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.”