MARQUETTE - The recent bitter cold snap has slowed down the wolf hunt across the Upper Peninsula and state officials are now doubting whether the harvest quota will be met before the season ends at the end of the month.
The season opened in three U.P. hunting units Nov. 15, with a combined total quota of 43 wolves allowed. As of 6 a.m. today, the total number of wolves killed was 20, a tally which has stood for several days.
"It's kind of slowed down. I kind of have a hunch the cold weather is keeping people indoors," said Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Brian Roell in Marquette. "I don't think we're going to hit the full 43."
Bitterly cold temperatures have held some hunters back from wolf hunting over the past few days. The season harvest total remained at 20 wolves as of 6 a.m. today. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Terry Cece of Cut River in Mackinac County is one wolf hunter who said the cold weather has impacted his hunting efforts. Terry's 14-year-old son, Jared, shot the third wolf killed recently in Unit C, an animal collared by the DNR in 2009.
Terry said he had been trying to keep up with a particular pack since the opening of the season.
"They are probably one of the hardest animals there is to hunt," Terry said. "It was all new. They wouldn't come to baits or nothing like that. I was doing everything I could to get at them."
Terry was pattern tracking the wolf pack.
"Every day I'd get out and look for fresh tracks," Terry said.
At the end of last month, the Ceces encountered what turned out to be three wolves in a mature red pine stand.
One of the wolves howled.
"He (Jared) howled back at her. I thought he was crazy at first," Terry said. "They went back and forth about four times."
The wolf then charged toward the area where Jared was. He raised his Ruger .280 caliber bolt-action rifle.
"It was in thick timber, as soon as he saw it, he shot," Terry said. "He didn't wait."
Terry was less than 100 yards away. He didn't get a shot off at either of the two other wolves. He's still hoping to fill his tag by the end of the season, but he's hoping the weather will improve to better his chances.
Terry, who said he is traditionally more of a trapper, said based on activity in Idaho and other states, he thinks if trapping was allowed for wolves in Michigan, the harvest quota would already have been met.
Roell said if the quota isn't reached through hunting alone, that may provide some justification to "try some limited trapping" for wolves in the future.
"We do know trapping is a more effective way of harvesting wolves," Roell said.
This first state-managed wolf hunting season for Michigan was expected to be a learning experience for state officials and the results, on several different levels, will be assessed in the weeks and months after the close of the season.
Roell said the wolves killed so far in the U.P. have shown no signs of mange.
"They all seem to be in healthy condition," Roell said.
Of the 20 wolves killed, 11 were females and nine were males. There were 13 wolves shot by U.P. residents, six by downstate tag holders and one killed by a Wisconsin resident. Five wolves have been killed in Unit A in the far western U.P., 12 in Unit B in the central U.P. and three in the eastern U.P. in Unit C.
Teeth extracted to determine ages of the animals have not been analyzed yet.
Roell said if the wolf season quota is not met by the end of the month, there will be no additional hunting.
"Once the season is done, it's done," Roell said. "That's been very clear. We will not be extending the season."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com