When they made the mold for an Appalachian mountain bear dog, they probably took the specs off a little Plott female named Clark’s Laurel Mountain Birdie (aka Annie). She didn’t appear by happenstance, but through generations of intentional breeding. Much bear-hound history stacks up in the bloodlines behind the little gyp. The dog was bred, trained and hunted by a man named Roy Clark. The mold for an Appalachian bear hunter was probably made using him. Few people alive today have as rich a history in Appalachian bear hunting with hounds and the Plott breed as Roy. He is 68 years old and has been around bear hunting since he was born. His earliest memories are of his father wanting him to sit on the back of a pet bear they kept for training hounds. To this day, Roy remembers being scared of it. Needless to say, bear hunting got in Roy’s blood and shows no signs of diminishing. “Bear huntin’ with hounds is like playing cards. If it gets in your blood you just can’t get out of it. You feel like you’ve got to play. Win or lose you’ve got to play,” Roy said.
I have been asked by Bear Hunting Magazine to write an article about my many thoughts and theories about breeding hounds. To some, the process of breeding two dogs requires little thought. Put the male with the female or the female with the male. I was asked to write this article because I have spent 65 years breeding, raising, hunting and writing about my life with the Plott Hound. I will attempt to provide some ideas about what I believe, and what I’ve learned and some theories that I have developed. If nothing more, I hope it will be entertaining.
The Appalachian Mountain range is an iconic and historic place to hunt black bear using hounds. It was the first region of the country to use European hound stock for big game. It also holds some of North America’s best bear habitat. Roy Clark, 69, is a native Tennessean and has been running bears with hounds since he was a child. His father, Hugh L., and grandfather, Charlie, started hunting in the 1940s with Plott hounds they got from Plott breeder, Charles Gantte. From these original dogs, a strain called Clark’s Laurel Mountain Plotts emerged over the last 60-plus years. The rabbit hole of history and tradition goes deep when you’re in Tennessee bear hunting with hounds.
It’s not every day that you get a chance to run a mountain Grizzly with dogs, so when Bart Lancaster offered up his services for my spring Grizzly hunt with Primitive Outfitting, I couldn’t say no. I’d run mountain lions several times with dogs, but the idea of running a grizzly was just fascinating to me. Having said that, I wasn’t sure how the hell I’d be able to make it happen with a bow, but if I was about to do something crazy, I couldn’t pick a better couple of dudes like Bart and Jeff.
I became acquainted with a dog I had never known or seen in action. He had long been dead, tucked away somewhere in the red clay of Macon County, North Carolina. He was Crockett’s Leo, an astounding, multi-talented hunting dog if there ever was. Shaking a tree limb was his owner’s command to hunt squirrels. Showing him a hog track saying, “So-eee hog” constituted an order to go for pork. Simply pointing to bear sign and sic’ing him meant, “Old Boy, go get ‘im.”