Hirsch didn’t scout the area he planned to hunt on Sunday; he knew the wolves would be there. At about 10:15 a.m. Sunday, he spotted a lone male wolf. Figuring it was an outcast from the area pack, Hirsch took the smaller, jet black wolf with a silver back with one shot.
While there was no official word from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as of presstime, Hirsch is believed to be one of the first to harvest a wolf this year. Hirsch was the first hunter in the state to harvest a wolf when hunts started up in 2012.
“It was all luck and the grace of God,” said Hirsch, a Powell resident.
A court order stopped hunts in Wyoming in 2014, but that decision was reversed by an appellate court in March, clearing the way for wolf hunts to resume on Sunday.
Hirsch doesn’t mince his words: He’s not a fan of wolves. That’s not to say he doesn’t respect the efficient hunters, but since 1974 he has hunted the drainage in the Sunlight-Crandall area and attributes the demise of deer and elk hunting in the area to wolves.
“They have terrorized that drainage since they arrived,” he said.
Gray wolves were reintroduced to the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995 to slow the growth of elk herds that had crossed the carrying capacity of Yellowstone National Park. Biologists say that, without the presence of wolves, elk were able to browse without fear of predation, causing harm to the flora of the park.
In 2016, gray wolves were involved in a record number of conflicts, killing 243 livestock including 154 cattle, 88 sheep and a horse. In response, state wildlife managers killed 113 wolves known to be attacking livestock, more than double the number killed the previous year. Wolf populations in Wyoming have grown by an estimated 25 percent since the last hunt in the 2012 season.
The animal is difficult to hunt, as evidenced by only a 1-2 percent success rate in previous seasons, Ken Mills, the Game and Fish lead wolf biologist, said in a news release. Wyoming’s hunt is scheduled to run for three months, but with a quota of 44, Hirsch doesn’t think the season will last long.
“I bet we hit the quota by Oct. 15,” Hirsch said.
A dozen wolves were harvested in the first 40 hours of the hunt.
With pack size growing — with no hunting since 2013 — Mills speculated wolves may be a little easier to locate this season.
The season runs Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 in most hunt areas in northwest Wyoming. Wolves are designated as trophy game animals within much of this corner of the state and hunters have the responsibility to follow the appropriate regulations and monitor the harvest quota to know if their hunt area has been closed. Outside of the trophy zone, where wolves are designated as predatory animals, there is no harvest quota and hunters may take wolves year-round, but must report the take to Game and Fish, according to the regulations on the department’s website.
Hirsch went back to the same place he harvested his first wolf in 2012, sitting in the exact same spot this year. He even found the shell casing from his previous hunt. He plans to have the wolf mounted by James Marsico at Mountain Valley Artistry in Cody.
Hirsch has a Wyoming grand slam, having harvested every big game and trophy animal the state offers — and he’s looking forward to the opportunity to hunt a grizzly bear if the state offers a season in the future. Grizzlies were delisted in late June, giving Wyoming, Idaho and Montana the right to manage the species, which may include opening a hunting season.
(Editor's note: This version corrects the day the tag was purchased.)
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)