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Wolf Hunting in Wisconsin:
Mainstream Hunters Speak Out

Updated 8 February 2013
rescued dog at adoption day

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NOTE: Though the Congressional 2016 Fiscal Spending Bill passed with NO policy riders targeting wildlife including proposals to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in Wyoming or the Great Lakes, many of these riders seem to have found their way into H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015, which was approved by the US House of Representatives, 242-161, and now goes to the Senate. (Text of bill here.)


 pawprint bullet point   Overview, Mainstream Hunters' Oppositon   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Statement from Plaintiffs in DNR Lawsuit   pawprint bullet point   Affidavit from a Grouse Hunter   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Letter from a Landowner and Mainstream Hunter   pawprint bullet point   Excerpt from Dave Olson's Blog   pawprint bullet point


       On 13 November 2012, a group of mainstream Wisconsin hunters received permission to file a legal brief with the Court voicing their opposition, as life-long hunters and land-owners, to the unrestricted use of dogs for hunting wolves and training for such hunting.

wolf photo, courtesy of All About Wolves. com        "Mainstream Wisconsin hunters are concerned that the lack of reasonable rules currently governing the use and training of dogs to hunt wolves will interfere with established deer, turkey, grouse and other hunts," states Henry Koltz, who represents a group of Wisconsin hunters. "Any interference with Wisconsin's established hunts has the possibility to negatively impact thousands of Wisconsin jobs and the reported $1 billion economic impact of hunting in Wisconsin. We strongly recommend that DNR approve reasonable restrictions on the use of dogs for wolf hunting in order to protect Wisconsin jobs and preserve Wisconsin landowners' rights."

       One such hunter is Ed Mathwig, who has hunted ruffed grouse with bird dogs every year in Wisconsin for over 50 years but will not be hunting this year as a result of the disputed DNR rule. "Never before now, have I had to worry about my bird dogs being placed in jeopardy while hunting." Mathwig states, "However, this year, for the first time, I will not be taking my dog grouse hunting, because I will not put him at risk of injury or death posed by packs of dogs running loose in pursuit of wolves."

 pawprint bullet point   Read Ed's Entire Affidavit from a Grouse Hunter   pawprint bullet point

     Other Wisconsin hunters, including a number who share ownership in a 700 acre hunting camp in Bayfield County, support restrictions on the use of dogs for wolf hunting, contending that unleashed dogs in pursuit of wolves will trespass upon their lands, disrupt habitat, and degrade their hunting experience. "Whether we are hunting, hiking or just enjoying the forest, we don't want our space disrupted by packs of dogs," states Bobbi Rongstad, who hunts deer with rifle and bow on private lands she owns in Bayfield and Iron Counties. "By allowing unrestricted, year-round training of dogs on wolves across much of the state-before, during and after the hunting season-DNR is not being fair to the majority of Wisconsin hunters."

       "Dogs know no boundaries and are out of their owners' control for much of the time," states Jeff Baylis, a lifelong deer and small game hunter, "Besides leading to trespass situations and conflicts with landowners, DNR's failure to set limits on running dogs on wolves will drive wildlife from the areas that I hunt and disrupt my hunting enjoyment."

       Baylis adds, "While there is some logic to using dogs on animals that can be treed, wolves cannot be treed but instead will be cornered by a dog pack, which is likely to be a bloody, violent and cruel business."

       Scroll down to read Statement from Plaintiffs in DNR Lawsuit, Affidavit from a Grouse Hunter, Letter from a Landowner and Mainstream Hunter, and an Excerpt from Dave Olson's Blog

       If you are a hunter who opposes using dogs in wolf hunts, it is NOT too late to let your voice be heard! Please email your thoughts to and "cc"

Your comments may make a crucial difference for dogs, landowners, AND hunters in Wisconsin!

 pawprint bullet point   Wisconsin Mainstream Hunters Amicus Brief (pdf)   pawprint bullet point



Statement from Jayne & Mike Belsky, Plaintiffs in DNR Lawsuit:

Wolfdogs like Yanna, a pet, are considered captive wildlife by the DNR and could possibly be approved for captive wildlife training for wolf hunting dogs.       We fail to understand the Judge's decision to allow dogs in the Wolf Hunt, given his stated recognition that DNR failed to put forward any evidence to indicate that dogs could be used to pursue wolves safely or humanely.

       As lifelong Wisconsin citizens and longstanding hunters, we believe in hunting with principles. We do not believe brutality towards wildlife or hunting dogs should be open-ended to the point where nothing is considered too cruel. Wolves can strip a large hunting hound of hide, bone and flesh in a few short minutes. It's not an easy death because they are often eaten alive. This usually happens while the bear hunters sit in their trucks and ATVs with radios, listening to GPS collar beeps, while their dogs die in the woods.

       Not once during the court hearings did (or could) the DNR or Hound Hunters dispute the fact that hundreds of large bear hounds have already died this way1. The DNR web site keeps a tally of dead dogs, warns hunters to keep their hounds out of those areas and provides a map. Now they want to sell you a license so you can intentionally "give it a go" and pit your dogs against wolves anywhere in Wisconsin.

       Are you also aware that hound trainers can use Captive LIVE BAIT Animals to train hunting hounds? Raccoon, Fox, Coyotes, Bobcats and Bear can all be kept in captivity and owners can (for a fee) allow hunters to bring in their hounds and terrorize those animals in pens or roll cages for up to 16 hours a day. While any zoo, rescue, rehab-center or sanctuary that allowed this practice would risk being fined or closed down for inhumane treatment of wildlife, in the name of "live bait training" it's legal for hunters in our state to do so. How long will it take before they add captive wolves & wolfdogs (such as the pets pictured with this statement) to that live bait list?2

       The Hunting Lobby in Wisconsin has spent decades promoting a shiny public image of ethical hunting. So why, then, are such principles as Respect for Wildlife, the Hunters' Code of Ethics, Fair Chase Doctrine, and the love of hunting dogs so utterly absent? How LOW will extremists go-and legislators tolerate--in the name of "Hunters' Rights"? There already has been discussion of the public's tolerance level of wolves. Now discussion needs to turn to the public's tolerance level for how cruel Wisconsin hunting and hound training has become3. Many people consider the new wolf hunt law "legalized dog fighting"; some have even likened it to the medieval "sport" of bear, bull, and wolf baiting -- only in the wild.

       Legislators passed this wolf law in its entirety in the wee hours of their session last year. We wonder if they were at all clear as to the events they were about to put in motion. We ask that Legislators take the action needed to remove dogs from the wolf hunt and stop the use of live bait training on captive wildlife in Wisconsin.

Wolfdogs like this gentle pet could be approved for use in training dogs for tracking and hunting wolves.

There is a very real possiblity that, since they are considered "captive wildlife" by the DNR, wolf dogs like the pets shown on this page may be listed as animals that could be used as bait trainig for hunting hounds.


1. Almost 300 dogs have been killed by wolves since the depredation payment for hounds (up to $2,500 per dog) was instituted when wolves were listed as endangered. Dog deaths average about 15 to 20 a year, and about half a million dollars has been paid for dead & injured dogs. The depredation payment formerly came out of endangered resources funds from the Federal government, but now that wolves are *game* animals, all depredation payments for both cattle and dogs will now come from wolf hunt license sales. The DNR also agreed that any hound killed while actually hunting wolves would not be paid for. Coincidentally, the hounders have set up wolf hound training and bear hound training at the exact same times of year.

2. Wolfdogs are regulated by the DNR as captive wildlife, but they have not yet been listed as animals that could be used as bait training. (See Wisconsin Dog Training and Trialing Regulations (Captive Wildlife and Free-Roaming Animals) (pdf) for more information.)

3. Hound hunters answer to these facts; "they will use the animal fighting breeds of dogs" (Rhodesian Ridgebacks & Wolfhounds). According to a Lakeland Times article, Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association President Al Lobner said possible breed choices could include coon hounds mixed with rhodesian ridgebacks or Irish wolfhounds. Airedales would be another possibility." His references to mixing breeds likely doesn't mean having mixed breed pups but to have a mixed pack of hounds of these different breeds. Though limited to 6 hounds in the woods at one time, hunters can change out individual dogs all the time. -- possibly changing out the scent hounds for the fighting breeds once the trail is acquired.




Affidavit from a Grouse Hunter, filed with the Circuit Court:

English spanial from       "I have lived in Wisconsin for 66 years, currently retired after a 40-year career in education. I am an avid hunter, having hunted ruffled grouse with dogs every year since the age of 14. Even before then, I walked the woods alongside my father and his dog while he hunted grouse.

       "My primary interest in bird hunting is the dog work that accompanies it. I find it very satisfying to put in the hours and training needed to prepare my dog for his work in the field locating and retrieving the game. Over my lifetime of hunting, I have put in countless hours training and working with my bird dogs -- it has been and remains one of my most enjoyable pastimes.

       "October, November, and early December, in particular, are a special time to be out in the woods in Northern Wisconsin; every year, I look forward to being out there with my dog during ruffled grouse huntng season at this time.

       "Since I was a boy, I have taken my dogs ruffled grouse hunting each the last twenty years, in the Clam Lake and Black River Falls areas, which are prime ruffled grouse habitat and prime wolf habitat.

       "Never before now, have I had to worry about my dogs being placed in jeopardy while ruffled grouse hunting. However, this year, for the first time... I wil be opting out of the ruffled grouse hunt due to Wisconsin DNR's approval of rules authorizing a wolf hunting and trapping season that places my dogs in jeopardy of serious injury and death.

       "An unmarked baited wolf trap, which is authorized under DNR's new rules, presents a very real danger to upland bird dogs, including those who hunt ruffled grouse, as those dogs cover a lot of ground while searching for game and have a highly refined sense of smell which will lead them to investigate traps and baits set for wolves.

       "My bird dog, an English Cocker Spaniel, has been trained to hunt in this same manner, placing him, too, at unreasonable risk of injury given that a wolf trap's disproportionate size and force as it snapped shut on my 40 lb. dog would nearly certainly break his leg, cause him extreme pain and suffering, and likely end his hunting career altogether.

       "I also cannot expose my dog to the risk of injury and death posed by packs of dogs running loose in pursuit of wolves and by wolves being pursued by packs of dogs. The use of dogs for training and hunting wolves will not only disrupt and destabillize the overall ecosystem of the area I have hunted in all my life, it could place my dog at unacceptable risk of attack -- if he were caught in the path of a pursuit underway or if perceived as a threat by either wolf or other dogs.

       "In consideration of the time, money, and companionship I have invested in my dog, I view these risks as unacceptable and, for this reason, I will not participate in the ruffled grouse hunting season this year.

       "In my opinion, it is unconsciouable that DNR would allow this type of unleashed, unlimited training of dogs on wolves to to on for most of the year, taking us back in conduct and ethics to medieval times.

       "It is equally thoughtless that DNR has failed to place necessary limitations on baiting traps, the numbers of traps, and identifiation of traps, in order to provide safeguards for other hunters and their bird dogs." --EM, LaCrosse, WI

 pawprint bullet point   Read the entire Affidavit (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   "English Spanial" Photo above Copyright ©   pawprint bullet point




A letter from a landowner and mainstream hunter:

Kingsbury the beagle       "I am a hunter and a landowner. . . and I am strongly opposed to the hunting of fur-bearing animals with the use of dogs. We have routinely been awakened in the early morning hours by barking dogs during their so-called ‘training’ runs near our property. And we’ve had un-leashed, un-tended, hungry hounds show up on our property on numerous occasions. We have observed the so-called hunters sitting in vehicles along the road, dropping cigarettes and beverage cans out the windows while their dogs run braying through the forest. In my opinion, that is not hunting. We do not appreciate the disruption or the trespass of these ‘hunting’ dogs running lose on or near our property.

       "Allowing wolf hunters to use dogs in pursuit of wolves is even more ridiculous. In addition to the problems mentioned above, the practice would encourage potentially lethal confrontations between dogs and wolves. Currently, dogs appear to be attacked by wolves most often when the dogs venture into wolf rendezvous sites, where young are present. Allowing the use of dogs and training them to pursue wolves will only increase the likelihood and opportunities for injury and death to the dogs. It may even encourage wolves to seek out and kill dogs in general as a threatening enemy.

       "The fact that quotas are already met in this initial wolf hunting season provides inarguable proof that dog-assisted ‘hunts’ are not required in order to kill wolves. I believe that those who have lobbied our legislators so hard to be able to ‘hunt’ with dogs are probably those who are too lazy to go out in the woods and hunt with more humane and acceptable methods. Michal Vick spent time in prison for the same practice the DNR proposes to call hunting. I do not understand why lawmakers, rather than biologists, made any of these rules in the first place. It seems that politicians have enough to do without sticking their noses into more issues they know nothing about. " -- BR, Northern WI





Excerpt from Dave Olson's Blog:

"Bird Dogs" like this guy could be put in danger by the use of wolf traps and wolves themselves       "At the post hunt discussion over some Leinenkugels . . . I asked [other hunters] what they thought about wolf traps set up to lure canines, wolves, coyotes, (bird dogs?), and if they knew how to get their dog out of a wolf trap. This brought some hemming and hawing but the real thought provoker was wolves chased and hunted by dogs that would become conditioned to think that dogs were their enemies. Since the bear and wanna be wolf hunters that use dogs claim that success rate on either species with dogs is very low it would seem that most of the time the wolves would be chased by dogs and escape. This conditioning, in my opinion, would not be good news for Springer, Labs, Goldens, and even trusty American Water Spaniels that were out hunting for grouse, pheasant, and woodcock. I'm not sure any consensus was reached or that any minds were changed on the issue but thought was indeed provoked. Hunters love their bird dogs.

        ". . . True fair chase and tradition have had a place in the Wisconsin hunting community for decades and have been passed down through families and hunting camps over the years and it needs to stay that way.

       ". . . I'm not against shooting a few wolves but let's give them a bit of a chance. Read the technique for hunting wolves with dogs that a proponent of the activity outlines in this Wisconsin State Journal article. Put the gps collars on the dogs, split up with your ATV's or 4WD pickups, and when the dog chases the wolf to the guys who raced ahead they shoot it. A guy might not even need to wear boots if you could shoot the wolf from the pickup bed when it crossed a road. I didn't make this crap up, read the article. Its an interesting headline by the way since DNR has already closed two zones and 90 out of 116 remaining wolves available for the quota have been killed. So I guess you really don't need dogs to hunt wolves after all. Or at least evidence, a little utilized resource in this whole controversy, would seem to indicate that.

     ". . . Let's rethink the wolf hunting regulations, base them on some sort of science and evidence, and keep the dogs flushing grouse and retrieving the mallards and bluebills. It's Wisconsin hunting tradition."

 pawprint bullet point   Read the entire Blog entry   pawprint bullet point




       If you are a hunter who opposes using dogs in wolf hunts, it is NOT too late to let your voice be heard! Please email your thoughts to and "cc"

Your comments may make a crucial difference for dogs, landowners, AND hunters in Wisconsin!

 pawprint bullet point   WI Wolf Hunt in Brief   pawprint bullet point   WI Wolf Hunt Overview   pawprint bullet point   In the Media   pawprint bullet point   Hunting With Hounds Video   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Wolf Hunting in Wisconsin: Mainstream Hunters Speak Out   pawprint bullet point


 pawprint bullet point   2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Hunter opposition to using dogs for wolf hunts   pawprint bullet point    Wisconsin Mainstream Hunters Amicus Brief (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Plaintiff's Brief Seeking Judgement on Merits (pdf)   pawprint bullet point   ASPCA Amicus Brief (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Plaintiff's Reply Brief (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   WI DNR Wolf Hunting and Trapping page   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   AP Article: Wisconsin DNR proposes wolf/dog hunting rules   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   HSUS Files Notice of Suit to Restore Federal Protection for Great Lakes Wolves   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Wisconsin State Journal: Advocates Say Dogs Essential to Wolf Hunt's Success   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   JS Online: DNR's Wolf Hunting Plan Start of Slippery Slope   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   JS Online: Handling of WI Wolf Hunt Illustrates Troubling Trend   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Outdoor News: Will Wisconsin's Animal Cruelty Law Affect Wolf Hunt?   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   NY Times: Televised Wolf Hunt   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   WI Did Wolf Hunt Bill Go Too Far?   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   WI Law Journal: Judge bars dogs from Wisconsin wolf hunt    pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   WI Fed. Humane Societies: WI Wolf Hunting Update   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Testimony of wolf behavior expert Richard Thiel   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Testimony of dog expert Patricia McConnell, PhD   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Testimony of UW-Madison Professor Adrian Treves, Ph.D   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Wolf Photos on this page from   pawprint bullet point

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