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Letter: Wolf hunt unleashes hatred of wolves

Driving on Highway 200 from Mahnomen to Laporte a few days ago, we estimated seeing over 200 deer in patches of snow-free ground. A few days later, while driving on a Hubbard County road from Cass Lake, I saw more deer than I can count. And then I read in the Pioneer about the DNR/Minnesota Deer Hunters Association “listening session” in which MDHA hunters complained about “low deer numbers” and the director of MDHA stating the DNR is “...out of touch with the deer population” followed by a tirade of recriminations on wolves.

I have been an archer and rifle deer hunter for 50 years. I was a regular member in the Pope & Young Club and taught young people traditional bow hunting for the MDHA “Fork Horn” camp at Deep Portage in the early 2000s. I know how tough deer hunting was in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s when wolves were rare in the Bemidji area. I witnessed the deer population peak in the early 2000s when we had 3,000 wolves in northern Minnesota.

The reason for declining deer kills in the last four years is not in wolves but in ourselves. The MDHA has been culpable for transforming deer hunting more in the last 20 years than it has in the last 200. Just a few decades ago, hunters walked, built tree stands of modest size, and spent time understanding their quarry.

Now, on opening weekend the woods sounds like military maneuvers at Camp Ripley with tens of thousands of ATVs rumbling through the woods, willy-nilly off trail anywhere, with starter-castle tree stands and cut shooting lanes and rampant violation of the restricted ATV operation hours.

The whitetail is the soul of caution. Does anyone in their right mind think deer would remain active during shooting hours in all this? Deer by instinct tend to go more nocturnal and the way deer hunters access the woods only exacerbates this.

Three years ago, I thought a restricted wolf hunt may be beneficial and assuage the anti-wolf sentiment among some deer hunters. I soon witnessed how wrong I was. The wolf hunt has only unleashed the worst visceral hatred of wolves. When, if ever, will the DNR come to see this? It is not the job of the DNR to make game farms out of the northwoods.

Barry Babcock