It’s safe to say that there was more disappointment than celebration on the Minnesota wolf hunt front on Wednesday.
That’s when lottery results were announced for the first-ever hunt. And with more than 23,000 applicants for 6,000 licenses, nearly three out of four missed out on the chance to participate in this historic hunt.
Among those who will be watching from the sidelines — and they will be watching, moreso than most — are two area wildlife managers on the opposite ends of the main wolf zone, the sprawling northwest zone includes both the Brainerd area in central Minnesota and the Baudette in far northern Minnesota.
On Thursday, Gary Drotts and Scott Laudenslager said they had yet to hear from anyone who had been drawn in this much-anticipated lottery. They didn’t know names; they just knew they weren’t among the lucky winners.
“I didn’t get one,” Laudenslager, DNR area wildlife manager in Baudette, said matter-of-factly, disappointment in his voice.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if he would have been excited to be drawn for the hunt and, ultimately, harvest a wolf. “That’s the whole idea behind it — to put a trophy on the wall and experience something new. But I had no such luck.”
Unlike most every other applicant, Drotts, DNR area wildlife manager in Brainerd, was much more low-keyed. He would have like to have been drawn, but mostly to be a part of history.
“No, not really,” he said when asked if he was disappointed at not being drawn. “I’d probably put it (the license) in a frame for historical purposes. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way for the hunt.
“If I shot one wolf that might be the end of it,” he said of his wolf hunting future; he said he plans to apply again for future wolf hunts but, “I just want one pelt. Do I want to shoot a wolf every year for the next 10 years? No.”
But who knows how long this hunt will ultimately last. The hope is it will be a long-term management tool for the state’s burgeoning wolf population. But Drotts and other DNR types understand they will be under a microscope in this inaugural hunt — they admit that any issues could jeopardize the future of the hunt. And even at this stage of the game, this hunt still isn’t a done deal — a petition for review was filed recently with the Minnesota Court of Appeals in an attempt to stop the wolf hunting and trapping season and, as of Friday, still loomed.
But last week was about a different kind of anxiety: Hunters and trappers who applied for licenses could go to www.mndnr.gov/hunting/wolf to see if they were successful in the drawing and to view a copy of the 2012 wolf season regulations handbook. And now lottery winners, who also will receive notification and hunting regs via postal mail, may purchase their licenses at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense or 888-665-4236.
Participants in the early season hunt, which coincides with firearms deer season, must purchase their wolf licenses by Oct. 24. Participants in the late hunting and trapping season, which runs from Nov. 24 to Jan. 31, 2013, must buy their licenses by Nov. 15.
If not, there’s still hope for those who missed out in the lottery the first time around: Any licenses not sold by the aforementioned dates will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis to unsuccessful lottery applicants beginning at noon Oct. 29 for the early season and at noon Nov. 19 for the late hunting and trapping season. Any remaining licenses not purchased by unsuccessful applicants will be available for purchase by any eligible hunter beginning at noon Nov. 1 for the early season and noon Nov. 21 for the late hunting and trapping season.
“Sure, I would love (to participate in the first wolf hunt),” Drotts said. “I wouldn’t mind having one wolf pelt on the wall. From that perspective you have something on the wall to brag about. It serves as a reminder of that event.”
Minnesota assumed state management of the gray wolf after the species was removed Jan. 27 from federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Minnesota’s population is estimated to be about 3,000 wolves. The target harvest of 400 wolves for this inaugural wolf season is a conservative approach that does not pose a threat to the conservation of the population, the DNR has said.
“What a neat success story,” Laudenslager said. “They were an endangered species and now the hunt ... It’s a tremendous conservation story.”
Additional information about wolf management in Minnesota is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.
BRIAN S. PETERSON is a freelance writer based in northern Minnesota.