventures.  As it is for all of you in other parts of the world, it is important for me to know what type dangers I way/will be facing when hunting in certain areas.  Idaho has been part of a huge wild life management project involving the reintroduction of wolves and grizzly bears.  In the South Eastern border of Idaho, we are only a few miles away from Yellowstone National Park.  This means that there are larger numbers of wolves and grizzly bears roaming around in our area due to the protection they receive in the area. For a interesting read check out this article from the Yellowstone National Park about wolf management.  The article briefly talks about how the numbers of wolves have stayed relatively the same or even declined in the park due to smaller elk populations.  I know I am not a genus, but I can put two and two together and tell you 1) Wolves eat Elk, 2) Elk will either leave the park or get eaten, and 3) Wolves will follow the leaving elk.  Yellowstone does not have a high fence around it like a zoo keeping the animals in for tourists to see.  These animals are wild... even though many were placed there, they don't always stay in the park.  Not to go on and on about the park or the management of wolves and grizzly bear, but I wanted to set a basis for my next few points.


Recently I have been scouting and hunting for elk up in the South Eastern side of Idaho.  All summer long we got pictures of elk, and then the week before hunting season we got a pictures of a wolf on camera.  Even though we know there are wolves in this area, we had some mixed feelings about seeing the wolf.  We were both excited because we can hunt wolves now in Idaho, but also unsettles because we know the elk and deer would be on edge with wolves being in the area.  We were also a little unsettled knowing that we may become the hunted when sneaking through the woods cow calling for elk.  On Saturday I had the opportunity to hunt the area where we had gotten the picture of the wolf.  I sat all day and then I saw two deer heading my way.  Just when they got about 40 yards away they both stopped and stared down hill for a long time.  Their ears were pointing forward and nostrils flared wide open.  They stood there for a while until they turned and hopped back over the hill they had come from.  I was a bit confused because the wind was in my face and I had taken lots of precaution for scent control... About 10 minutes later, I saw something move through the trees to my left.  I slowly turned to look and reached for my bow, I saw glimpses of some darker colored animal moving through the grass then stop behind some fallen trees almost in the same spot the deer had stopped moments before.  A few seconds later it walked out from behind the fallen tree and I was staring eye to eye with a wolf.  I was never able to get a shot on him, nor did I have my camera (last thing on my mind) but seeing it was pretty exciting.  This is a pictures of a wolf I found online that looks similar to the wolf I saw.
Wolf
This wolf was all by itself and was looking pretty dang hungry.  I thought my heart got going when a deer or elk come into my stand... I don't which makes me more nervous to have in my hunting area, a pack of wolves or one extremely hungry wolf.  An average wolf is about 5 feet long and around 150 pounds (give or take some depending on its age), but either way I would have felt more safe having an arrow in this guy instead of watching him disappear into the trees.

When I got back to the truck later I told my dad about the encounter I had, he showed me this pictures of a grizzly rub next to our other tree stand. 
Grizzly Claw Marks
Claw marks of a grizzly
These two signs have made me and my family take a little more precaution when preparing for hunting.  We always pack bear spray, a pistol for safety, and try to always hunt in pairs whenever possible.  We know that wild animals are often more scared of us then we are of them, but when possibly facing a predator close to 800 pounds with razor sharp claws you always have a need to worry.  I guess this just adds to the excitement.  The Idaho Fish and Game have provided some good information on how to hunt in grizzly country if any of you are planning on coming up this way.  It may be worth the time to read it, playing dead with a grizzly doesn't always work out in the end!