By Todd Amenrud
You have no idea how literal the title of this article is to my brother-in-law Mike Berggren, and I. We purchased our Ontario property five years ago and have had numerous obstacles to overcome along our path. We set forth a plan and stuck to the strategy despite pressures that would have folded many. One of the biggest and most recent problems was literally wolves. Our saga is proof positive that persistence and positive attitude eventually perseveres and that the principals laid forth by the Quality Deer Management Association work…period.
We saw exceptional potential in the 500 acre property located just north of the Minnesota border, but it was nothing to brag about when we first purchased it. Since then there has been a lot of time, money and planning that have gone into our “work in progress” and there have been a lot of “ups” and “downs” along the way. From problems like beavers, flooding, equipment failures, bears and wolves, offset by moments of serenity, elation and incredible success.
Each time things looked bad and we felt like just giving up I told Mike that we had a good plan; we just needed to stick with it, diligence will pay. However, in the back of my mind I sometimes doubted if I was correct.
During the hunting season of 2011 I wondered if we hadn’t met our match. In September and October we were collecting trail camera photos of more deer than ever, there were more shooter bucks than ever and everything looked to be falling into place. Then, in the course of two days everything changed! If we aren’t hunting, we often glass our largest twelve acre food plot, and overnight without putting any hunting pressure on the property yet whatsoever, we went from glassing 20 to 25 deer in that plot per afternoon…to none! At first we didn’t understand what had happened until we collected our trail camera data. Wolves!
When a conservative talks about wolves we’re often ignored or told that with our slow, hick brains we couldn’t possibly understand the complexity of the wolf situation. To that, I say politely, “bull splat.” We documented everything very carefully, because at first we didn’t understand the situation fully and we wanted to know what had just happened to our priceless hunting. So we kept records and our cameras were running non-stop. To those who don’t believe that wolves have a HUGE impact on the local animals, I say back to you, “On the contrary, it is YOU who doesn’t have a clue.”
It was truly amazing the horrific influence the wolves had on the deer herd. Mike and I, on average, see about six animals per hunt – that’s sometimes seeing as many as 25 (or more), averaged with sometimes seeing none. because of the amount of acreage that we devote to sanctuary, the seclusion of the area and the minimal pressure it receives, we usually have just as much movement from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm as any other time of the day. Mike and I sat for three days straight from a half hour before sunup to a half hour after sundown without seeing a deer! We went for five days straight with only seeing three, a doe and single fawn and a separate button buck. On camera we were able to tell that some of the bucks were still there, but they never showed up during daylight. Neither of us harvested a buck off of the property during 2011.
As rare as wolf sightings are we had five close encounters over just two weeks, and these wolves were brazen! During one encounter (where we didn’t have a gun) they wouldn’t leave! It seemed to be a large, single wolf and it would keep about 40 yards between us whether we moved towards it or away. I have never even heard of behavior like this, but I have heard “it’s the one that you don’t see that you have to worry about” and this made me very nervous. To just see a wolf used to be a very big deal for us in this area…now they won’t leave!……