Nothing has come easy leading up to this first state wolf hunt.
There was the whole listing-delisting thing, then the process of actually establishing a hunt. Then, last week, about the same time the kinks were being worked out on the online application side, protesters were at the DNR headquarters in St. Paul still trying to shut down the whole thing, according to Gary Drotts, DNR wildlife manager in Brainerd.
And now comes the tough part for hunt hopefuls: First, getting drawn in the lottery; and finally, getting a wolf in the hunt. Both would be good for major bragging rights in the historic hunt.
For all you anxious hunters out there, the DNR recently announced that applications are finally being taken, with the application deadline Sept. 6. Applications may be made at any DNR license agent, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense.
Drotts said that at the start of the application process last week, there was a snafu with online applications - a link was missing - but now it’s full speed ahead. And that’s just what Drotts is expecting with applications, at least this time around.
“The chance to be drawn is slim,” he said. “How many applications do I really feel we’ll get? The first year you’ll get people who will brag that they got the first wolf tag. In a couple years I think it will be a non-event — not many people will apply. They’ll find out it’s hard to shoot one. It’s a chance situation. For the later season and trapping there will be a better chance.”
And in the Brainerd area?
“There are going to be wolves shot here,” Drotts said. “I’d be surprised if there were less than 10 and there could be as many as 20. We’re on the lower end of the range. It will depend on how many people apply. It’s going to be so hard to predict. It’s the first one.”
The Brainerd area is part of the sprawling northwest zone that runs all the way north to the Canadian border.
“It’s a bit of a misnomer in that it includes more than you would usually think with the northwest,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife program manager for the DNR in St. Paul. “It’s way east of even International Falls and all the way to the (North Dakota) border. And everything north of the rifle/shotgun zone line — Highway 94 and up Highway 34 and Highway 32 and to the (Canadian) border and all the way south of that line, basically to Little Falls.
“What we’re calling the northwest zone is the largest area and has the most occupied wolf population.”
As a result, of the state’s target harvest of 400 wolves, 265 are allotted for the northwest zone, with 117 in the northeast zone and 18 in the east-central zone. When harvest targets are reached, that zone will be closed and hunters will only be able to hunt in an open zone.
But first things first. Individuals may apply for only one license from three available options:
• Early season hunting, which runs from Nov. 3 through Nov. 18 in all Series 100 areas and Nov. 3 through Nov. 11 in Series 200 areas located within the northwest wolf hunting zone.
• Late-season hunting, which runs from Nov. 24 through Jan. 31, 2013, in all three wolf zones.
• Late-season trapping, which runs from Nov. 24 through Jan. 31, 2013, in all three wolf zones.
The lottery will award 3,600 licenses during the early season and 2,400 during the late season, at least 600 of which will be for trapping. There is a $4 application fee. All applicants must show proof of a current or previous hunting license. Lottery winners will be notified and licenses will go on sale by Oct. 15. Lottery winners will receive a wolf hunting booklet with their notification.
Wolf licenses are $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents and the statewide bag limit is one wolf. Additional information is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.
“North and west of Brainerd and around town,” Drotts said of where the wolves are. “There are a lot of wolves.”