By Dustin Clark
I’ve been running hounds on mountain lion and hunting bears in Utah for the better part of twelve years, but this spring bear season was different. I finally had a bear tag in my pocket. Earlier in the season, a big boar had outrun us twice in the same area, so we decided to try somewhere new.
I was hunting with some of my good buds, Hunter and Kaden. Hunter and I have been running hounds together for years. My dad and brother came into town the night before to join us. Neither one of them had been on a bear hunt with hounds.
The day started early saddling the horses and mules. My dad has always been a horse guy and was too stubborn and proud to ride a mule! We made it to the spot we had planned to start and unloaded our mounts and dogs. I could tell right away my dad and brother weren’t ready for the amount of dogs Hunter and I brought! I think we had twelve altogether. After getting them all collared up, we took off. We rode for few hours in a big loop without much action. We had just crested out on top of a rim with a road on it, and as we started down the road, the dogs exploded, and all of them but two took off down the canyon. The other two headed up instead.
There were a few different bear tracks on the road, so it was hard to figure out what bear the dogs were on and if they were going the right way. The two dogs that headed up were the ones going in the right direction and were on a great track. As soon as we realized the others went the wrong way, another houndsmen came around the bend in his truck. He stopped to see what we had going on. It ended up that Hunter knew him and he quickly introduced me to Chris.
We made a game plan on how to get the other dogs back on the right bear. Chris jumped right in to help and offered to head them off on a road at the bottom of the canyon. If it wasn’t for the luck of his perfect timing and willingness to help, our day might have been shot. Chris took off down the road to head off the other dogs while we listened to the other two trailing up above us. They had made a turn down a side canyon and were picking up speed.
After what seemed like forever, Chris came over the radio and said he had all the dogs picked up and was headed back our way. We checked our GPS trackers to figure out where the dogs that were trailing the right track were. Just our luck, they were heading for a road. It wasn’t long before Chris was back with the rest of the dogs.
We made a quick plan for Hunter to hop in with Chris and burn down the road to feed the rest of the dogs in with the other two as they crossed. The rest of us brought the mules and horses down, and once again luck was on our side! The plan worked perfectly.
As I rounded the corner on my mule, I saw the beautiful sight of the truck with no dogs in it. The dogs had the bear jumped and he had crossed the road just before Hunter and Chris got there. They were able to feed the rest of the dogs in and added a few of Chris’s dogs as well.
The bear crossed in a saddle and barreled down a nasty red rock chute. There was no way we were going to be able to follow them the way they went. We sat up at the top of the chute listening to the dogs hot on the bear’s butt while debating on the best way to get ourselves in. All the while, fifty yards up the hill, we can hear my Dad saying, “No way, I’m not coming down there!” He is not a fan of heights and drop offs. Just then we started to get treed signals on all of the dogs.
Over the years I’ve learned not to get too excited because things can change in an instant. But the little kid in me was jumping up and down. Even better, as we pulled up the map on the GPS, low and behold they were within a few hundred yards of a road! Another plan was formulated for Chris to run Hunter back to our truck while the rest of us jingled our mounts down to where we could meet the truck and head in. It was a good two-mile ride that seemed like ten. Once we got there, we tied up the mules and horses, unhooked the trailer, and headed down the road in the truck. As we got to the spot on the road closest to the dogs, we pulled off and parked.
As soon as we opened the doors, you could hear the dogs at the base of the hill treeing like crazy. It didn’t take long before we made it to them and I saw one of the prettiest bears I’ve ever seen sitting in the tree. It was a blonde color phase bear.
We got the dogs tied up and Hunter and Kaden weighed in with their thoughts about the bear. He was good boar; he had awesome color, and had no rub marks. I asked my dad and brother what they thought? They both left it up to me. This was the first bear either of them had seen in a tree. Then it hit me. This was a heck of bear and I would probably never have the chance to harvest another bear with my dad and brother by my side. My mind was made up, so we set up for the shot, but the boar would not cooperate. Every time I got lined up and ready, he would move. Finally he presented a good shot, and I took it. I put a second one in him before he fell for the fact that a wounded bear is no fun.
As I walked up on him, I was congratulated with hoots and hollers and high fives! I turned around to find my dad so happy for me he had tears in his eyes. This hunt ended up meaning more to me than I was expecting. If it wasn’t for good friends, family, and meeting new people along the way, this day might not have happened.
Special thanks to my dad and brother, Hunter Mecham, Kaden King and Chris LaCorti