Skip to comments.Hunters fend off pack of aggressive wolves (MT)
Posted on 11/05/2010 9:58:27 AM PDT by jazusamo
Two Flathead Valley men who were retrieving an elk in the South Fork Flathead drainage say they ended up fending off a pack of aggressive wolves Saturday.
They were forced to leave behind the elk, and they ended up killing one wolf, resulting in an investigation because wolves are still protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Mark Appleby, a 49-year-old hunter from Columbia Falls, shot the 6-point bull elk the day before, on Oct. 29, off the Deep Creek Road east of Hungry Horse Reservoir. He quartered the animal and hiked out with the head with the intent of returning to pack out the meat with horses the next day.
Whitefish resident Raymond Pitman, 27, volunteered to help. The two men held a press conference Thursday in Kalispell to tell their story, with legislators and several reporters attending.
They rode in about two about two hours from their truck and carefully approached the downed elk, knowing there could be bears or wolves in the area. There was only a coyote track, so they had lunch and started rigging the horses up to pack out the meat.
After they had been in the area for about an hour, the horses started to spook, their attention focused on a nearby hillside.
The horses started freaking out, said Pitman, who first saw a group of wolves approaching no more than 30 to 40 yards away. Appleby saw them soon after.
There were seven or eight of them and they were running at us at full stride at first, said Appleby, who dashed toward the wolves to get his rifle.
I was about halfway there and I heard Raymond shoot with his .44 mag, Appleby wrote in his statement to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. When I reached my gun, I picked it up and the wolves stopped. I pointed my gun at them at about the same time they started to run at us again. At that time, I feared for my life and the horses and my friend and I started to shoot.
Appleby fired several rounds at the wolves, which then retreated back up the timbered hillside.
On this one, there was no time to think, said Appleby, who is convinced that his friends pistol bought him the time to get to his rifle. If he didnt have that .44 on his side, we wouldnt be talking to you.
But the wolves did not fully retreat, Pitman said.
One started howling, and the others joined in. The horses continued to panic, and were literally leading Appleby and Pitman away from the area.
It was a mess, an absolute mess, said Appleby, adding that his stirred-up horse was beating him up as he tried to control it.
The wolves continued to push the two men and their horses, pursuing but staying mostly out of sight.
Im getting mad talking about it, said Appleby, who was in disbelief that he was forced to abandon his meat. I said I cant believe were hauling the horses out empty.
The only reason they quit following us is that I was shooting at them, Pitman said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Perry Brown returned to the site with Appleby and Pitman on Monday, and determined that the wolves had followed the group for about 200 yards away from the elk.
Perry went back with them and he found a dead wolf and multiple tracks at the site that indicated wolves had been present, said Jim Satterfield, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor.
The elk meat had been fed on by wolves that are believed to be part of the Firefighter Pack, and at some point, a grizzly bear got in on the kill and buried the remains. Brown would not approach the dirt mound out of concern that the bear was still in the immediate area.
Satterfield said Browns report was turned over to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigator.
The ball is in their court right now, he said. It would be the same thing as if someone shot a grizzly bear.
Appleby said he was interviewed by a federal official from Great Falls.
He said if the game warden said it was self-defense ... it would probably be the end of it, said Appleby, who is more concerned about what an inexperienced hunter or unarmed person could do in the same situation.
It was a scary situation, thats for sure, Appleby said.
It was not the first time a hunter has been intimidated by wolves.
Last year, an animal warden with the Flathead County Sheriffs Office shot an elk in the Darby area and had to hike around a ravine to reach his kill. By the time he got there, wolves were already on the elk, and he feared approaching them.
State Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, is concerned that there could be more incidents in the future.
This is a horrible situation, but our hands are tied, said Tutvedt, who attended the press conference that was organized by former Flathead County Commissioner Gary Hall, a friend of Applebys.
Tutvedt believes the best remedy is congressional action that would delist wolves in the Northern Rockies and restore the state of Montanas authority to manage wolves with a legal hunt.
Fred Hodgeboom, president of Montanans for Multiple Use, also attended the gathering, announcing that the group has started a Web site (http://www.wolfclash.com) for the public to post reports about encounters with wolves.
The lesson learned here is to always be armed in bear/wolf country. A .44 magnum, 454 Casull or S&W500 would do the trick.
This was a dreadful situation, but my question is, why did the hunters submit a report? They had to know they’d get in trouble for defending their lives. That’s not allowed! If it had been me—which God forbid!—I’d have adopted the “shoot, shovel, and shut up” approach.
The other story cut your loses and keep them to yourself.
The only right thing would be for any of the congressional delegation who voted to protect the wolves to be required to hike thru wolf territory once a year wearing a pork chop vest.
"Oh look congressman, he's smiling at you!"
Because someone always opens his big mouth. Better to get it out in the open than have your buddy telling the story around and then the a**hole game wardens show up to arrest you for not reporting it.
Actually it is legal to kill a wolf or grizzly in self defense. A MT F&W warden went back on Monday and verified the scene and wolf tracks that followed them for 200 yards when they left. This is cut and dried self defense IMO, it sounds like the feds have to go through their bureaucratic abc’s to verify it was self defense.
The fed fine is huge plus jail time for illegally killing a wolf. Even though it was out in the boonies you can never be sure who’s around. I believe he did the right thing in reporting it.
Thanks, you’re right.
Agreed, and throw in a few enviro nazis of the Defenders of Wildlife type to go with them.
I grew up in Columbia Falls. Beautiful country.
Montana had a hunting season for wolves slated for this year (186 tags), but was overturned by a judge and is now tied up in litigation. Wolves are becoming a huge problem here in Montana (for hunters, farmers and ranchers). Not to mention the safety of those just wanting to enjoy the outdoors.
...you are one of the few people that I have run across lately who recognizes the power that county sheriffs have. Sheriffs are the highest directly elected law enforcement officers that exist. Unfortunately, most county sheriffs do not seem to recognize the raw power that they possess. Most of them cave in and surrender to the feds or even state police when they move into their counties because the sheriffs will not exercise their authority.
County sheriffs could change our Country if they would only grow a pair....
Wouldn’t they do the same balistic forensics as they would with a homicide?
I think his case was where the term “Shoot, Shovel, Shut-up” came from
Look at Sherrif Joe Arpaio
you are 100% correct- he is running the show there, and they know they can’t stop him
And that's a real shame.
We stayed near Columbia Falls, on Spoon Lake. Here are some of our shots:
I reckon a griz would eat wolf, too, same as elk...just saying, nature has a way of cleaning things up.
I have two wolf licenses that were with my father-in-laws gun collection. Both are nation wide US, with one 1944-1945 female, and the other is 1945-1946 for a male. I guess you have to wait for them to pee before you shoot.
Beautiful pics, TG!
When gunpowder speaks, beasts listen.
Have you ever tried to field dress and cut up an animal as large as an elk?
Note that they were using horses, not a pick-up.