The initial report of the lever action .30-30 was deafening, the second shot even more so as it was fired from just a few yards behind me and some ten feet over my head. But the sound that followed next – emanating from the impact of 100 pounds of tawny-furred fury landing just an arms reach away from where I was crouched at the base of a large pinion tree – was louder still. I could scarcely see through the flurry of snow and pine bows that were showering down all around me but I knew exactly what had just happened. Frantically I reached for Hannah’s collar, not wanting her to give chase to a wounded mountain lion but despite my efforts she was already in fast pursuit, bawling down the canyon towards her still very much-alive (and very much offended) quarry. Deciding that it was better for Hannah to not face this danger alone I untethered my other hound Crank, a young bluetick who was then just a year old, and released him to join the baying in the bottom of the canyon, a job which he was all too eager to do. Fortunately, this story ends well with one final, well-placed shot just moments later, undoubtedly saving me a trip to the vet and securing a beautiful tom lion for my otherwise trigger-happy friend.
It was three days before the season ended, and we’d had pretty good success with a couple of harvests as and some we treed-and-freed. With few tracks available now nearing the end of the season, our group decided to search outside of our normal hunting grounds to a place way less forgiving. We had been to Fayette two other times in this late season and had found ample sign that some bears were still up and about.
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.