Sacred Pursuit

Bear Dog For Sale

I've been fortunate enough in life to never have to buy a bear dog. I was blessed to be born into a family that raised its own stock of Plotts since the mid-1960s and I've never personally needed to buy one from the outside. However, I've seen plenty of them bought and sold over the years. In fact, I have a great deal of sympathy for someone who’s just getting started into hound hunting. Finding a solid bear dog that's actually for sale is somewhat rare. In this article, I'm going to offer some advice on the subject of buying bear hounds by answering some of the questions that are often asked, which will hopefully be a help to you if you're taking the leap into the awesome world of hound hunting.


Which breed of hound is best?


That particular question is debated all over the bear hunting world, and frankly it can't be answered with anything more than personal opinion and a great deal of prejudice. I'm a hardcore Plott man, but I’m also not blind. I've seen good bear hounds in all sorts of colors. At some point in your adventure you'll probably develop an affinity for a particular breed, but when you're just getting started don't limit your search to one breed.


What characteristics should I look for in a bear hound?


All of the following things are important: grit, nose, size, speed, drive, and mouth. But I'm going to tell you what to really concentrate on above all else—concentrate on a dog that produces game. That should be a given, but I can assure you that it's not. Potential buyers will ask a hundred questions and never ask if the dog can catch bears. If the dog can be cut loose and found bayed or treed a high percentage of the time, all the other things are bonuses.


Let me give you an example of the type of dog I'm trying to help you avoid. A man will have a Walker dog for sale with registration papers three miles long. The Walker will have multiple Grand Night Champions in its pedigree. It'll be built like an Olympic athlete. The dog's color will dazzle the eyes. The owner will assure you that it's faster than a Kentucky race horse. It'll have a big, booming, beautiful bawl mouth. But when it's turned loose, it seldom ends up under a treed bear or chewing on a dead carcass. It's a non-producer.


Should I start out buying puppies?


No. If you're starting from scratch, buy a finished dog that can do it all from strike to tree.


How much should I expect to pay for a quality bear hound?


The value of a hound is determined by the sellers refusal to go any lower and the buyers refusal to go any higher. It's possible to buy a quality hound dirt cheap, but those situations are few. Generally speaking, a quality hound that you can build a pack around is going to be in the $5,000-10,000 range. Some will go much, much higher. I will caution you to know that a dog that's priced really high may not be worth a plug nickel. The price tag on a hound is not always reflective of its actual value. If I were starting from scratch, I'd buy the best hound I could afford and build a pack around it with younger started[1]  dogs.


Where should I look for a finished hound?


My advice is to buy a dog from someone that hunts in your general area in the same type of terrain, if possible. Some hounds can be successful in all types of terrain. Some of them have particular traits best suited to a particular environment. If you've hunted with a bear hunter that has hounds you know to be good, go make him an offer on one of his older dogs. Really good hound men always have young dogs coming in behind their older hounds. Some men will sell top dogs in the seven to nine-year-old range that still have some hunt in them. Just because a dog isn't being advertised for sale doesn't mean he can't be bought. If you can get two to three years out of an older dog, you have the possibility of building a pack of younger dogs around them.


Another good source when looking for bear hounds is hard hunting younger men. Some younger hunters have more time and energy than they do money. They'll sell a good dog to finance their footloose lifestyle. Also, it's possible from time to time to catch a good deal on a hound when someone quits. If you catch it just right, there are times you can buy a complete pack cheaper than a single dog because the seller wants out quickly. Those are about the only legitimate sales I'd pay attention to on outlets like message boards.


Should I have the potential hound vet checked prior to purchase?


If you're paying big money for a hound, a vet check is cheap insurance. Especially make sure the hound is clear of heartworms. Ask if the hound has ever had broken legs or internal organ damage that required surgery.


Are most hound people liars when it comes to selling hounds?


I'm going to say no. I don't think most people are going to blatantly lie to you about a hound they're trying to sell. However, I do believe that hound people have such divergent views of what makes a good hound that they often present an opinion that doesn't match your opinion on the matter. It's hard to imagine, but some hound people truly believe they have great dogs. However their experience is so limited that they're honestly unaware that their great dog is below average to others. They may be selling the “best dog they've ever owned”, but unfortunately, they've never really owned a good one.


Should I try the hound out personally?


Yes, if at all possible try it out personally. Hunt with that dog for a week or more. If that's not possible, ask for some videos. In all reality, your purchase will come down to the integrity of the seller. As a last resort, check around with others who've bought hounds from the same person.


What are some dogs that I should avoid?


Avoid dogs that are aggressive towards people or other dogs. Contrary to what some believe, aggression toward game is not the same as aggression towards other dogs or people.


Avoid free dogs. Yes, there's exceptions to the rule, but never trust someone offering you a free bear hound. If that hound is what it's supposed to be, it'll easily bring several thousand dollars. Very few people are going to give you several thousand dollars.


Avoid dogs that haven't been run specifically on bears. Yes, some dogs will switch just fine from other game to bears, but some dogs will not. Don't buy a coon dog expecting an automatic switch. Don't buy a hog dog expecting an automatic switch. If you're going to bear hunt, buy a bear dog.


After I buy my first good hound, then what?


At this point I'd start thinking long term. Is there a particular breed you prefer? Is there a strain within that particular breed you prefer? Do you want to raise your own pups? What character traits are important to you beyond just producing game?


Here's an example of a personal preference that would be true if I were starting from scratch. When I hunt I want to hear the race, so I wouldn’t want any dogs that were silent on trail. No matter how well a dog produces game, if I can't listen to him trail, I'm not feeding it[2] . So if I'm buying some additional young started [3] dogs, they'd absolutely have to be open trail dogs. The longer you hunt with hounds it's likely you'll develop personal preferences, too.


Buying your first bear hound is a major investment. Take your time and find yourself a producer of treed and bayed bears. Then build your pack around that lead dog. If you hunt enough, it won't take as long as you think to be up and running on your own. 


Is this correct?

Bear dog term?

Same as above.