COEUR D’ALENE — As the woman walked by the truck with the tailgate down, she glanced at what lay in the bed of the pickup parked outside Fish and Game’s Coeur d’Alene headquarters.Then, her eyes opened wide. “Oh my God,” she said.
It was the head and fur of what had been a massive wolf that Brett Pitcher shot Monday.
The 2002 Coeur d’Alene High School graduate got what he estimated was a 180-pound wolf in the St. Joe area. “Really. I live there. I don’t like that,” the woman said Tuesday morning. “That’s big.” Pitcher dropped it with one shot from his 7mm Remington.
“We’ve been going after wolf,” Pitcher said. “We finally caught up with one.”
That brought the total number of wolves killed to 17 in the Panhandle — two so far in February — with a quota of 30. Statewide, 159 wolves have been killed out of the 220 quota. The wolf season ends March 31.
Hunters have 24 hours to phone in the kill, and five days to check in the hide and skull so Fish and Game can add to the tally. Fish and Game’s Jim Hayden removed a tooth from the wolf and took a skin sample for a DNA check that could help determine the wolf’s origin. Bill Harryman with Fish and Game said it was a mature male, and may have been the alpha male of a pack.
Pitcher said he and his father, Bob Pitcher, have gone wolf hunting several times this winter. They headed out Monday morning with a friend, about 15 miles up the St. Joe river, and hiked in several miles. “We were doing some calling and we heard him howling up in the canyon first thing in the morning,” he said. The first time they saw the impressive black-and-gray wolf through binoculars, it was about a mile away.
They continued their challenging trek through snow and brush. “Anybody who hunts the Joe knows where the big, deep, dark canyon is. We were on the other side over there when we spotted him with our binoculars,” Bob Pitcher said.
“It didn’t matter what it took. We were going to go after him,” Brett said. “I wasn’t about to let it just sit there. I had to try.”
The men split up.”Brett took the low end, I took the high end,” Bob said.
Brett quietly crept to within about 200 yards of the wolf that was “hanging out in the shade,” chewing on a deer leg. “He didn’t know I was there,” he said. Brett Pitcher crawled to a clearing, got down on his belly, held his breath for a moment, then squeezed the trigger. The wolf went down. He saw another fleeing. “The one I saw was just as big as this one,” Brett said.
He was surprised he finally got his wolf. “I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know anybody that’s killed a wolf yet,” he said. Bob was proud of his son, but at the same time, a little jealous. “He beat me to the punch by about 10 minutes,” he said with a smile. “We’re still working on getting me one.”
The two have been hunting together in North Idaho since Brett was old enough to get a permit. “There might be a few father-and-son teams that have killed more elk than us,” Bob said. Brett said the wolf kill is easily his top trophy. “There’s nothing easy about it. We hunt a lot and this is the first one we’ve seen,” he said. “You can hear the howling but getting a view of one is something. They’re very elusive.” Brett said he may have the wolf turned into a rug, perhaps stuffed, mounted and displayed at home.
“It might be the only one I ever see,” he said. Neither Pitcher was worried about receiving angry e-mails by those opposed to wolf hunting. “We take those as compliments,” Bob said.