Jun 17 2016
This aritcle appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Bear Hunting Magazine
By Clay Newcomb
The connection between a houndsman and a hound is hard to describe. Certainly, it’s a unique bond that outranks the bond between a pet owner and their pet. A hunting dog is a provider. He is a hunting companion. He is the hunter’s connection point to the wild game they pursue. Hounds that achieve “legendary” status are few and far between. They are a special class of hound. Though some dogs are blown out of proportion, a real houndsman knows when a dog is the real deal. Such is the case with a 40-pound plott named Shamrock’s Timex.
You won’t have a full picture of Timex until you know her breeder and owner, Joe Hudson. Joe is a Michigander from birth and has been hunting with hounds since he was 11 years old. In 2015, at the age of 67, he’s still as passionate as ever about chop-mouthed tree dogs. Joe trained bear hounds and guided bear hunters for a living in Michigan between 1975 and 1995. For over 20 years, he hunted or trained hounds five days a week. His faithful hunting companion and wife, Nancy, took part in the hunting and training too.
When Joe was asked why he loves hound hunting, he replied, “It’s like an off-road race from start to finish. The degree of excitement is astounding. A still-hunter gets five minutes of excitement when a bear shows up. A hound hunt is non-stop action. To this day, when I walk up to the tree my heart is about to jump out of my chest. I haven’t shot a bear in years. It’s about the dogs how much stamina, grit and desire they have.” He said, “Then to turn around and see them be so gentle when they aren’t on a bear. My grandbabies can crawl all over these Plott hounds and I never hear a growl. How they bring that energy down is beyond me. They pump themselves up so hard on a bear. It’s amazing.”
Joe Hudson and Shamrock's Timex with a Michigan bear. Shamrock was born in 1981 and died around 1990.
Timex was born into a litter of only two puppies on September 10th, 1981. The sire of the litter was Joe’s dog, Shamrock’s Pete. According to Joe, “He was the first dog we had that was the real deal.” Pete was the pick of the litter from a cross that Joe instigated with a friend. At first the friend didn’t want to make the cross, but Joe sweetened the deal by offering to give him the sire in trade for the pick of the litter. That pick was Shamrock’s Pete.
He was an impressive hound that carried the characteristics that Joe wanted – grit, stamina, desire and a powerful treeing instinct. Joe bred Pete to Shamrock’s Annie, a Cascade Big Timber female, and the litter had a male and a female pup. The female would later be known as Timex.
Joe fondly recalls how the dog got its name. “One day the four-month-old pup got off its chain. At the time, I had a 30-pound male coon and the pup got after it and I had to break them up with a broom stick!” The pup laid into the coon and an all out fight broke loose! The pup stood its ground with the boar coon almost twice its size and never backed down. “At that age a lot of dogs would have quit and never wanted to do it again. We sewed her up and doctored her for weeks. From day one she had that kind of grit.” The hound carried white scars on her muzzle her whole life that came from the coon fight. After the scrap, Joe made the statement, “She’s like a Timex watch, she takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’.” From that day forward she was known as Shamrock’s Timex.
Shamrock's Timex wasn't a big dog. Joe estimates she weighed around 40 pounds. She had extreme grit, stamina and tree power.
At eight months old, Timex ran her first wild bear track to tree. According to Joe, “She never missed another tree after that.”
The characteristics that made Timex legendary were her grit and stamina. She once got in a tussle with a bear on the ground and three of her ribs were crushed. During the fight she also got a hernia. When Joe arrived at the tree she was treeing hard, but they had to carry her out of the woods, straight to the veterinarian. The vet removed three ribs, replacing them with a wire screen. The doctor said the dog was otherwise healthy and could start hunting again as soon as she felt up to it. Joe said, “We let her rest the next day after the surgery, but on day two we started hunting again and she hunted for 33 straight days.”
Timex’s reputation began to spread far and wide when she was young. Joe also said, “When she was two years old, Dwayne Smith from Vermont called and asked me if he could breed his female to “him.” He thought Timex was a male and was shocked when I said she a two-year-old female.” Dwayne replied, “How can a two-year-old female be so well known?” She was known from coast to coast at only two years old. Joe recalls, “I’d say close to 100 houndsman came and hunted with Timex over her lifetime. They came from Washington and Idaho and put their best dogs to run with her. Most walked away shaking their heads.”
Once, while hunting in Ontario, they lost the dogs on a track early in the morning. The dogs wore yagi antennas but couldn’t be located for over nine hours because of the bouncing signal. Based upon their readings, the dogs were treed early in the morning and were still treed when they arrived. The dogs were treed solid for nine hours. Timex was hunting with her father, Shamrock’s Pete. The next day Pete was tragically killed in a river by a bear.
Most assumed that the scars on Timex's face came from a bear, but they actually came from a coon she fought when she was very young. She got the name Timex because "she took a lickin' but kept on tickin'."
One day in Michigan, Joe and his wife met up with a fellow houndsman in the woods. The man explained how he’d been running a track most of the day, but his pack couldn’t tree it. The man had a youth hunter with him and they wanted to get the lad a bear. He asked Joe if he would turn Timex out on the bruin. Well, you can predict what happened. Timex and a few other of Joe’s dogs hit the track and after a long race they treed. Upon arrival at the tree, the intensity of Timex impressed the other houndsman. Joe said, “He pulled out a key from his pocket and handed it to my wife and said, “Go turn that dog off. She’s a like machine!”” Needless to say the young hunter got his bear that day.
How many bears did she help tree? Joe replied, “I hunted five days a week guiding bear hunters and training bear dogs. For 20 years I was treeing 60-70 bear per year. She was on well over 500 bears. In 1987 we ran 43 days in a row with the same five dogs and caught 39 bear in Michigan and Wisconsin.”
The beauty of breeding hounds is that legends can live on even after they’re gone. Timex died in 1990 at nine years old. She was a good reproducer and had numerous top litters. Joe has line bred off of Timex for years and still runs dogs that have her on both sides. Joe is a true houndsman. He has raised and hunted with hundreds of top dogs, but by his estimation, he’s never owned one better than Timex.
You can save a good deal of money on your next bear hide if you flesh and dry it yourself. After drying you can send it a tannery for finishing it into a buckskin tan. Most tanneries charge $25-$30 per foot (from nose to tail) to tan a dried hide. A six-foot bear would cost under $200 (plus shipping). Compare this to last year’s taxidermy bill and it might motivate you to break out the fleshing beam.
- Use a fleshing tool and fleshing bear to scrape off the fat and excess meat on the skin. It’s best if the hide is cool or crisped in a freezer before you begin. (We did this in May in Arkansas and it was too warm and muggy, but it turned out fine.) These tools are cheap and readily available from trapping supply companies. It’s messy, but you’ll be surprised how easily that fat scraps off the hide.
- You’ll need to joint out the paws all the way down to the claws. Use a very sharp knife and take your time. A Gerber Vital with scalpel blades is a good option. You’ll need to split the lips and turn the ears (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxkRiMCcsss)
- Stretch and nail the hide to a piece of plywood. Then liberally salt with non-iodized salt. Table salt from the grocery store will work. I used about 20 pounds total for this bear and it cost less than $6.
- Elevate the hide on a slight angle so it can drain. The salt will pull out the moisture and you’ll see some wet spots – this is good. Preferably keep it indoors (garage) or at a minimum under a roof. After a few days, scrape the wet salt off and resalt until approximately 80% of the moisture is gone. You may have to salt two or three times.
- Box up the hide and mail it to the tannery. Check out www.usafox.com or call them at 218-722-7742