MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's largest wolf-hunting zone is about to close, leaving only a single zone open just three weeks into the season.
The Department of Natural Resources plans to close Zone 6, which covers most of the southern two-thirds of the state, at 2 p.m. Thursday. Hunters were one wolf shy of the 30-animal kill limit for that zone as of Wednesday afternoon.
The DNR has already closed four of the state's six zones after hunters reached their limits. The zone that will remain open after Thursday is Zone 3, a narrow swath of northwestern Wisconsin that includes portions of Burnett, Washburn, Barron, Chippewa, Rusk, Sawyer, Price and Taylor counties. Hunters were 54 wolves short of that zone's 71-animal limit as of Wednesday afternoon.
The closures underscore hunters' success since the season opened Oct. 15. The DNR didn't close the first zone during last year's inaugural hunt until Nov. 16.
Wisconsin's wolf season runs through the end of February or until hunters reach their statewide limit.
The 2012-13 season ended two months early on Dec. 23 after hunters exceeded their 116-wolf limit by one animal. This season's quota is 135 wolves higher but it looks like things might wrap up even earlier than last year as hunters concentrate on Zone 3.
DNR large carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland said more hunters are using traps this year. Last year hunters shot 45 percent of the wolves harvested and trapped 55 percent; so far this year 85 percent of the wolves taken were trapped, he said.
"People have recognized trapping is a more efficient method," MacFarland said.
The agency has heard from permit holders and hunting and trapping groups that more hunters took to the woods earlier out of fear zones would close quickly, he added.
Wildlife officials plan to close the zone that covers most of the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin, at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The kill limit for that zone is 30 wolves. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says 29 wolves are reported harvested.
That will leave only one zone still open for wolf hunting or trapping. That zone is a band that stretches across part of northwestern Wisconsin.
The DNR divided Wisconsin into six wolf hunting zones.
The hunt began Oct. 15 and will run until hunters reach the 251-wolf statewide kill limit or through the end of February, whichever comes first.
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