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Sports Editor

Jeff Brown is the Sports Editor for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at (608) 791-8403.

As I read Dennis Anderson’s column about wolves and their penchant for following the “leave no trace” mantra of the northwoods by cleaning up the remains of a field-dressed deer, I couldn’t help but think back to my one — and only — encounter with a wolf.

I was bow hunting with a friend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when I spotted a doe about 150 yards from my treestand. It was grazing on the edge of a grassy area, slowly moving toward my stand. It was about an hour before sunset and honestly, it didn’t matter all that much if it came within shooting range or not.

I was enjoying the tranquility of the UP, where the only sounds are those of nature.

Then, without warning, the doe stood at high alert, then bolted into the woods. I had not moved, the wind was from a consistent direction, and there was no way I should have been busted by that doe.

I wasn’t.

A few minutes later, a gray wolf appeared in the same spot where the doe had been. Initially disappointed that one of the few deer I saw that day had vanished, I found myself intrigued by a wolf that was unaware of my presence.

It trotted along the edge of the woods, stopped a time or two, then disappeared into the fast-approaching darkness. This was the better part of 10 years ago, but I still remember climbing down from the treestand thinking how cool it was to see a wolf — and how really large of an animal it was — in the wild.

The treestand I was in was located about ¾ of a mile down an old trail, used mainly by ATVs, so although I was without a deer, I had a great memory. Unbeknownst to me, that memory was about to get a whole lot more interesting.As I hit the trail, darkness had taken over the woods which creates a whole new sense of one’s awareness. A short distance down the trail I stopped, hearing something take off in front of me. It never occurred to me it was something other than a deer, and I was initially disappointed that it had not made its way closer to my treestand.

As I continued walking, I heard the same noise within 50 to 75 yards of me, only in a slightly different direction. At that point, my hunting sense told me that it certainly wasn’t a deer, which would have taken off and not returned.

So I poked around in my backpack, retrieved a small flashlight, and shined it in the direction of the noise.

Two steely-looking eyes were looking right back at me. As the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up, I saw that it was a wolf. This time, in total darkness, it was not nearly as cool as seeing it an hour before.

I dismissed it as a chance encounter, or so I thought.

As I continued walking down the trail, I heard the noise to my right, behind me, to my left, then in front of me. I would shine my light, confirm it was the wolf, then pick up my pace.

While cool, it was a bit unnerving to realize that the farther I walked, the tighter the animal’s circle became. Yes, I admit to taking an arrow out of my quiver — as if it would have done much good — as I walked at a brisk, but not frantic, pace.

As I climbed a small hill and approached the shed where the truck was parked, a sigh of relief raced through my body. I was convinced as I approached a building, albeit without lights on, and a truck, albeit not running, the wolf would grow nervous and leave.

It didn’t.

On the last sighting of the wolf with my battery-fading-fast flashlight, he was likely within 35 yards of the building and the truck. So much for any fear of humans.

As I told my hunting buddy of the experience, he reassured me with the comforting news that the wolf likely had had friends on the way.

We didn’t stick around to find out.


(1) comment


Hiking alone, along Bass Lake near Ely several years ago I also had a wonderful encounter with 3 wolves, each individually. They were walking along the ridge line beside the lake that I was walking beside. They were clearly each different. I suspect they are more prevalent in the area because of the International Wolf Center in the nearby. It was a breathtaking experience - we caught each others gaze, paused, then each moved on as I looked over my shoulder several times as I walked farther away :-). I will always treasure that experience. Nothing like hiking alone in the woods - PEACE.

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