Bearcat Outfitters recently had a group of 3 bear hunters come up from Utah. Friends Mike Taylor, Jeff Green and Beau Beus had hunted together numerous times and are experienced outdoorsmen.
We split the group up so that one hunter was with my hound guide, Dan Coleman, each day and the other 2 were with me. Myself and hunters are out looking for spot-and-stalk opportunities while Dan is attempting to ‘strike’ with his hounds. ‘Striking’ is achieved by having the two most experienced hounds riding on top of the dog box in the back of the truck and when they drive by a spot that has had recent bear use, the hounds start baying at the hot scent. Dan then gets out to check for tracks and if he can determine the scent has been left by a mature boar, he then releases his dogs to start pursuit of the bear. This combination of spot-and-stalk and pursuit with hounds works extremely well for us and leads to fast-paced action.
The first day of our hunt resulted in spotting a good bear feeding in a dandelion patch along a river. Myself, Jeff and Mike put a stalk on this bear, but as we were getting close to shooting range, the wind swirled and the bear made a hasty retreat out of the area. We glassed a huge black boar and sow just before dark, but by the time we made it over to where the bears had been, they had disappeared into the thick cover. Bears two, hunters zero, but this was to quickly change.
On day 2, Dan got a strike and could see large tracks in the mud on top of his tire tracks from the day before. He let his hounds go and the chase was on. The bear led the dogs into some steep, broken terrain and covered a lot of ground with the dogs on his tail. We tracked the chase on the GPS units and kept as close to the dogs and bear as the road system would allow. After several hours, we could see the bear slowing down and we drove as close as we could and started pursuit on foot. Jeff, Mike and I posted on a clearcut to try and cover-off a possible escape route for the bear while Dan and Beau tried stalking in to see if they could get a shot at the bear as it moved ahead of the dogs. Beau and Dan could not get close enough for a shot and the bear moved up into some cliffs and headed north. I could monitor progress of the race and could see we had to try and get ahead of the bear and cut it off before it moved further north into some completely inaccessible country. I grabbed Jeff and walked/ran as fast as possible to see if we could locate a shooting lane ahead of the bear. We found one very narrow lane in the thick timber and got Jeff set up for a possible shot. We could hear the hounds moving our way and caught a couple of glimpses of the bear moving across the steep hillside. We could see it moving towards our shooting lane and hoped for the best. Sure enough, the bear hit our shooting lane with the dogs on his tail and Jeff was able to get off a shot at about 100 yards. Perfect hit and the bear rolled down the hill stone dead. It was a large, color-phase boar and we were all very pleased with the outcome of the hunt.
Day 3 was Beau’s turn for an opportunity if it arose. We had spotted very large boar tracks on day 1 not far from where the race for Jeff’s bear had begun and kept an eye on the area. As Dan went by this area on morning of day 3, his dogs struck the large boar and the chase was on. This bear led the dogs on a brutal chase into a nasty canyon and the bear made his escape. We pulled the dogs off and kept searching for another opportunity. Later that morning we saw a nice color-phase bear run off the road we were driving down. We couldn’t get a shot opportunity, so called Dan on the radio and had him bring his hounds. We got the hounds on the bear’s tracks and the race was on! The bear quickly moved north and we were not able to get ahead of him in time to get a shot as he moved across a couple of different roads in front of the dogs. He then led the dogs into a big piece of inaccessible country and proceeded to stay in the thick forest and lead the dogs in circles. We could see he was not going to leave this area, so Dan, Beau and I made the hike in to see if we could get a shot at the bear. The area he was in had dead pine from the pine beetle epidemic that was starting to fall down and resulted in some very brutal blowdown to try and get through. We closed on the dogs and bear several times, but it was just too thick and noisy to sneak in on the bear and get a shot. After about 2 hours of cat and mouse, the bear finally started to tire and Beau was able to make one final mad dash through the thick bush and made a great shot on the moving bear at about 20 yards. Beautiful color-phase boar down and we were all relieved to see this chase end. Getting the meat, hide and extremely tired hounds back to the truck was a feat in itself, but we got it done and the beer certainly tasted good after getting back to the cabin that night!
Days 4 and 5 were pretty much a wash-out with heavy rain, but when it cleared on day 6, the hunt was going to turn into an almost unbelievable experience. I will capture the events of days 6 and 7 in my next story.