With a single shot from his .243, Jacob Mancuso might have made history.
It’s possible Mancuso, 19, of Burlington was the first person to fill a wolf tag Monday – the opening day of Wyoming’s first regulated wolf hunt.
“I have no idea if I was the first one to get a wolf” said Mancuso, who shot his that evening in wolf hunt area four, in the Meeteetse region.
“When I put in my call to the Game and Fish reporting hotline, the lady who answered didn’t know for sure either, but she did say, ‘You’re the first who has called in.’”
G&F reported two wolves taken in the Park County area opening day, but the agency isn’t releasing any information identifying the hunters.
The latest G&F reports available early Wednesday indicated four of a statewide mortality quota of 52 wolves had been taken in the trophy game zone.
When wolf hunts opened in Montana and Idaho, publicity about the first hunters to bag wolves there generated widespread objections and protests – and even some threats against the hunters.
Mancuso said he had hunted for the enjoyment and challenge, and didn’t give possible controversy much thought.
“I’m not afraid of ridicule,” he said.
More than 2,000 wolf tags have been sold in Wyoming, and it’s expected most hunters will carry a wolf tag while hunting big game, instead of going out only for wolves.
If the 52 wolf quota is met before the Dec. 31 season closing date, hunting will end for the year, regardless of how many hunters are left still holding tags.
Outside the trophy game zone (in Park County, east of WYO 120), wolves are classified as a predatory species and may be shot year round, but G&F has reported few wolves venture outside the trophy game zone.
Mancuso said he and his brother-in-law Troy Simenson of Cody were hunting specifically for wolves when they set out Monday afternoon.
They were hunting mostly on hope and hearsay.
“We knew guys who hunted big game in that area, and said they had heard wolves howling around there,” said Mancuso, who works as a farm hand.
When they arrived at their parking spot, they spotted some wolves about 1,200 yards away, and decided to make for the ridge they saw the animals cross.
After a long hike and some sitting, they hadn’t seen or heard any more sign of the wolves, so they started making their way back to their vehicle.
“We decided to try sitting in one more spot, and stayed there for about an hour,” Mancuso said.
“I heard something in the bushes along the treeline above us and, wouldn’t you know it – a good-sized black male popped out about 75 yards from us,” he said.
They waited for a while on the hope that more wolves would appear, possibly giving Simenson a shot too.
“When no other wolves showed up, we decided I had better take the shot while we had the chance,” Mancuso said.
The wolf dropped in its tracks.
Mancuso estimates it to be about three years old and 80 pounds.
It was getting dark as they skinned the carcass, and he put the head and hide in his backpack.
They were still about four miles from their vehicle, on rugged ground.
Mancuso said he’s yet to have the wolf officially aged or measured; he’d like to have the hide and head turned into a rug.
“The fur is amazingly thick and soft,” he said. “I’ve called around to a few taxidermists, but the prices I’ve been quoted are more than I can afford.”
Mancuso said he was grateful for the chance to hunt Wyoming’s newest trophy game species.
“We got lucky,” he added. “But I was glad for the opportunity to help out the elk hunters.”
(Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)